Monday, April 21, 2014

An Exercise in Discussing Exercise

I have so little to say about exercise that I’m going to cheat and include a comment I made on Lisabet’s post last week on this topic. But first, to distract the reader, I’m stealing an amusing bit that’s had a workout on Facebook and elsewhere lately.



(My first thought on seeing this was that I’m glad the calories don’t scream when you eat them.)  

Maybe I was born too long ago for the concept of “working out” as such to take hold in my formative years. I think the only time I've used a gym-type machine was having my heart checked on a treadmill a few years ago (it was just fine--turned out I was having muscle spasms in my back.) I think I'd be more likely to use work-out equipment if my efforts were powering something, like, I don't know, charging batteries or turning the roast on a spit in a medieval kitchen. I do exercises at home for my back, though, and take brisk walks (a mile or more) daily, weather permitting. And before I sold my retail business, I was on my feet much of the day, with plenty of stretching and bending and lifting when shipments came in (a likely cause of those muscle spasms.) I'm sure I should be doing more, but my stats are all okay, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.

It’s not that I don’t value exercise for its own sake. My brisk mile walks are exhilarating even when they’re along the same stretch of rural road I’ve traveled hundreds of times, but when I can manage it I go farther along trails through the woods with more to see. I’d rather have exercise accomplish something beyond conditioning, like get me to the top of a mountain and down again, but I have to admit that my knees aren’t what they were in my youth, especially when it comes to the down again part, so I stick to less ambitious hikes.

When it comes to my fictional characters, though, I’m free to imagine feats that I’ve never come close to mastering. I’ve written about champion figure skaters, rodeo riders, skiers (I did ski in my relative youth, but never very well,) and rock climbers, possibly my favorites. I’ve done some scrambling up rocks, but never the technical kind of thing with ropes and pitons, although I’ve done as much research as one can by watching climbers and studying their accounts.  It may seem strange to think of an activity as generally slow as rock climbing as being exercise, but the conditioning requirements are rigorous, and muscles can work as hard maintaining balance and challenging gravity as they can running. It’s just a different dynamic. At least that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

All of which is leading up to, you guessed it, a space-filling story excerpt, since really, I don’t have all that much to say about exercise. And you can probably guess the title of the story, too.


Climbing The Wall

Sacchi Green

Nothing focuses the mind in the body like a vertical rockface. On one side, an infinity of air and light; on the other, the uncompromising rigidity of stone. I clung between these absolutes, toes edged into a slanting crevice, fingers jammed into a narrow crack, weight poised in utter compliance with gravity.

I had forgotten the intensity, the controlled rush; forgotten, too, the exultant surge of horniness. When I could pause on the insubstantial security of a narrow belay ledge I savored the moment. The view of the green valley with the river winding through was all well enough, but Sigri Hakkala's fine, broad, muscular butt in canary-yellow stretch fabric twenty feet above commanded all my attention.

Why Sigri? Proximity? We'd been casual friends for years, members of a fluctuating group of dykes sharing a rundown ski lodge in the valley. If she'd ever figured in my fantasies, it'd been as a mead-companion, a Viking warrior ravaging villages by my side as we bore off not-unwilling maidens. Now I found myself recalling rumors that she'd done some porn films in her starving-student days, and wondered whether her big breasts made it harder to maneuver close to the rock on overhangs. When she splayed her legs wide to reach a new foothold, I ached to slip a hand between her round, powerful buttocks and feel their strength as they clamped together again.

All fantasy fueled by adrenaline. People had been trying to throw us together all week, on the theory that the recently bereaved must want to compare notes. We'd been trying just as hard to avoid each other.

So why choose to climb together? The simple answer was trust in each other's competence. This route was only moderately difficult, iron bolts not more than twenty-five feet apart, but when you take the lead with the belaying rope and call, "Watch me," you damned sure need to know that when your partner on the other end answers, "Go for it, I've got you," she has, absolutely, got you, and will hold you if your grip fails or a rock edge breaks away and you plummet down the unforgiving cliff face.

Somewhat less simple to understand was my willingness to let Sigri lead most of the way. She'd raised a quizzical eyebrow each time as I waved her ahead. I couldn't explain to myself, much less to her, my sudden obsession with looking up at her muscular, well-padded body.

Whatever the trigger, this surge of pure lust was both agony and exhilaration, like the awakening of an anaesthetized limb.



[This story, originally published in Best Women’s Erotica 2001, deals with physical and mental exertion as a means to recovery from bereavement, as when the main character muses that “Each precise, careful shift along the cliff from hold to hold said, ‘Yes!’ to life. The rough scrape of granite against hands, knees, chest, drove home the stark reality of the flesh, and its capacity for extremes.”

And, incidentally, the characters do go on to indulge in some vigorous calisthenics of a sexual nature, though not while still on the rock face.]


   

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sexercise!

Post by Lily Harlem

I guess like most people I've tried all sorts of exercise over the years, some I've stuck with for a long time, others not so much. A few things have hurt like hell (spinning), other times they've been quite pleasant (yoga). But I've settled into a routine now - so as not to let the dreaded writers bum take hold - of walking the dogs, swimming and sex.



Sex, yes, sex is great exercise and here's why I'm into 'horizontal jogging'…

People who have regular sex have fewer sick days, which must mean fewer illnesses in fact, researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that college students who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of antibodies compared to students who had sex less often, meaning a better immune system.

The more sex you have the more you want, which, unlike getting on a treadmill (for me at least) is a great motivation for exercise.



I enjoy pilates and yoga, but if you engage your core while having sex and isolate the muscles around your pelvic floor, it will give you the same benefits. It will not only strengthen your six-pack, it'll make your tummy look flatter and heighten the orgasm - or rather coregasm!

Calorie burning - Men on average burn 120 calories during lovemaking while women lose around 90, the equivalent of a brisk uphill walk, a game of doubles tennis or a 15 minute jog. Of course it depends if you're going for porn-star exercise or muffled under the duvet late a night exercise! If you want to see what positions burn the most calories check out this Fitness Magazine Article.



Flexi-sex. In the average yoga class, you can burn anywhere between 100 and 300 calories per half hour. Incorporating some of your favorite yoga poses into your sex life can definitely up the caloric ante and stretch your hip flexors at the same time. (I'll let you take creative liberty with this one.) 

So, there you have it, no more excuses, have more sex right now and get in shape :-)

Lily x




Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Cold and Lonely Winter

by Giselle Renarde

It's been a sedentary winter. The cold! The cold!  Who would go out in those frigid temperatures if they didn't have to? And I didn't have to, so I didn't. I sat on this couch or in that chair and I wrote stories. Or I slept. Slept a lot. Slept until noon, until one, until two...

Have I mentioned I'm a writer?

Is it really Vitamin D deficiency that triggers the dreaded SAD?  I've been taking my D-drops and I've still been D-pressed.  I have a theory, although it could be unique to me. Or not.  It's all the walking I don't do when it's cold out.

I actually love the winter, but this year was hellishly frigid, if that's a thing. I love snow. I don't mind trekking through it at all--I even went snowshoeing with my sister in January, and that was the happiest day of my winter.  It was sunny and the trees (the ones that survived December's ice storm) blocked the wind, so the air actually felt warm enough that I took off my hat and mitts. 

My sister tells me that, in Japan, doctors recommend "forest time" when people are stressed. I could really get behind that. Walking is one of my favourite activities.  I live in the middle of a city, so I walk in the middle of the city, but Toronto's full of forest.  Wherever you are, you can find one.  We've got plenty of trees.

I once knew a guy who started walking and didn't stop until he got to Vancouver.  Some days I think I could do that, except I'd miss the cats.  I'd miss some people, too, but none of those people rely on me to feed them or sanitize their bathrooms.  Actually, I could blame the cats most days for my inability to get out of bed. When I wake up, they're still sleeping. On me. My cats sleep on me.  And if you've got a cat sleeping on you, how can you get up? It's physically impossible.

My cats are depressed, too, according to my vet. He kind of blames me, which is exactly what I need to hear. Thanks.

There's a gym in my building. I've lived here ten years. Want to guess how many times I've used it? (Did you guess zero? Because the answer is zero.)

I can walk for hours, easily, but not on a treadmill.  Outside, in the fresh air--in the forest, ideally.  Once I start walking, I never want to stop.  I never want to come home.  I just want to walk and walk and walk forever.  It's hard to turn around.

(By the way, I've got big plans to write a book about depression. Maybe you can help me: http://likeits1999diary.blogspot.ca/2014/04/why-i-want-to-write-book-about.html )

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Three Workouts for Erotic Writers: The Could You Would You, The Tarot Spread and the Jazz Riff


You learn the most from writers who are considerably better than you are and you learn a lot from writers who are worse than you are. But if I were able to go back in time and meet someone I'd probably choose William Shakespeare, not the least because he spoke pretty good English so you can have a beer with him, but also I'd want to pepper him with questions about craft. Among other things I'd want him to show me how to cut a feather quill and write with it and ask him - considering how expensive paper is, do you revise, Will? Do you write drafts? Do you rewrite? Yes? How many times? Do you write asymmetrically like I do, or front to back with an outline? I don't have to ask him where he got his ideas, because the fact is I already know the answer to that. 

 He used the Tarot Spread and The Jazz Riff.

One of the finest craft books I've studied, and I've studied quite a few, is a book specifically about erotic writing by the venerable Susie Bright of "Best American Erotica" fame, called "How to Write a Dirty Story". If you've never read a book on erotica craft and want to try just one, try this one. Its full of scholarly analysis, feminism, business wisdom and nuts and bolts exercises that truly work. I'm going to explain a couple of her exercises plus one of my own invention based on something I read in Stephen King's book on craft "On Writing".
Attend.

Could You Would You?
When men are sitting around in public places as I am at this moment pecking away in the back of my favorite coffee shop we play a game in our heads which I'm very sure women play too. You see a hot looking woman walk by in summer clothes, tiny shorts and flips flops, brasserie optional and your eyes follow her and imagine her naked. You ask yourself - If you could fuck her would you do it? The key word being "Could". Meaning if you could fuck her without totally destroying your marriage, breaking the heart of a good spouse who loves you, causing your kid to hate you with contempt and losing your job and good name just so you can stick your selfish little dick in there and hammer her a good one for a couple of minutes until you get off - yeah, meaning something like that maybe - would you? You survey the room, imagine a perfect world of no consequences and - that woman? No. That woman there? Boy Howdy. And twice on Sunday. How about that one? The interesting question is to explore what kind of woman turns you on and why they do.

Suzie Bright takes this game a little further and asks you to play with your fantasies and write them down in a series of three scenarios. You should stop reading this, get some paper and a pen and work this out.because if you take this craft exercise seriously this is definitely worth your time.
You still sitting there, bub?
G'wan, find a pen, get out of here. Scat.
Okay now -
Ms Bright writes:

"Give yourself two minutes to answer each question. When your time is up, stop, even
if you haven't finished your sentence:

  1. Write down an erotic fantasy about a sexual experience you would have in a minute if it were offered to you, no questions asked. It should be about something you would have no reservations or conditions about doing in real life.
  2. Write down an erotic fantasy about a sexual experience you would have only under certain conditions.  You could give yourself up whole heartedly under these conditions, but otherwise not at all.
  3. Write down an erotic fantasy that is completely satisfying to you in your imagination but that you could not do either because it is physically impossible or something you could never bring yourself to do in real life. But in your imagination it is completely fulfilling.
I actually got a decent story from number 2 - would maybe do if you could. My fantasy was that I would like to experience sex and orgasm as a woman in a woman's body to see how it differs from the male experience of excitement and release, but only if I could magically be a man again afterward. That became "The Happy Resurrection of Gregor Samsa", Franz Kafka's character from "The Metamorphosis" who awoke to find himself changed into " a monstrous vermin", usually depicted as a huge cockroach. I imagined the Samsa-cockroach awakening now incarnated as a woman and then looking for sex. Lisabet helped me get the female sensations right with that one.

The Character Splits (Tarot Card Spread) Exercise
Another exercise that Susie Bright explains in detail, though I will not, is "The Character Splits Exercise". I've also written about this on the ERWA blog as the "Found Story".
Natural evolution has preserved life for 3 billion years in this world by incorporating random elements into the genetic mix, using sex to combine random genetics into constantly changing and adapting life forms. If God wants one thing for you in this world - it's to get laid. Then you die. This is how organic life responds to contingency, say, mega-volcanoes and big ass asteroids. You can write stories this way too.
Susie Bright describes the Character Splits exercise:

Take five scraps of paper and write one name on each, the name of a family member or a close friend:
  1. Lisabet
  2. Renee
  3. Jack
  4. Maria
  5. Uncle Tony
Take five scraps of paper in a separate pile and name five famous people:
  1. Yoko Ono
  2. Brad Pitt
  3. Justin Bieber
  4. Ernest Hemingway
  5. Count Dracula
Finally in a third pile take five scraps of paper naming simple events of the day:
  1. Showering
  2. Eating Breakfast
  3. Walking the dog
  4. Waiting in a line
  5. Paying bills
Pick an element at random from each pile and combine them. Say, Lisabet and Brad Pitt and Showering. (In my way of thinking this is like drawing card images from a Tarot deck and combining them and then listening to your intuition to see what story they suggest)
Take this scrap pile of elements and compose it into an erotic fantasy, Say Lisabet getting it on with Brad Pitt in the shower, that's an easy one, or Yoko Ono running into Count Dracula one evening while walking the dog and having a tryst in the bushes. What would Yoko Ono and Count Dracula talk about in the afterglow? Do you really prefer virgins? Did you really split up the Beatles?

Your people. Your mundane activities. Your tarot cards. The key is to draw on random elements you normally wouldn't be thinking of and combining them into something that would not have occurred to you. You can do this with stories too. Take down a book of fairy tales, a book of war stories and maybe a book of poetry, things that have nothing to do with each other, rip random paragraphs from each and shuffle them and challenge yourself to turn them into something. The key is challenge.


The Jazz Riff
Modern jazz bands often have a front man who noodles off some kind of a spontaneous melody for a few measures and tosses it to the next player who noodles around off it, then tosses it to the next player and the next. So you have a central melody interpreted on different instruments by different styles.
Stephen King wrote a wonderful craft book and autobiography called "On Writing" in which he offers encouragement to us wanna-bes and some very practical tricks of the trade. One of the things he explains in detail that I absolutely took to heart is the lost art of "pastiche", the literary version of a jazz riff. When he was starting out he would take a paragraph from a favorite writer, some paragraph he especially loved and would copy it out it out with a pencil - not a keyboard - with a pencil slowly, so he could mouth the sounds of those words. So he could FEEL those words. So he could think in his head with that sound and that feeling. To BE that writer for a little while. Word for word I've patiently copied paragraphs on stacks of yellow legal pads from Ray Bradbury, Angela Carter and Vladimir Nabokov, verbal high wire walkers who can knock you on your ass with a single phrase. Trying to hear them in my head, trying to get that sound and keep it for myself. Trying to love words the way they do. I don;t understand writer's who don;t love language. If you want to improve yourself as a writer, don;t worry about style, learn to love words. Read poetry. Listen for the music. Pastiche the music. Play the notes along with poets you love. When writing an action scene I take down my Robert E Howard and his punchy fast moving descriptions of skulls being "split to the teeth" with battle axes. I want that sound. When writing a sex scene I fill my head with Anais Nin. Dialogue, I consult my Ernest Hemingway and Elmore Leonard. Not for their words which belong to them - for their music.
When I get stuck I have a copy of John Updike or Angela Carter in easy reach, crack it open at random with my thumbs and riff off of the first thing I see:
"She sits in a chair covered in moth-ravaged burgundy, at the low round table and distributes the cards; sometimes the lark sings but often remains a sullen mound of drab feathers." "The Lady of the House of Love" Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories)
And I might go: "Nixie sat sullenly in the moth chewed chair, humped like a storm bedraggled raven, a sulking, sullen mound of feathers." Once I get that first sentence going the rest often follows. But you only get to do that if you love words and sentences. Love is the thing, always.







Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Exercise for Success by J P Bowie

Exercise - not something I'm particularly keen on . Oh, it's nice to fantasize about having a beauteous, bodacious body like so many men and women who grace the covers of fitness magazines...but the reality of getting to that place is not one that fills me with ambition.

Years ago I attended a gym or two, signed up for 2 years to get the 'special low price' then never went back after approximately two weeks. I read somewhere that the fitness centre franchises count on that happening. Imagine if all the people who signed up actually showed up on the same day. Talk about a mass of heaving, sweaty bodies!

Of course all my heroic characters have bodies to die for - but not the overly muscular monstrosities with veins popping out all over and a facial expression like they're about to take a giant dump. No, my guys have  lithe, limber hard bodies and go in more for the cardio workouts, maintaining lean muscle. Like Nick Fallon, my ace PI. He's a runner, pounding along the shoreline of Laguna Beach and finishing up with a hard climb up the steps from beach to cliff top. There he stands, manly chest heaving from his exertions, smooth skin glistening under the California sun...

And pause for effect.

Anyway, I've written a couple of stories involving exercise, hoping that my less than 'hands on' research isn't too obvious:

Personal Trainers

I have never been a gym bunny—actually I’m too old to be any kind of bunny really. Thirty-one last birthday. Middle aged, over-the-hill, and all those other cruel and nasty things people like to put on your birthday card when you pass the thirty mark.
Fortunately, I’d been blessed with a fairly trim and athletic body, but standing in front of the mirror one day after stepping out of the shower, I noticed bulges where there ought to be none—namely around my waist. Yikes...love handles! Double yikes as I stood sideways...the beginnings of a potbelly! Oh no, this would not do, I thought, slapping at the bulges as though I could beat them into oblivion. I frowned at my reflection as I combed my dark brown hair. Nothing for it, Robin, I thought. Gotta sign up at a health club, before you start to look like Jabba the Hutt!
All the way to work on the subway I fretted. Every time a guy looked my way I’d think he was staring at my thickening middle and mentally crossing me off his list of potential boyfriends. Man, talk about paranoid! At the coffee shop outside the building where I work, I ordered coffee, black, no sugar—and definitely no cheese Danish!
My office is on the third floor, but that morning I ignored the line at the elevator, and took the stairs two at a time, arriving at my desk thoroughly winded and even more determined to start some kind of exercise regimen. I sighed as I read over a memo from the boss stating that the company’s figures were way down for the year, and although he didn’t actually say it, he more or less blamed the employees for this regrettable state of affairs. I looked around the office and almost felt the blanket of gloom that had settled over my fellow workers.
The depressing start to the day became even worse as I watched Dan Waters, the office jock, preening in front of the water cooler. Dan was hot, and boy, did he know it. Twenty-six years old, and already the office supervisor, he was tall, built, hunky—and a total asshole, always ready with the put-down, and smart-aleck remark. Seeing him put the make on the office girls was enough to turn my stomach. The guy had never mastered the art of the cool approach. He was all swagger and pretension, with no subtlety whatsoever.
I hated him. I’d have jumped his bones, but I hated him, and there was definitely no love lost between us. He smirked, catching my eye, as he scanned his domain and we lesser mortals arranged therein.
“Hey, Carter...” He sauntered to my desk, giving me the fish-eye. “You get the memo?”
“We all got the memo, Dan.”
“So, you going to do better this week? Your figures are way down, you know.”
“I know,” I mumbled. “It’s the time of year.”
“You mean it’s your time of the month, doncha?” he sniggered. “Well, let’s see some improvement...”
Or you’re outta here was the implication, left unsaid.
I flushed crimson with anger and embarrassment. I had been with Barclays Financial for seven years and had been their top producer since day one. I should have been Dan’s boss, not the other way round, but his Daddy being the CEO had definitely swung the odds in his favour. As far as Dan was concerned, the memo I’d just read hadn’t been enough of a warning for me. He just had to rub it as a special treat for me. It galled me when I thought about the times I’d brought clients to Barclays after cold-calling on my own time and on my own dime.
A couple of the other guys sent me looks of sympathy after Dan had strutted back to his office, but I was already over it. The money at Barclays was good—too good to let an oaf like Dan Waters goad me into quitting. An oaf with a great butt—but one that I would have gladly kicked at that moment.
 ****
So Robin sees an ad for a personal trainer in a fitness magazine and decides to give him a call...exciting isn't it?

 * * * *
During my coffee break I picked up a Men of Iron magazine someone had left lying around, and started flipping through the pages. Muscle magazines generally bored me. I’ve never been into steroidal-looking guys, flexing massive muscles and looking like they needed to take a good dump. I was about to throw it down, when a smiling face caught my eye.
What a cutie, I thought, studying the image of an attractive blond young man, his open, friendly expression an instant turn-on. A great smile will do it for me every time, and this guy had one of the best. “Jack Kelly, personal trainer,” I murmured, reading the blurb under this photograph.
“He your type?”
I looked up, flustered, to see Dan sneering down at me.
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me, Carter. The blond himbo there with the muscles. That what you go for?”
“What I go for is none of your business, Dan,” I snapped, bristling. “And your question is a little inappropriate, wouldn’t you say?”
He rolled his eyes and snickered. “So, you gonna sue for sexual harassment? You need witnesses for that, in case you didn’t know.”
He strutted out of the break room, leaving me seething with pent-up rage. Man, but I would have loved to plant my fist on that smug face. I had a wild vision of me doing just that and watching with a deal of satisfaction while his nose flattened under my punch, forever spoiling his cover boy looks.
That would certainly be the end of my days at Barclay Financial, as well. My downcast eyes fell upon the personal trainer’s ad again.
Let Jack Kelly give you back the physique of your youth. No matter what your age or present physical condition, I can coach and encourage you to good health and high self-esteem. Call today for an appointment…
I made a note of the phone number, not really knowing what I’d do with it. A personal trainer? Please… I’d never even dreamed of such a thing. Yet, maybe he could help me get rid of those extra inches round my waist…pump up my arms a little.
Couldn’t hurt.
Being thirty-one and single, I needed all the help I could get. High self-esteem, huh? Maybe I would get the nerve to plug Dan one!
Flipping through the pages, my interest turned to a rather pretty girl advertising an ab machine. I’m gay and haven’t been into women—excuse the bad pun—since high school, but there was just something about her smile that got me. Plus, she had a cute boyish figure, and I found myself smiling back.
At lunchtime, I called Jack Kelly’s number and got his voice mail. His voice was just like you’d expect him to sound. Warm, deep and sexy.
“This is Jack Kelly. Sorry I can’t take your call right now. Leave a message and I’ll get right back with you, soon as I can.”
“Oh hi,” I mumbled. “I saw your ad in a magazine and…uh…wondered if you could let me know your fees and…uh…stuff…uh…my name is Robin Carter.” I left my cell phone number and hung up with a sense of excited anticipation.
About mid-afternoon, he returned my call.
“Mr. Carter? This is Jack Kelly. You called earlier…”
“Oh yeah, hi. Just a moment.”
I rose from my desk and headed for the break room. We weren’t supposed to take personal calls at our desks unless it was an emergency, and I knew good ole Dan would be ready with an admonishment if he heard me making an appointment with a personal trainer. He’d probably have something ass-holey to say as well. I could just about hear his sneering voice. “Oh, Carter’s gonna come back all pumped up and muscley—yeah, fat chance!”
“Yeah, I’m here,” I whispered into the mouthpiece.
“You sound very far away, Mr. Carter. Do we have a bad connection?”
“No,” I said, raising my voice and feeling dumb. “Um, I saw your advertisement and was wondering if I could make an appointment with you. I’m a bit out of shape and could use some professional advice.”
“I’d be happy to help.” His voice was deep and relaxed, with a hint of that smile I’d seen in the magazine.
“What do you charge?” I asked, without much grace.
“Fifty dollars per session, plus one hundred dollars for your first visit. I’d like to sit with you, give you an evaluation, and an approximation of the kind of results you can expect. I would also like to schedule at least three sessions per week to get you off to a good start.”
I gulped. This guy was not cheap! But, what the hey? “Um…okay. Can I see you later today?”“Let’s see… My last appointment today is at three-thirty, so yeah, I can see you at five, if that’s convenient?”
“That’s good. Where are you?”
He gave me the name of the gym and directions on how to get there.
“Better make it five-thirty,” I said, after he’d finished.
“Fine. I’ll see you then, Mr. Carter. Thanks for answering my ad.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.”
For the rest of the afternoon, I found myself in a state of quiet excitement. I made several calls to clients asking if they’d like to upgrade their portfolios. Maybe the new dynamic in my voice made my usual sales pitch more interesting, as three of the four people I called increased their investments, thanking me profusely for my time and help. I turned in my reports at the end of the day, watching rather smugly, as Dan’s eyes widened on seeing the new figures.
“Looks like my little pep-talk netted results, eh, Carter?” He threw me a shit-eating grin that made me want to pop him one. And there was that vision again of Dan holding his broken and bloody nose…
I smiled benignly and headed for my appointment with Jack Kelly, personal trainer.
 ****
And of course the moral of this story is exercise for success! 


Monday, April 14, 2014

Do Your Characters Work Out?

By Lisabet Sarai

A screaming siren wakens me at four-thirty. The sound fades off into the distance, but my heart continues to pound against my ribs. Somebody else bleeding, maybe dying. Another victim.

I try to argue myself out of these dark thoughts and back to sleep, but it’s no use. The rectangle of gray that is my uncurtained window gradually brightens: first to charcoal, then to ash, finally to pearl. I turn my thoughts to Jimmy Ostermann, but they keep sliding away to Tony Pinelli.

Finally, around six, I give up and head downstairs for a cup of coffee. Throwing open the back door, I take a deep breath of the early morning. The air is cool and smells of earth and growth. It’s drizzling, the sticky warmth of the previous day only a memory.

My work means late nights. I don’t usually get out of bed before noon. I hardly know what to do with myself at this time of day. Munching on a piece of toast, I consider the question.

Rainy weather. Good for paperwork: paying bills, filing receipts and so on. Maybe I’ll spend some time looking through those Adriatic cruise brochures I got last week.

And Tony? Some other part of me interrupts my planning session. You need to figure out what’s going on with this situation, she says. If only to protect yourself. How did Tony’s widow know who you are, or how to find you? Why did she come by, and why did she seduce you? And why did you tell her that Mr. Clean—Andy—intended to shoot you in the hotel room? What’s going on, Stella? You’re a smart lady; figure it out.

This other voice is giving me a headache. Okay, I’ll spend some time on these questions. But bills first, and then a bit of a workout. After that, I’ll sit down and do some serious thinking.

Telephone, electric, gas, dry cleaning account. (My costumes need special care.) Department store charge. (They had a big sale last month, and I do like to dress well.) Maintenance fee for my dad’s cemetery plot. With a sigh, I update the balance and slide my checkbook back into the desk drawer. I can take care of myself, but it feels as though I have been doing it for an awfully long time.

Some stretching will pull me out of this funk. I change into leggings and a jog bra, then carefully unwrap my ankle. It’s still swollen, but a lot less discolored. Definitely better. When I put full weight on it, though, fiery pain shoots up my leg. Okay, so I’ll go easy for today and just do floor work and my weights.

A Supremes CD in my compact stereo, I begin with some leg lifts and sit ups. It doesn’t take long before I’m shimmying my shoulders in time with the beat, singing along with Diana. “Stop, in the name of love,” I moan as I alternate bicep curls with pec presses. “Before you break my heart, think it over.” Old as it is, this music never fails to cheer me up. Three quarters of an hour, and I feel like myself again: Stella Xanathakeos, queen of the strippers, one tough cookie.

~ From Exposure by Lisabet Sarai

****

Exercise has been part of my life ever since I was a kid. With my coke bottle glasses, clumsiness and flat feet, I was never athletic. However, for some reason my general klutziness didn't extend to dancing.

Growing up, I became used to seeing my mom put a record on the hifi (hey, this was a while ago!) and do stretches and dance exercises. Like me, she had dancing in her blood – she even worked as a professional belly dancer for a while. Sometimes I'd join her. I took dance lessons as a kid and belonged to the modern dance club in high school. I even performed in the school talent show, dancing the role of Bonnie in a number a friend and I choreographed to the theme from “Bonnie and Clyde”. (My eagerness to perform was another paradoxical contrast with my terrible shyness during this period.)

In college I swam laps as well as doing more modern dance. In grad school I swam, bicycled and belly danced. When I got my first job and moved to the west coast, one of the first things I did was to join the Y so I could use their pool. Later, I discovered Jazzercise. I was addicted to this lively, rowdy activity, doing two or three classes a week for more than two decades, even though I had to drive half an hour each way through rush hour traffic. (Now I guess Jazzercise is a bit passé, superseded by Zumba, pole dancing, and the Vixen Workout. The latter, I have to admit, sounds like incredible fun.)

Anyway, I've always enjoyed (moderate) exercise, especially when it involves music. When I don't work out for a while, my stress level noticeably increases. Like my heroine Stella, I find that exercise cheers me up and gets my mind off whatever's bothering me.

Of course, for an erotica author, exercise, with its tendency toward minimal clothing and lots of sweat, can serve as an intro or an excuse for characters to get involved in other sorts of physical activity. Gym equipment presents all sorts of opportunities for novel positions and sensations. And given my penchant for writing BDSM, how can I ignore the fact that a gym makes a fantastic impromptu dungeon?

****

I want sex, I need release, but it doesn't seem that I'm going to get it tonight. I stand, stretch, realize that my muscles are stiff and sore. Perhaps from my awkward position this afternoon. Perhaps because I haven't worked out in several days. Then I remember the well-equipped gym Rick showed me during our tour of the house. Just the thing.

I change from my sweat- and sex-damp dress into a sports bra and shorts, pull my hair into a low ponytail, and wend my way down the dark corridor toward the back of the building, where it settles into the hillside. Everything's very quiet. There's no light under Rick's door, or under Margaret's.

It crosses my mind that Margaret was odd and unfamiliar tonight, less diffident, more assertive than usual. She seemed to radiate a happy confidence that overwhelmed her usual seriousness. I guess that she has gotten over her embarrassment about her interlude with our host. I'm pleased at her resiliency.

The gym is even darker than the corridor. Like Rick's office, it has only small windows set high in the wall. I grope for the light switch, turning on the track lights overhead. Experimenting, I find that I can dim them down to a more pleasant, less blinding level.

I start with some stretches at the barre, watching myself in the mirror opposite me. I don't normally spend much time gazing at myself. I know I'm beautiful. But the woman I see reflected back at me tonight seems a stranger. Her petite frame, her small breasts, her delicate ankles, make her seem fragile. With my hair pulled back loosely, I look young. Innocent. Vulnerable.

I have to laugh at this fancy. I know that I am strong and full of power. I shift to one of the stationary weight machines, working my triceps and biceps until they burn. I've stopped watching myself. Next I turn my attention to my quads and adductors, pushing the weights apart as I open my thighs, working against their force to pull my legs back together again.

I work hard, trying to burn my arousal away into exhaustion. Somehow, it's not happening. Every time I spread my thighs apart, I'm acutely aware of my throbbing, swollen clit, hidden in my soaked shorts. I increase the force and pace of my repetitions, determined to be the mistress of my body and my urges. It's almost as though I'm climbing the slope to orgasm. The harder and faster I work, the more excited I become.

Finally, I have to stop. I lie back in the apparatus, panting. The room smells of musk and sweat. With a pang, I recognize the odor not only of my perspiration, but of his. Rick's. Damn. I close my eyes wearily, willing my body to relax. Damn, damn, damn.

There's a sound. My eyes fly open. I am no longer alone. For the briefest instant, I think that it's Rick, and my heart accelerates as though I were still working the machine. Then, with an inner smile, I realize my error. Raoul.

"Ruby!" he says in that soft Latin voice. "Sorry, I didn't mean to intrude. I had no idea that there was anyone here."

He has obviously come for his own workout. He wears a loose pair of shorts, nothing else. My eyes trace the curlicues of hair on his muscled chest. I smile. He smiles, sniffs, strolls over to stand between my spread thighs.

"I was having trouble sleeping," I tell him, knowing that he's reading other messages in my body, in the air. "Exercise is usually a good way for me to get rid of tension."

"Maybe I can help," he says, almost whispering. His hands on the tops of my thighs, he leans over and kisses me full on the lips. It's a simple, uncalculated kiss, no hidden agendas, no power trips, just texture, wetness, warmth. It's an invitation.

I accept. As he bends over me, I raise my legs and clasp them around his waist. I can feel his delicious hardness, pressing against me through our clothing. He gives a soft laugh, pulls up my bra and takes my nipple in his mouth. Lovely, to feel that texture, warmth, wetness against that sensitive flesh.

He gives me long minutes of bliss. When he stops, my nipples are round and rigid as ceramic beads. "Let me go for a moment," he says, and I release the clutch of my legs.

He stands and with a grace I find in few men, removes his shorts. I can't help but marvel at his beauty. Muscles that swell rather than bulge, curves that flow under his bronzed skin and lush fur. His cock juts proudly from a jet tangle at his groin. I have a sudden, uncharacteristic impulse to kneel at his feet and take him reverently into my mouth.

Before I can evaluate or act on this impulse, though, he seats himself on a recumbent stationary bicycle and leans back against the seat, one bare foot in each stirrup. His cock stands straight up, swaying a bit as he moves. It's simultaneously silly and wonderfully lewd.

He grins up at me. "Care to come for a ride, Ruby?"

~ From Nasty Business by Lisabet Sarai
****

Later in this novel, I set a long femdom scene in this same personal gym. Weight benches are great for bondage, I discovered. And the mirrors that line the walls of many gyms mean that both the dominant and her victim have an excellent view of discipline's effects.

Lately I haven't been working out as often as in the past. A hip replacement and a fractured knee have made me less flexible and a good deal more conservative in my routines. And I have such a long to-do list, I sometimes feel that I can't spare the time.

That's crazy. I know how delicious it will feel to get away from the computer, do some stretches, and shake my booty to some classic rock. If it's good for Stella and Ruby, I know it'll be good for me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Roots

Monsters are usually thought of as animals, sometimes imaginary hybrid animals from ancient mythology, real but extinct predators (meat-eating dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers), shapeshifters such as werewolves, or cursed men such as the “beast” in Beauty and the Beast.

However, there is a history of stories about scary plants as monsters. “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” a nineteenth-century story by U.S. writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, probably isn’t much read anymore outside of university English classes, but the musical Little Shop of Horrors (about a blood-craving plant as an alien from outer space) seems better-known. And no one can forget the classic R & B song “Poison Ivy,” first recorded by the Coasters in 1959. (Years later, the songwriters admitted that Ivy’s “poisonous” nature is code for a sexually-transmitted disease.)

Ten years ago, when I read the call-for-submissions from Torquere Press for an LGBTQ anthology on “myths and monsters,” I thought of the immense power of plants to change the course of human history. After all, it was a disease of the potato plant that caused massive famine in Ireland in 1847-50.

But plants don’t get widespread publicity. One fascinating story to be read between the lines of colonial U.S. history involves the development of a superior indigo plant on a plantation in South Carolina in the 1740s. At the time, indigo was in great demand for blue dye, widely used for police and military uniforms. After a hardier plant was developed, the English colonies were able to compete successfully with France in the indigo trade. In due course, the colonies could survive economically on their own – and colonists resented being taxed and otherwise controlled by the British crown. The rest, as they say, is history.

But who figured out how to grow a better indigo plant? The history books give credit to a seventeen-year-old girl named Eliza Lucas, daughter of the plantation-owner. Her father was often away, and her mother was a semi-invalid. It seems likely that Eliza got credit for this achievement simply because no other white person on the plantation could plausibly claim it.

There would have been African slaves there, and some of them might have been brought from their homelands as adults, with valuable knowledge of the plants that grow in tropical or semi-tropical climates. What if the real gardener who improved the indigo plant was an anonymous person with no recognized rights at the time? In that case, both the plant-breeder AND the plant would have a reason to resent being written out of history.

These were the seeds of the following story, “Roots.” Eventually, Torquere Press got so many stories that they brought out two anthologies, named Myths and Monsters. My story appeared in Monsters.

Roots

The florist shop looked and smelled exactly as Rosa expected. The perfume of ripening flowers was like a melody over a bass line of wet earth. Sunlight poured through the windows to spotlight leaves in all sizes, shapes and shades of green, from deep-forest through emerald to fresh lime. The light glowed on the smooth features of a mahogany face that never changed expression while two sets of long, gloved fingers pressed the spongy soil around a newly-transplanted begonia. A nametag pin identified the woman as Lily.

In spite of the sweetness of sunlight on flowers, Rosa shivered. She had often passed by this place on her way to and from work, but something about it had discouraged her from coming in before now. She felt sure she had met that woman before, that she had felt those competent fingers on her own skin.

“You’ve come,” remarked Lily, the owner, “to find flowers for a special occasion?” She had a faint accent that Rosa couldn’t place, and her full, insinuating smile implied a lifetime of intimacy.

Rosa had a normally tawny complexion, but she felt pale. She hated feeling like a slow learner, but something was clearly happening that her conscious mind couldn’t grasp. She had awakened in the morning with a vague but strong conviction that she had to go to the florist shop immediately after work to find something she needed – something living and growing, which might be lost if she waited too long.

“No,” stammered Rosa, wanting to gain control of the conversation. After all, she was the customer. “I just – I need a new houseplant.” She glanced around as though looking for a particular type, genus, species and form.

Lily stood up, and Rosa noticed that she was over six feet tall. Her name suited her surprisingly well; she had the regal grace of one of the newer, richly-colored and curly-petaled hybrid lilies. Her breasts looked heavy on her willowy frame, and they bounced slightly with her movements under a loose green shirt. Her hair was done in neat cornrows that showed the elegant shape of her head. Rosa was embarrassed by her impulse to throw her arms around Lily and press herself against her.

“There are so many beautiful plants here,” purred the owner of this indoor garden. The gleam of her teeth did not inspire trust, but it added to Rosa’s excitement. “Let me show you.”

Rosa barely heard the names of annuals and perennials, succulents and hostile-looking cacti, flashy tropicals and plants like precocious little girls: baby roses, lily-of-the-valley and gerbera daisies. None of them spoke to her in any language.

Turning away from Lily, Rosa was startled by the impression that the tall, solid woman had disappeared. She was nowhere in Rosa’s peripheral vision. Rosa turned her head quickly, and Lily abruptly sprang back into view. “I need a low-maintenance houseplant,” the customer blurted, smelling her own sweat mixed with the smells of other life all around her. “The ones that need special care always die on me.”

The stare that Lily fixed on her made it impossible for Rosa to look her straight in the eyes, especially since this would have required looking up. When not studied closely, Lily’s skin looked exactly like polished wood, poreless and immobile. “Uh,” remarked the expert. “Their needs are simple compared to ours. And they give us so much. Would you want to live in a world with no green things in it?”

Rosa mumbled something that sounded like “No, but.” She felt both guilty and resentful, like a smug white donor to a tax-deductible charity who has been called on her unacknowledged prejudice toward races, cultures and neighbourhoods other than her own. On a deeper level, she was afraid.

Lily wrapped a cool, strong arm around Rosa’s shoulders like an old friend. Rosa shivered, but didn’t object. “These are my children,” Lily told her. “You must see the ones that need special care. I keep them in the greenhouse at the back.”

Chills were still running down Rosa’s back from the places where she had been touched as Lily strode to the front door and locked it. “Come,” she ordered softly, directing her customer’s attention to a door in the back that looked too small to accommodate modern adults.

Rosa was guided forward with a hand on her waist. Despite being shorter than average, she had to duck to pass through the opening. The narrow width made her uncomfortably aware of her fleshy body; she thought she was too fat but couldn’t resist comforting herself with food. Followed by Lily, Rosa had an unsettling sense that the taller woman had shrunk at will.

The greenhouse was humid and cool, full of rustlings and the gentle hiss of moisture on plastic walls. Rosa noticed several large-leafed plants and potted trees that looked exotic, wild and sentient. She was afraid to touch them, and she wondered if they were really for sale.

“My father studied plants all his life,” Lily explained. “I learned a lot from him, but some kinds of knowledge must be gained directly from them.” Rosa vaguely remembered reading an old story about an obsessed botanist with a beautiful, poisonous daughter. She had thought the plot was based on the author’s fear of everything beyond the limits of Victorian, white Anglo-Saxon respectability.

Rosa told herself that she had nothing to fear. By now it was clear that Lily wanted her, that anything could happen between them. Rosa was eager to discover the depth of the other woman’s passion as well as her own because she believed that this adventure wouldn’t count. Random sex with strangers would never have to be part of her official life-story as long as there were no human witnesses or mutual friends, and no commitment between her and the momentary lover except to keep the encounter buried in silence. For the present, Rosa reminded herself that plants are the least aggressive life form, and that women lack the piggish assumptions of men.

Rosa didn’t call herself a lesbian, or even bisexual. For years, she had told her parents that she would marry and give them grandchildren once she had found the right man. In the meanwhile, she kept losing boyfriends. She preferred to blame this on her weight than to admit that her air of self-sufficiency and her relationships with women, sexual or not, made the men in her life feel like mannequins in a store window.

Moisture trickled through soil to nourish roots, and trickled into Rosa’s panties as her heat rose. “My dear,” purred Lily. “Let me introduce you to the guards.” She gestured toward several large plants near the entrance. “They are related to the Venus Fly-trap, and they keep this place almost free of insects. Don’t put your fingers in them.” Rosa couldn’t be sure she was joking.

“And see this,” Lily went on. The tub of murky water that held some kind of wild grass looked unremarkable compared to the other inhabitants of the greenhouse. “Indigo,” the expert named it. “Incredibly valuable when it was the only source of blue dye. American indigo was inferior to the French kind until my father bred a stronger strain, more productive. Economies rise and fall by such discoveries. Who knows what America would be today if not for these little plants that used to grow wild? Yet my father is never mentioned in history books. His work was credited to those who owned him, according to the law.”

Lily looked like a woman of her time, but she seemed older than civilization. With a flash of panic, Rosa wondered if the storyteller knew that commercially-viable indigo for dye was developed on a colonial plantation before American independence, long before the lifespan of any human being in living memory. The woman had to be lying or deluded, probably the latter. In Rosa’s mind, the voice of her common sense screamed: Get out now! But she wanted to stay and learn all she could. She told herself that she would never have to come back.

“Some of them came with us,” the strange woman told her chosen pupil, gesturing at her living treasures. “On the ships from Africa. Seeds from home that they didn’t find or take from us. Seeds that wouldn’t die.” She pulled Rosa into her arms and pressed a long, hot kiss on her unsuspecting lips.

When both women broke contact to breathe, there was an unspoken promise between them. “You know whose girl you are, don’t you, sweetheart?” demanded Lily. “You came to me.” Rosa felt as if she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs. She felt as if she had entered a sealed tunnel with no light at the end, just because she had a long-standing appointment with the invisible being that lived there.

The hard wooden bench that Lily led her to looked right, somehow. Rosa didn’t worry about splinters poking her exposed, awakened skin as she took off her jacket, her blouse, her pants and shoes, all the components of an office uniform that made no sense here. Lily impatiently unhooked Rosa’s bra, and released her breasts into her waiting hands. The seducer laughed under her breath as Rosa sighed and moaned.

With unexpected force, she grabbed Rosa’s cotton panties and tugged until the fabric ripped. “You won’t need them,” Lily explained, pulling the scraps down so that the shorter woman had to step out of them, revealing a damp triangle of dark, curly hair between plump thighs.

“Tell me,” growled Lily in a voice that no longer sounded feminine, or fully human. “Tell me what you want, my sweet rose.”

Rosa lay on the wooden slats, feeling her back and buttocks pressing into them as she watched the tall woman efficiently peeling off her own clothing. “I want you to -- t-touch me,” the willing woman stuttered. Lily looked down at her with unsmiling amusement. She seemed to be waiting for a more lurid confession.

“I want you to – fuck me, to fill me up until I’m satisfied.” Rosa took a deep breath. “I’m wet for you, Lily. It’s been a long time since I’ve been with a woman.”

“Little cat in heat,” responded the interrogator, “rolling in the grass. Everyone needs to be fed.” Her deep, expressionless eyes held Rosa’s as she descended on her as though settling herself on a cushioned sofa. She sucked each of Rosa’s nipples until they were red and stiff, and Rosa’s gasps tickled her ears. “Mmm,” commented Lily. “You don’t want me to be gentle now, do you baby?”

“No,” agreed Rosa. She didn’t know what else to say.

Long, sharp fingernails raked Rosa’s ribcage, leaving thin trails of electricity in her skin. Lily kissed her hard, and nibbled her lips with teeth that bit down just firmly enough to feel threatening. Rose moved her hips and spread her legs farther apart.

Lily held Rosa’s wrists against the body-warmed wood of the bench. Strong, flexible binding was wrapped around them, securing Rosa’s hands to the slats. She was still reasonably comfortable. She felt voluptuously helpless and desirable.

Lily licked and sucked her way down from Rosa’s collarbone to her thick chestnut bush. Her probing tongue sank into pungent wetness and teased Rosa’s clit, making it grow.

The squirming woman felt something smooth and gourdlike pressing in between her lower lips. Lily’s head prevented her from seeing the object or the harness that seemed to be holding it in place. The thing dipped partway into Rosa’s heat and withdrew to the rhythm of Lily’s hips and her girl’s response. “Oh,” moaned Rosa, clenching her hands against the vines that held them. “Take me hard.”

Rosa couldn’t see the phosphorescent glow in Lily’s eyes as she grunted, plunging in as far as her phallus could go. Ten fingers grew to twice their usual length and fingernails hardened into thorns that pierced Rosa’s breasts.

Understanding was mercifully slow to penetrate the victim’s consciousness. She gasped in pain, hoping that her playmate would realize she had gone too far. The sight of her own blood, flowing in thin streams, made the woman stare at the predator’s hands. She couldn’t believe what she saw.

“You are wet, my dear,” chuckled a voice like wind sighing through tree branches. An inhuman face grinned into Rosa’s shocked eyes, and a long tongue tickled the opening of one of her small ears. Before the victim could make a vain effort to escape, the fluid warmth of the tongue changed into the cool suppleness of a woody vine. Rosa screamed when it broke her eardrum.

The persistent sounds of vegetative life filled the woman’s head when she could no longer hear normally. The pain in her cunt became unbearable as the thick root inside her developed blood-seeking offshoots which burrowed into soft tissue. “No! Stop!” wailed the woman, bucking violently to dislodge the invader. The resulting increase in pain made her realize too late that her flesh had been claimed as food and a home for those she had casually described as lower life forms. Rosa would never be alone again.

Death brought relief and the appearance of peace. Vines lovingly embraced the still curves of the woman who seemed to stare unblinkingly at a plastic roof and the darkening sky beyond it. A tongue snaked into Rosa’s open mouth and pushed its leisurely way down her esophagus to find the richness of vital organs.

The invasion and disintegration of the body continued at a steady pace. Within a week, the woman who had once had a name and a history could no longer be recognized. In due course, the stubborn remains of fat, sinew and bones nourished all the well-tended plants in the greenhouse.

A month after Rosa’s arrival, the florist in her shop glanced briefly at an article about a missing woman as she wrapped a red rose and baby’s-breath in newspaper for a customer who was planning to propose to his girlfriend.

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