Thursday, March 31, 2011

Slipping Over The Line

This isn't the post I'd planned to write when I proposed “Taboo Or Not Taboo” as this week's topic.

I'd intended to attempt a light-hearted piece, accompanied by some provocative graphics, that discussed whether erotica needed to be inherently transgressive or whether we betray ourselves and our readers when we seek to make the violation of the sacrosanct arousing.

OK, when I say it like that it doesn't sound light-hearted but I'd like to think that I'd have made it work.

Instead I find that I have quite a different message. Perhaps even the message that my subconscious was trying to send to me when I selected the topic. It is time for me to stop being Mike Kimera.

Taboo is derived from a Polynesian word meaning both sacred and forbidden. Taboos are are meant to be markers, lines we should not cross, that honour the sacred and protect us from following instincts that will diminish our humanity.

I am not by nature a rule follower. I am one of those who feels no need to respect the marks others have made when they label this or that behaviours as taboo. Sometimes I descend into a petty, “I'll do it just to show they can't stop me” kind of attitude.

Yet there are some things that you should not do, especially if no one has the power to stop you.

Today I realized that I have crossed a line that I should not have crossed and in doing so I have lost something precious to me.

I stopped writing a while back because there was too much emotional turmoil in my life and because I wanted to put my wife back in the centre of my world. I stopped for two years. Then I started again.

I've learnt that I need to write. I told myself that by writing again I was doing no harm, that in fact I might be doing myself some good by getting my emotions on the page.

I see now that it isn't writing that's the problem; it's being Mike Kimera.

Mike Kimera is a name I hide behind. Mike Kimera pushes my imagination towards things that I will not admit to in public and which I do not incorporate in my own life. Mike Kimera is someone my wife doesn't love.

The more time I spend as Mike Kimera, the less time I spend living my real life.

On the whole, I like Mike Kimera. That's part of the problem. I've grown used to having him around, I'm proud of at least some of the stories that he's written. I'm flattered and pleased that people read his stories and write to him.

It is the nature of taboo things to be attractive; if they held no attraction they wouldn't need to be protected or forbidden.

I see now that, to be the person I want to be in my real life, to live with authenticity, I must stop mentally sneaking away to be someone else. I should spend that energy in my marriage.

Mike Kimera is a man who sounds like he always knows the answers. I am a man struggling to understand how I came to be where I am: unhappy with myself and unable fully to express the love that I feel for my wife.

I have decided that I will carry on writing, but not as Mike Kimera and not writing erotica. I will write stories I can share with my wife and show to my friends. I will still try to write the truth. I will still listen to hear what the truth tells me about myself.

I hope that I will find my way back to a place where expressing my love is as natural and as necessary as breathing.

My guest on the blog this week is Nikki Magennis, with a great post on book burning. I recommend it to you and I apologise to everyone for my sudden change in direction

This is my last post on “Oh Get A Grip”. I have been honoured to take part in this blog and I wish it continuing success.

My thanks to all of you who have read my stuff.

Good bye and thank you for your kindness.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Things We Carry Inside Us

It was not quite a lucid dream, but it was something I was meant to know. It had been given to me. I don’t remember dreams very well unless I wrote them down. I didn’t have to write this one.

I was a member of a clan, an extended family of peaceful farmers until the bad times came. We were attacked and drawn into a terrible battle with a rising empire of vampires. And this was way before vampires had ever come into vogue. The war with the vampires had gone badly. The human race had been massacred down to a small bunch of which I had become the unlikely warlord. My friends had been killed. I had seen my family killed. In despair I wanted only revenge before I died. I was filled with a hatred and bloodlust I would never have imagined could exist inside me.

Through turns of events I can’t remember anymore, we turned the tide and the vampires were defeated. The king and queen captured and brought before me in a kind of Viking hall, bound in silver chains. These were the two who had destroyed my world, and forced me to a life of violence.

I ordered the King vampire chained to iron rings in the floor, while the queen sat on a chair helplessly and watched.

The King and the queen were quite close. They were not monsters between themselves. I think in context of the dream they did love each other and had a great connection to each other. I wanted the Queen to watch. I wanted her to feel what I felt. The King spoke some final word of love to her as they chained him to the floor. I took the hammer and stake in my own hands and killed him in front of her eyes as she wept blood tears. Now there was only her, alone now that most of her species had been killed and the remainder being hunted down.

I had intended to just kill her and there an end.

I’m sure that was my first intention.

I saw her there in her doom and helplessness. At my mercy. I thought of all the bloodshed and all the harm she had done me who would have been happy to have been left alone. Where had she had mercy for me? And yet she was a woman, with heart, capable of love. Knowing that she was not a beast, that she could feel pain and loss and humiliation, I was filled with an implacable, insatiable hatred. Killing her, it was not enough. I wanted to make sure she spent a few minutes in Hell with me first.

I wanted to make . . . a statement.

“Strip her!” I shouted, throwing my armor and jacket to the floor. Suddenly every warrior in the room knew what was going to happen. Women fled from the room crying. Some women covered their mouths with their hands and turned away. My warriors stripped away her clothes until she was nude. Her body was pale and clammy, like meat in a supermarket. She was not beautiful or desirable. But I didn’t desire her. Not at all did I desire her. I wasn’t interested in beauty or even pleasure. I remember that emotion clearly. I was interested only in the most extreme humiliation I could possibly commit on another person who had ruined me so completely. “Stake her out. Legs apart!”

My warriors chained her to rings in the floor. She screamed and resisted, fought them with teeth and nails and tears, protested she was a queen as they splayed her legs far apart and chained them. When she tried to bite them, they beat her on the head. I kneeled beside her and put the wooden stake between her long teeth as a gag so she couldn’t attack me. She was nude. She was gagged. She was chained to a stone floor, her legs spread eagled.

Yes I did.

I did it with gusto and the utmost violence. I did it with the all hate and rage I could feel. This was not an erotic dream. There was nothing erotic about it. It was me using my male body as a battering ram of emotional violation. I was using my body as a weapon of degradation, a messenger of rage and hate, to drive the story home to her of her ruin, to crush her utterly, to drive home my personal rage for all the death she had caused me. I wanted her last thought on earth to be of me, her conqueror mounted on top of her, inside of her, against her wishes, against her dignity, against her personhood, tearing her and striking her and showing her how completely I had crushed her spirit beyond healing. I wanted her to hope for rescue and yet not be rescued. I who would have been only a peaceful farmer raising a family, if she had left me alone.

When I was done with her I took the stake from her mouth, her face filled with a kind of despair and resignation. I had shattered her, and the knowledge gave me bitter pleasure. I think if I had unchained her she would have lain as she was, hoping for death.

I took the stake and hammer and dispatched her. The warriors roared their disapproval. They had lost loved ones too and had hoped for a go at her. It was the only touch of mercy I showed her.

As I looked down at her face, streaked with blood tears, I felt the rage drain out of me and a great sense of despair, because I knew also in that moment I was no longer human.

And I woke up.

It makes me wonder what kind of things I’m capable of, what any of us are capable of, and in what circumstances those things might come out. I suspect that we are not what we seem. Joseph Conrad wrote often on the theme that our decency and civilization are a veneer as thin as paint that can be stripped away by the howling mob around us, or by circumstance. It’s easy to judge the wicked. But maybe the rest of us, maybe we’re just luckier that’s all.

C Sanchez-Garcia

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guess Which Sentence I Almost Used As A Title

The thing about taboos is - sometimes the use of them can make for a wonderful and erotically charged story. I've talked about this many a time before but I'm going to talk about it again because, well, you can't talk about the taboos you can't go near without first getting into the good stuff. Like the idea of oh, our love is soooo taboo because one characters is a Blargon from the planet Remulon and the other character is an Earth Babe, and the two species are at war because I dunno, one wants the other one's supply of oxygen or diet cola or that stuff you find inside the inner workings of a washing machine.
And then maybe these two mortal enemies (both of them totally hot, obviously, with giant muscles for him and huge honkers for her and maybe one of them's blue-skinned, I dunno, I mean we're going down that 60s Star Trek route anyway so why not?) crash on a planet made of styrofoam somewhere and probably fight a bit. But then over the course of forty minutes they realise that "taboo" actually means "Jezzuz Crist I need to have you now just because I can't" and then Captain Kirk rips his shirt off.

Or you know, someone sexier than Captain Kirk. Zachary Quinto as Spock rips his shirt off. And then my pen wobbles on the page or my fingers wobble on the keyboard because seriously, seriously there is nothing hotter than setting up something taboo and forbidden only to knock it right down.
I mean, I can think of one non-alien absolutely real taboo that I find quite repellant, when I really consider it - incest - but in fiction can provoke a strong reaction from me, purely because of that note of the forbidden. Of something been busted down. I like that idea of something been busted down and broken, and I suppose I do because I can't help thinking of all the things that used to be taboo and now aren't.
Homosexuality was a taboo. Hell - it was fookin' illegal not all that long ago. Women talking or acting on sexual feelings? Also taboo, once upon a time. Even now, slut-shaming happens almost constantly. Women looking at and enjoying the sight of a man's naked body is still considered, in many quarters, as something weird or non-existent. So yeah. I'm quite happy for those taboos to be brought into the light and have them busted apart or at least diseccted.
I want gay men and women, and heterosexul women, to be able to talk about their sexuality and their desires, openly. I want to read erotic fiction by them. And I don't want them to be afraid, even when it comes to more specific taboos they might want to explore and write about:
Golden showers, auto-erotic asphyxiation, non-consensual fantasies...all of these are taboo, too, in their own way. They can be tricky and all three of them I don't find the least bit sexy. Though I have read stories that included two of the above that were. Most things can be written about in a sexy and intriguing and taboo-crossing way, without being nasty or horrid. It just depends where the line is. Where a person's personal line is, perhaps.
For me, no hint of safe words and roleplaying? No sexiness in a non-con story. My brain will just say rape and shutdown, sorry. Too close to actual people dying in BDSM/erotic-asphyxiation type stories? Brain shutdown. Vagina is closed for the night, apologies folks. We're sure the Charlotte Stein Vagina Ride will be up again, tomorrow.
And then there are the ones that are so much a taboo that they're not even a taboo, really - they're more like something that generally makes people weep in the night and not want to go on living life because life is just too awful. Yeah, I don't want anything to do with those. I don't want anything to do with something that actually really kills someone, or harms a child or an animal in some way.
I mean seriously: what's sexy about that? At least the other taboos I've talked about usually bring some pretty serious pleasure to people who are absolutely adults. And that's the point, isn't it? If people are consenting, reasonable adults who just want to bring themselves and each other pleasure, who the fuck cares about that tiny little word: taboo?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Unthinkable

Rape fantasy.

Not a fantasy about raping, but about being raped.

It seems as if anyone who enjoys this fantasy has no clue what rape is, and yet, 1 in 6 women in the United States have been a victim of rape or attempted rape. 1 in 6. At Starbucks as you get your morning coffee, realize that at least one women in the cafe with you has been raped. At a sport event, calculate the percentage of the crowd that's female, then mentally seat them together and figure out what a sixth of that is. How many sections are full of rape victims? Breathtaking, isn't it? Heart-rending might be a better term. Now count the men around you. 1 million men in the U.S. are estimated to rape victims. That's 1 in about 360. So 17.7 million women and 1 million men in the United States, and their families and friends, know damn well what rape is.

My immediate reaction to the idea of rape fantasy is, "What the fuck is wrong with these people?"

As you can see, it's hard to be nonjudgmental. Yet, I have a problem with playing thought police. I have a harder time telling women what they can, and cannot, find arousing. As I said, I'm strongly repulsed by it, but is it my place to tell a woman that she's not allowed to fantasize about being raped?

I wish that nobody fantasied about being raped. I wish that I didn't have to fear that rapists would use the existence of this taboo fantasy as an excuse for their crimes. I wish that evil men didn't solicit rape-by-proxy of their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends by going online, pretending to be their ex and asking some stranger to fulfill a rape fantasy, but it happens. It happens more often than you would think. I wish that it was so absurdly, horribly unthinkable that no one ever thought of it again.

But they do.

What a world.

Even with great heaviness in my heart over this matter, I have yet to reach a conclusion about where I stand on this issue. Like many of the thornier dilemmas I muddle through, it could take years before I can reconcile these two philosophies: the right of women to sexual self-determination, and my abhorrence for a crime that has nothing to do with sex.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Crossing the Line

By Lisabet Sarai

My books and stories are generally acknowledged to be pretty steamy. When I need a fantasy to get myself off, though, I won't use a scene from my books. No, they're too tame. Having been challenged by Mike's topic this week, I have to confess that in the privacy of my own bedroom, I'll venture (mentally) into far more extreme territory. Shall I mention some of my favorite fantasies here? Or will I alienate my readers? (Will Blogger cancel my account? Will I start to get hate mail?)

Suffice to say that most of my self-pleasuring scenarios couldn't be published, because they break the common rules. I don't fantasize about snuff or real violence, but almost anything else you could imagine - just about anything else that a mainstream erotica publisher would forbid - is likely to show up occasionally.

It's not just the imagined actions that turn me on. No, the fact that they're taboo is at least as arousing as activities themselves. The sense of transgression is integral to the excitement. Publicly, I come across as an intelligent, civilized, middle-aged lady, but I'm a perv at heart. The filthier and more forbidden the act, the more it appeals.

I've learned not to expose the depths of my depraved imagination in my stories. I know that the more extreme elements will be edited out, even if they don't violate the official statutes.

My first novel, published by Black Lace, included a golden shower scene. The editor asked that I remove it. Of course I complied, but personally I think this weakened the erotic impact. (Certainly, it did for me.) My first M/M erotic romance featured a rough anal gang-bang in bondage. I was politely requested to soften the scene. Even so, I received negative comments from some readers, that it was too extreme, even though it was consensual.

I'm really impressed that the enema made it into Ruby's Rules. But then, that was originally published by Blue Moon, who scarcely did any editing at all!

I recently wrote an incest story called "A Breed Apart" for Coming Together, the charity imprint. CT is publishing a series of stories on taboo topics, in protest to the recent "Banned by Amazon" fiasco. I haven't had such fun writing a story in ages. Even so, I pulled some punches. The story skirts some of the more controversial aspects of the topic, featuring as it does a sexual relationship between adult siblings (twins) who are not, in fact, strictly human but belong to another race of beings.

You may ask how I manage to continue writing sex scenes that don't feature highly taboo topics and make them convincing. Transference. I transfer emotions from one set of activities or events to another.

Breaking taboos is a powerful aphrodisiac. The definition of what's taboo, though, varies widely. Some people view BDSM activities as risky and forbidden - and I guess I must still feel that way to some extent, since they definitely turn me on. Some people consider anal sex taboo, or sex between individuals of the same gender, or between an older woman and a younger man (or vice versa). If I write a story using these elements, I summon my own sense of arousal at breaking more extreme taboos, and then try to endow my characters with those emotions. This technique helps me make even vanilla scenes arousing.

For my own personal pleasure, though, I'm not afraid to cross the line, imagining things that "normal" people might find shocking, disgusting or offensive. Would I do these things in real life? That's not the point. Taboos are mental constructs. When shattered, they release enough emotional energy to fuel the most intense orgasms on the planet.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Merry Weather Lodge

It’s funny that you should ask for a black and white photo. My husband and I were just discussing the return and popularity of black and white prints and photos. Wouldn’t you know it? Now that we have digital technology, print-on-demand and vivid color at our fingertips everyone wants black and white. While digital photography was largely responsible for the demise of the traditional back and white photo, paradoxically it’s now the catalyst that’s injecting new life into the medium.

The coy, plump little girl, dressed up to the nines, in this photograph is me. I think I was about four years old. It was taken in the woodlot beside my aunt and uncles cottage in England. The cottage is situated on Salisbury Plain, not far from the historical Stonehenge. Every summer when I was a child we would visit this quaint and mysterious place. It was called Scotland Lodge. My uncle worked as a farm hand there, for the local squire. My aunt tended the manor house.

One of the things I looked forward to the most about my holidays at this odd little cottage was spending time in the nearby woods. The trees seemed to have a life-force – a spirit of their own that beckoned me and drew me in. It was like an enchanted forest to me – a fairytale kingdom, with a sinister twist. I would spend hours there, in my own wooded sanctuary, sitting on my favorite log fantasizing, and conjuring up all kinds of intriguing tales and colorful characters in my minds eye, as a young child, then later on paper. This wonderland was a catalyst for my writing career and the inspiration for my trilogy, Merryweather Lodge – Ancient Revenge. In my books I refer to it as the dreaded woodlot, as it had a paradoxical essence of both enchantment and foreboding.

I have this photo on my desk to remind me of why I am writing this story and to help me recall the essence of the place and my experiences there.

What would I say to that little girl today? Be proud of who you are…It’s okay to be different…Fantasize and daydream all you want…Go ahead and talk to your imaginary friend – she’s the only one that understands you anyway…Don’t worry about what people think or say…

Just be yourself…

The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge stayed with me, as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I went back to England and revisited my childhood wonderland (the old place still emanates a strange, eerie essence) and led to concocting this story and writing this trilogy.

I have often wondered – Did my childhood fantasies create the experiences I’m having now? Or, were the fantasies a premonition of my later life?

Book excerpt….We stood at the entrance of the dreaded woodlot, windswept and weary. The giant trees seemed to beckon us, daring us to come closer. I pushed the long red strands of wispy hair off my face and swallowed hard. A tight fist formed in the pit of my stomach. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked as my bottom lip started to tremble. I wasn’t sure if I could muster up enough courage to go in there myself, now.

“It were your idea and ya want to solve the mystery don’t ya?”

“Well, yes.”

“Well, there ain’t no time like the present.” Her voice was firm and final; her countenance displayed an air of intense fortitude. She dropped her tools, took off her rugged gloves, stood in front of me, and fumbled with the silver chain around my neck pulling the pendant out from under my hoodie. “Keep this ‘ere.” she said as she patted it down on the front of my sweatshirt. Then she opened her rain coat, tugged at the inside pocket and pulled out a small bottle of what looked like whiskey. Holding it to her mouth she whipped back her head and took a generous swig. I stood in amazement, my mouth agape. I had never seen Auntie drink hard liquor before. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, let out a loud gut-wrenching burp, then handed the bottle to me. Was she serious? “I’m only fourteen, remember?” She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and went to put the bottle back into her pocket. I grabbed it from her hand and took a quick gulp. “Yuck!” Like hot lava the disgusting brown liquid burnt as it flowed down my throat and into my stomach. “How can any one drink this stuff? It should have a bone and skull on the bottle.” Auntie threw back her head and let out a hearty laugh, but she quickly regained her serious, military-like composure.

“Are you ready, Luv?” she asked as she bent down to pick up her weapons.
I felt a tad light-headed and more confident now. Putting on a brave smile, I took a deep breath and answered, “I’m ready.”

We marched into the dreaded thicket like soldiers on a mission, steadily advancing bit by bit towards the battlefield. “Find that there massive tree, girl.” Auntie said in a solemn voice as she stepped aside, allowing me to take the lead. With eyes peeled I searched for clues, something familiar that would point us in the right direction. I could feel my heart going thump, thump, thump under my sweater, fully aware of the possible danger lurking behind every tree. The rich, pungent smell of pine cones, rotting wood and damp moss rose up from the ground. The wind roared and the heavy branches of the formidable giant trees flayed around like the arms of a giant octopus. I spotted a large patch of blue bells under a chestnut tree. I was sure that I had seen them before. The perfusion of delicate blue-mauve bells was alluring but I couldn’t stop, not even for a quick sniff. It’s this way, I said pointing in the direction that looked familiar. Like a human bulldozer, Auntie pushed in front of me and ploughed her way through the dense bush, slashing at the tangled branches furiously, using her shovel as a machete. Everything started to look familiar, the towering evergreens, cascading chestnuts, clusters of birch, thicket, brambles and patches of wild flowers.

“Is it this way, Luv? Is it this way?” Auntie’s voice was breathless and bewildered.

“I don’t know. Let me go in front.” She moved aside as I barged past her. The cool wind whirled and whistled around us, whipping my hair about my face. A large hawk squawked angrily overhead. More tangled bushes, more blue bells, more of the same. “It’s no use.” I cried. “I can’t remember.” My echo rang through the forest. I stopped, perplexed and took some long deep breaths to still my hammering heart. Auntie leaned against the trunk of a birch tree, her face flushed, puffing and panting, like a deflating yellow blimp. Then, out of the corner of my eye, through a screen of pines, I caught a glimpse of something moving. “I just saw something. Come on.” I headed in its direction, waving my arms for Auntie to follow. Burdened by her heavy load, her stubby little legs struggled to keep up with my long stride. Then I saw it. I froze.

Blurb…When Emily Fletcher meets the gorgeous Jonathan McArthur she is infatuated and consumed with passion. Will he go with her to the dreaded woodlot, to remove the bloody ancient curse, before it’s too late? In the first half of my story Emily is fourteen years old. In the second half she is forced to return to the cottage, at the age of twenty. My novel contains elements of horror, humor, fantasy, romance and sex. I have created a world into which my readers can escape and an atmosphere that will evoke their imagination, stir their emotions and engage their senses. This book was inspired by my own experiences in a remote little cottage near Stonehenge.

Official Apex Reviews Rating: 5 stars..
Young Emily has been looking forward to visiting her aunt and uncle’s cozy
cottage near Stonehenge for quite some time – but when she’s accosted one night by an evil spirit, her enthusiasm may just come to a crashing halt...before long, she finds herself entranced by the mysterious history of not only the old cottage, but also the entire area – and the less the locals want to talk about it, the more Emily’s curiosity is piqued...soon, she becomes infatuated with the handsome Jonathan McArthur at the same time that she strives to get to the bottom of the hidden ancient legends that surround her – but if she isn’t careful, she may just find herself the target of a vengeful ghost’s time-tested wrath...

In Merryweather Lodge, author Pauline Holyoak successfully blends the elements of mystery and romance to craft an engaging suspense thriller with a paranormal twist. Inspired by her own real life experiences, Holyoak’s imaginative tale introduces the reader to a fantastical world of magic, sorcery, love, and revenge that effectively suspends disbelief and features one surprising twist after another. Because of its true-life implications, Merryweather Lodge boasts a particularly salient appeal, as the reader is left to wonder just which parts of Holyoak’s compelling narrative are fiction – and which actually occurred.
Regardless of your final analysis, though, Merryweather Lodge makes for a fun, entertaining read sure to keep you on your toes until the very end.

In the last book of my trilogy I will reveal which parts of my story are fiction and which ones are real.

Merryweather Lodge – A quaint little cottage, steeped in history, shrouded in secrets, its aura a paradoxical essence of heaven and hell. Go into this book if you dare and experience my protagonist’s strange and eerie journey there.

Please visit me at my website, read more about my book and view my video…

Available at…

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Hope and Gloria" a work in progress

A while back I wrote “Photographic Memories” a story about a damaged photographer trying to find his way back to happiness. He said: The camera is a machine for trapping time. Flypaper for moments of truth.

That thought was in my head when I saw the black and white photograph below. It got me thinking about when the moment was and what truth it captured. My imagination led me to the first part of a story. I’ve shared it here as an illustration of where my ideas come from.

The text is of course fiction and does not based on any factual information about the women in the photograph.

Like all fiction, it is only as true as the extent of your belief.


Photograph by Hans Steiner

Hope and Gloria

© Mike Kimera 2011

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Ms. Denton.”

The researcher is young. pretty and dressed to display her athletic form without actually revealing any of it. I assume that the publisher thought I would be more open in the presence of this fetching ingenue. Sadly it seems that the girl herself has not been briefed on her role and, instead of flirting with me, she is speaking slowly in deference , I assume, to my great age.

“Agreeing to meet you seemed to the only way to avoid endless tedious phone calls with your boss. Is she always so anal about every detail? It seems to me that she is the sort of woman who would benefit from Rhett Butler’s advice to Scarlett O’Hara…”

I’ve clearly caught the girl off guard by attacking her boss and I’m fairly sure that she has never seen “Gone With The Wind” but one of the few privileges of age is being able to discomfit the young, so I look her in the eye, lower my voice by an octave and say: “You need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how.”

The poor girl’s eyes have gone wide. This one is as straight as a die, I think. There was at time when I would have taken that as a challenge, but not today.

“Do take a seat, my dear.” I say, as if nothing at all odd had happened.

She perches her tightly clad bum on the seat opposite me, crosses one leg over the other and leans forward in a way that may be meant to create intimacy.

“I’m sorry to trouble you with this, but my editor asked me to do some last minute verifications before your autobiography goes to press.”

Her smile takes her from pretty to adorable. I forgo the pleasure of asking her if she is accusing me of lieing.

“What is it that you would like to verify?”

“Well, the story you tell in Chapter Three is quite startling. My editor is excited, of course, but…”

“She’s worried that Gloria Smythe’s litigative descendants will try to sue? You can’t libel the dead, my dear. Your boss should know that.”

“Well, Gloria Smythe was the sex symbol of British Cinema in the 1950s. People have a special place for her in their hearts. We’re concerned that your story could attract a lot of bad press.”

“Don’t give me that ‘Nation’s Darling’ crap,” I say, allowing my irritation at the girl’s book-blub sentence to show. “Gloria’s relationship to sex was more than symbolic. She was a sexual omnivore with an insatiable appetite for the novel and the naive. The first time she ate me, I was both. Do you know, I think she only fucked me because my name is Hope and she couldn’t resist the opportunity for us to be Hope and Gloria?”

The girl actually blushed. Where do they find these people?

“The thing is, Ms. Denton, we would feel more confident in going to press if we had something that substantiates your version of events.”

My version of events. She makes it sounds as if having more than one version is a flaw rather than an inherent attribute of the human condition. Still, at least she had the backbone to raise the point.

“Well, Gloria is dead and her spineless excuse of a son burned any papers that he felt were inconsistent with his mother’s image. In those days we didn’t have the option of filming ourselves having sex and posting it to YouTube. Dear Christ, if we’d been able to do that, Gloria’s film career would have been much more interesting. All I can offer you is this.”

I hand her a photograph and a journal. True to the ways of her generation, she looks at the photograph first.

“That’s me and Gloria. We were drying off from our swim I’m the one looking at her. She’s the one looking into the distance.It was the last day of summer. The last day we were together. I was no longer either naive or novel. I didn’t know it then but Gloria had already lost her appetite for me.”

The girl, I really should have tried to remember her name, looks from the photograph to me and back again, trying find that young swimmer in my face. She’s wasting her time of course. That swimmer drowned in grief decades ago.

“You both look so young.”

“I don’t think Gloria was ever really young. I on the other hand was an absolute puppy. Look at me. Look at us.It is all there for anyone to see.”

“”Who took the photograph?”

Hah, this girl may be brighter than I thought. That’s an excellent question.

“My mother. At the time I thought she knew nothing of what Gloria and I were doing. Certainly she never spoke of it. But a picture like that is not born of ignorance. My mother was addicted to seeing life through a lens. She took her camera with her everywhere. She once told me that life without a lens lacked focus. She always shot in black and white. She said that it removed the distraction of colour and the pretense of documentation and presented each picture for what it was, a choice on how to show the world to others.”

I realise that, while I’ve been evoking my mother’s ghost, my little fact-checker has opened the journal at the place that I had bookmarked.

“It’s my mother’s journal of course. I found it after she died. I rather wish I hadn’t. It demonstrated that while I’d never really known my mother, she had known everything about me.”

The girl looks up at me. Her mouth is open. She looks stunned. “Your mother…”

“”…watched Gloria Smythe finger fuck me and then went back to her room and wrote it all down. Fascinating isn’t it?”


Ok-That’s as far as the picture has taken me so far. I hope that the next piece will be an extract from the Jounral. If it arrives in my head I will bring it to you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Meet Phaedrus.

Phaedrus died about fifteen years ago, unnoticed or mourned by anybody but me. Me, I cried for him when he went away. He was my hero. He died when his God began to die a long slow death of obsolescence. As his God died, Phaedrus was reincarnated. As me. As Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia says “Lord we know what we are, but not what we may be."

Phaedrus was a spiritually ambitious, tormented soul, of good humor who prayed in passionate tears, laughed loud and often in the face of hardship, was afraid of no man, but was afraid of the dark, and posessed the special luck of a fool who is madly in love with his God. He was almost murdered three times, once with a gun, once with a knife and once when men hunted him in the dark of a Louisiana bayou near Houma. He walked away clean each time because of his resourcefulness and his pure faith that his God was watching over him.

He was a constantly lonely soul, who was never alone, always in the company of his spiritual family of brothers and sisters, except for the time this photo was taken in downtown Oshkosh Wisconsin when he was profoundly alone. He was born to be a lover, tormented each moment by a ferocious sexual appetite, burning for passionate union with another, and yet found himself liberated by a life of celibacy. He lived in various houses and church centers, cheek to cheek with exotic young women from all over the world, his sisters. He loved his sisters and they loved him back. The years and nights were filled with conversation, toast and jelly parties huddled in a kitchen corner, whispering, in intimate friendships with girls from Japan, Korea and Europe with whom he prayed, fasted, ate, studied, labored and shared bathrooms with. All the time true to himself. All the time refusing his desires.

I bear his karma, I carry it with me all the time, the consequences of his decisions which I didn’t share in and would give anything to change, and yet somehow I am better for them. I love Phaedrus. I’m so sorry his dreams didn’t come true, because he was worthy of them. It was the custodians of his faith that proved unworthy.

The picture was taken on a street corner in Oshkosh in February of 1976. I remember clearly it was the day after a blizzard. I was a “pioneer” missionary. I had been through four months of training in teaching lectures on the “Divine Principle”, schooled in the heart of God, and sent alone into the spiritual wilderness to find my spiritual children. I arrived the night before the blizzard, leaving the bus station in below freezing weather with a sleeping bag and a small suitcase. I had to find a place.

I pushed open the first unlocked door I could find, the side door of an old apartment building. I went in and slept in the boiler room where it was warm. The super came in because he heard me praying and pounding the floor with my fist late that first night in town. At first he told me to leave, but I told him I was a missionary and God had brought me there for the night. He let me stay.

A few days later I raised some money by selling peanuts door to door and was able to get a room cheap in this apartment building. Seeing it now, it looks like this building must have started out as a factory or a mill and then been converted.

I was a afraid of the dark. One of the consequences of faith, the world is full of malevolent haints and it was hard to sleep with the odd shadows and sounds, and always the constant nagging of my young body's lust. I had never been alone like this before and even God seemed far away.

The next day I was out on the street corner with my notebooks, a shy young man pushing himself to the utmost emotional limit with the craziest thing I could think to do – street preaching, like that old time religion. Shouting my truth out loud to the people trudging through the piled snow. A news reporter looking for a story saw me and asked if he could get a picture and an interview. I said sure, feeling he had been sent by God. I began again “People of Oshkosh! I bring good news!” and the cop car stopped. A couple of policemen in blue nylon parkas rolled down the window and waved me over. I leaned in. “Are you okay, kid?” said the cops. What he meant was “Are you crazy?”

I think if Phaedrus met his incarnation today, the product of his karma, he would be amazed and horrified. Amazed that somehow it had turned out okay and I have a family and a steady job and a house and a little yard with a peach tree. That I no longer sleep in a sleeping bag in the “brother’s room” but sleep in my underwear next to a woman I’ve known for many years, and sometimes we reach for each other in the night. I’ve become a tamer person in body and soul. And that would horrify him. Phaedrus was that untamed man, but money and marriage and comfortable evenings changes us and tames us, as it must. In “The Dying Light” Father Delmar mourns the loss of his own passionate faith, writing in his diary:

“ . . . Devils with contracts, needles to draw blood for their fountain pens. (Does the Devil prefer Esterbrooks or Monte Blancs? In the movies he uses a goose quill. Do you have any experience with this, Nixie?) Those are for the fighting souls, the rebellious, full blooded sinners, juicy and exciting to God and Satan. For the rest of us, we sell our flaccid souls with tax returns. With checkbooks. With coffee spoons. With cups of tea and warm lonely nights. Nothing more is needed. People like me, Jesus said he would spit out of his mouth. . . “

That’s really me, apologizing to Phaedrus. Telling the young man, yes I betrayed you, maybe I betrayed us both, but it had to be done. It had to be done so that you could remain a true and good man in your own eyes. You’re not allowed to sacrifice other people on the altar of your faith. Even if others sacrifice you on theirs.

Now,don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t sit around in a funk thinking about the past. In fact it’s the opposite. As time goes by, the past seems more and more unreal to me, which is what gives me its fascination. Its as though someone put in a book in my hand and said “You wrote this book in your past life in the nineteenth century. This is the autobiography you wrote when you were a Carmelite nun in a convent in France.” That would be so weird, I would just have to look, and damn if the words written there didn’t seem so familiar I could guess how the story ends.

What I get out of this photo when I see Phaedrus standing by the cop car is the zen of that image. The feeling that the Buddhists may be right, life is an illusion. Ego and what I think of as myself may not be real. Because I’ve been so many different people, even in this one life that Phaedrus seems like a kindly ghost. And I write this with the dim knowledge that I too will die and pass away, and very soon. And in a few years a stranger with common memories will dial up these old blogs and stories and wonder what in the world I was thinking of way back then.

C. Sanchez-Garcia

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Curse Them All For Me, Stephen

There's this picture of Stephen King. It's in black and white so I think it's okay for me to talk about it, though the fact of its black and whiteness is not what I find most intriguing about it. I mean, black and whiteness does give a little extra flavour to things, sometimes - makes them seem darker or older or stranger - but to be honest I think this picture is dark and old and strange enough on its own.

I've never found out what he was doing in it. I didn't want to. It's one of those snapshots of a moment in time, a capture of someone's feelings and what they're doing rather than a pose - the way all of the pictures of me are. I have one black and white photo of myself but it's nothing like this thing - it's just me on my wedding day, looking down because the photographer told me to, and though I do think the black and white of it has given me the look of a rather ugly silent movie star - which is how I've always thought of my appearance, to be honest - I don't think it's a particularly interesting picture.

Where as this picture of Stephen King is interesting. Of course, realistically I know he's probably just protesting about the price of milk at his corner shop or something like it, but there's just this Stephen King loving side of me - the side that thrills over every dark and deadly thing that happens in any of his books - that likes to imagine there's something more going on.

You can't see his eyes, so they're probably burning with the souls of a thousand demons. And there's definitely something lurking in that full, passionate beard he has, all black and made blacker still by the lack of colour in the picture.

And he's holding something in his hand, too - something that could be a till receipt from that milk he bought. Or it could just be a curse he bought from a gypsy in some enchanted circus, and now he's going to lay it on the heads of all the non-believers.

He looks great in that picture. He looks like a different Stephen King - the Stephen King his books always promise because come on. We all know he just writes himself into every book. But you know what? I don't care. Because if I lived in a town AND THEN EVOL CAME, I'd almost certainly want this guy:
On my side.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Walk With Me

Among the visual storytellers, none understood the power of light and shadow like Alfred Hitchcock. He fought colorization of his black and white works since it would destroy the subtlety he worked so hard to achieve and used to great effect. Light - to illuminate. Sometimes light deliberately misdirected our attention. Sometimes, despite the lights, the horror came anyway. Shadow - to blend. Sometimes he used it to illustrate the murkiness of the moral issues. Darkness - to conceal.

(this picture isn't from a Hitchcock flick)

Here, we have a picture of a straight, paved lane cleared of snow. Lights stand at even intervals to illuminate it. Everything on the surface points to civilization, order, neatness. This is the structure, stripped of the distraction of color. As with any story, the bones of it are what we expect. We expect our world to continue in its orderly fashion with all the safety nets civilization has built into it. We expect a story to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We expect a story to start with conflict and end in resolution. Order restored. Whew. We can all sleep safely. We can dare to turn out the lights, because we've conquered everything lurking in the dark.


Past the neat row of lights are trees that have been confined, allowed to grow to a certain point and then held at bay by human power. It's another comforting show of our control over our world. Except that we don't really control anything, do we? As we've been brutally reminded time and again on the idyllic ocean shores of southern Thailand, in New Zealand (not only the recent earthquake, but the mine explosion and collapse that killed so many miners), in Haiti, and in Japan, any delusions that we have about our importance on this earth can be shattered in seconds.

Back to the picture.

Maybe we can hack back a stand of trees, but we can't contain the fog. It overflows the barrier we set at the tree line and seeps into the human world. It makes the familiar seem different and untrustworthy. It swallows light. It holds us at bay.

This is conflict. Our certain world wiped away, or even simply cast in new light that makes us rethink all that we trusted. It's the middle of the story. Some things remain, such as the path, but who knows where it will lead?

And what about that figure lurking far off to (your) right? He, or she, seems to stand between the last two lights, but that's a trick of perspective. The lights are to the left of the path. The figure is to the right. Does this mean that while it seems this person walks in light, s/he is actually on the side of darkness? And what is that long pole s/he is holding? Weapon, or tool? Or is that really a person? Are our brains trying too hard to create a recognizable pattern out of something random? Does the idea of a person lurking, or waiting, further down the path comfort or frighten us? Would we rather be alone in this little illusion of human superiority over nature, or risk meeting another person who could destroy your faith?

The only thing you can be certain of is that there's potential chaos in that fog. Care to take a stroll?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Love with the Lens

By Lisabet Sarai

My first lover P. was a photographer. He carried his camera everywhere and took pictures of pretty much everything, though he was particularly talented when it came to portraits. He took some of the best photos of me that anyone ever has - normally I'm the least photogenic person in the universe! But I can't post them here, because someone from my distant past might recognize me.

Our relationship inspired me to get involved with photography. I was fourteen or fifteen at the time. I bought a used Kodak Signet 35 camera, something of a collector's item even back then. It offered completely manual settings for film speed, aperture and shutter speed - requiring a bit of work but on the other hand, providing total control. I also bought a light meter. (Remember those? Many of you probably don't!)

Under P.'s tutelage - well, actually, I learned most of the basics on my own - I started capturing the world around me. I even taught myself how to develop black and white film, although I have to admit that I only did so once or twice. (It was the same when I got my first car, about a decade later. I insisted on knowing how to change the oil myself, even though most of the time I didn't.)

Unlike P., I seemed to gravitate to images that didn't necessarily contain humans. The photo above was one of my early efforts. It's a photo of my younger brother's bedroom during exam period. He must have been a freshman in high school; I was a junior. The picture captures a sense of chaos and yet at the same time, it's a still life. The frenzied studying is over, or at least has been interrupted. Without checking, one suspects that the box of pretzels is empty. A shaft of sun illuminates the tousled bed clothes, gilding the abandoned books and notes.

It's in some ways typical of the photos I took. I liked patterns, tricks of the light, reflections, details that spoke volumes. When I was reviewing pictures for this blog, I found a couple of others from the same period, which illustrate my tastes.

The interesting thing is that I'm still drawn to the same sorts of images in the photos I take now. Here's a photo (not black and white) I took while I was in Japan last November.

I don't really consider myself a photographer. A true photo-phile never goes anywhere without a camera (and yes, my cell phone has one, but it's so pathetic it's not worth mentioning). But when I fell in love with P., it seems that I fell in love with the lens, too.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reader Trivia

Contributed by She:

Everyone started out with blood type O in Africa. When migration started those who went west into Europe became A's and are best eating a vegeterian type diet. Those who went East into Asia became B's and are best with a dairy type diet. Blood type AB came when the East and the West started trying to conquer one another. The best and worst of A & B type blood is in AB's. Type AB was noted around 1200 and is the newest blood type to be discovered.

I got this from the diet book about blood types and your diet. How many people would even think to remember the history of blood types? This is the type of person I am. I could also tell you about bubonic plague and how black rats and lice and food storage during the Middle Ages caused it.

~ * ~

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fun biology facts ...

I am the very model of a modern Major-General; I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral ...

Yes indeed, as the resident biologist, you had to know that I would take this topic there. Especially since it was my idea. LOL

Okay, so some weird, unique, and somewhat gross trivial trivia from the biological sciences.

First up ... Placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi (say that three times real fast!)

This creature is a leech, But not just an 'ol leech, this little sucker is found in the rectum region of hippos. So far, it is the only leech in the world that is specialized to one animal species. And, it has camoflage, blending in the coloration of the hippo's skin.

Next is butt breathing. : )

Yep, you read that correct. Although, technically, it isn't really breathing, but the ability to intake oxgen via membranes in the anus region that make some species of turtles so interesting. Yep - turtles!

Clownfish sex change
Indeed, that little Nemo fish has the potential to one day be a girl. That's because clownfish are born male, and when the dominant female in the group dies, the dominant male will change sexes, and another male will take over as dominate male.

Pregnant males?

That's right, it's the seahorse males who "birth" their young. The female inserts her eggs into a brood pouch on the male, and he then fertilizes them, and carries them until they are "born".

I could go on and on ... but really, do you want me to? LOL These are just some of the tid-bits that are running around in my brain thanks to my professors. As for why I am quoting Gilbert and Sullivan, well, I just like the song. LOL

I know the scientific names of beings animalculous; In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral, I am the very model of a modern Major-General. ...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not A Lot Of People Know That

Michael Caine convinced me that, combined with enough dry wit and self-effacing charm, trivia could be cool. Mind you, he also looked good in those horn-rimmed NHS specs that were the bane of my early teens.

I acquire trivia the way a white shirt acquires coffee stains; there's no plan involved, I'm just certain that it's going to happen.

I've always been able to play “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon” without breaking a sweat. I grew up listening to radio stations where you had to be able to build chains at least seven songs long with each song sharing a lyric or a theme or a performer or a writer.

Things only became seriously uncool when I fell prey to addiction. At this point I should shuffle to my feet, hang my head, wring my hands and murmur: “My name is Mike and I'm addicted to etymology.”

As my fellow addicts will already know, etymology is the study of the true sense of a word – coming from the Greek word etymon meaning true sense and logos meaning reason, idea or word.

At first I told myself that I could handle etymology, that it was just a means to an end, that I was the user not the used. I rationalized that words were the instruments by which I brought meaning to my life, shaping my thoughts, memories and perceptions so it was only natural that I should want to know more about what words mean, where they came from, how they evolved, and how they are still changing.

By my late teens, even I had to admit that what started as interest had turned into addiction. I owned three etymology dictionaries. I lost hours following chains of meaning from one word to the next and yet seldom used these words in the presence of others.

I started acting out a school. In the grip of my addiction I could not understand why teachers reacted badly when I explained that it was illogical to ask me not to run in corridors because corridor came from correre, meaning to run and was originally used to describe galleries at the top of fortifications that soldiers could run along while remaining protected. Nor did I understand why they were unimpressed by my assertion that gym-kit was a contradiction in terms as gymnasium was originally a place for training naked, taking its roots from the word gymnos meaning naked.

As I matured, I came to accept, that non-addicts saw things differently.

Non-addicts used words as if they were blank Scrabble tiles, cramming into them whatever meaning seemed to fit the ear and then repeating it often in the hope of making it true.

Non-addicts seldom felt drawn to use a dictionary of any kind and those who did dip into them could stop after a single word if they wanted to.

Non-addicts did not feel the seductive pull of etymology and often branded the hard-won fruits of my research as trivia.

Not many people know this, but trivia is the plural of the word trivium meaning the place where three roads meet; implying well beaten ground that everyone has access to. Trivial became the descriptor for grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic. These were the artes sermocinales, or language skills and were seen as the least important three of the seven Liberal Arts.

By the way, the Liberal Arts were so named because the Romans believed they were the things that a Free Man needed to study to enlarge his intellect without being immediately useful for anything.

I accept that I will always be an addict. Like many high-functioning addicts I hide behind the mask of the creative process and tell people that I am a writer searching for the truth and not a wordster jonesing for his next high.

Did you know that Jonesing is believed to have become a term for addiction because of the high incidence of drug addicts who lived in Great Jones Alley, off Great Jones Street, between Broadway and Lafayette Street?

This is slang of course, and so not entirely respectable, but then slang was originally a term used to describe the secret language used by beggars and thieves to prevent outsiders from understanding them.

I could continue... beggars were originally lay brothers who helped mendicants.

But I should... Mendicant comes from the Latin mendicantem meaning beggar but also cripple (menda meaning fault of physical defect), which creates a link to mendacious meaning to lie and deceive.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Head for Trivia

I’ve spent some time studying Chuck Palahniuk’s essays on writing craft. Palahniuk not only has an ear for trivia, he’s taught me in his writing how to put it to its best use. Trivia has a very specific value, believe it.

Palahniuk says that when a story opens, the narrator, and he writes exclusively in first person present, rarely any other way, needs to establish credibility with the reader. There are two ways to go about this, the heart way and the head way. I’ve written about this here before, so I’ll just go on about explaining the “head” way, because that is where trivia finds its rightful place in your tool box.

When your narrator is not a very nice person, and none of Palahniuk’s narrators are very nice people, you can establish authority with the reader by trivia. By the narrator showing the reader, that even if you don’t like him or her, your character knows what’s he/she's talking about. You can believe what they’re trying to tell you. You do this by having the character knock off details about a subject on which the narrator is the expert. For example, here is Palahniuk’s opening paragraph for “Guts”, one of the most notorious short stories ever written – and you can look that up, honey. Here:


Take in as much air as you can.

This story should last about as long as you can hold your breath, and then just a little bit longer. So listen as fast as you can.”

Just those three sentences, and the narrator is giving you some information that sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, as well as what is about to happen to you, as he begins to narrate a story that makes audience members faint away in their seats. If you want to see for yourself how he exploits the head method, as well as his consummate skill in making you feel physically what the narrator feels you can read the whole story here in about ten minutes, if you can make it all the way through to the end that is:

Meanwhile, I have used trivia to build up the “head” method several times in my own stuff. For instance, in the opening paragraph of my Nixie story “The Lady and the Unicorn”, which I’m informed will appear in this months “The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica VOL 10”. Like Palahniuk, I have a narrator who is not very nice, a German born vampire girl named Nixie. I want the reader to feel the authority of her experience, and for that I use a unique pile of pure trivia to give the sound of a girl who speaks english as a second language introducing herself to the reader:

Blood has a range of taste, as scent has a range of aromas. Blood has a high level taste and an under taste. It is a blending of elements like music. This is also the way of scent. The under aroma tells you there is a trail and betrays to you the direction. If the scent becomes fresher you are following the creature that produced it, so you must use the under scent to know which direction is older and which is newer. It is as though the air were filled with singing voices and you are picking out from the choir the sound of a single voice. The high scent will tell you the individual, the condition of the individual, if he is injured or sick, horny or filled with fear. It will tell you how to catch him, where he is likely to run to. To acquire the high scent the animal, or myself, must pause to commune with the air and pay attention. Close the eyes. Hold the nose still and just so. Let the night air speak. It is the same with the deep taste of blood, except that scent is on the move, and if you are tasting the blood – well. It is no longer on the move.

So here, you have several things going on, all trivia based. I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to have a natural predator’s extraordinary sense of smell, and how a predator uses that for hunting. You can do a little guerilla research on the web, and then the rest is what you can envision. I’ve built up a little grocery list of elements and Nixie spells them out to the reader. She sounds like she has experience. She sounds like she knows what she’s talking about. She is not hostile, aggressive or boastful. Her calm voice talking to you like an old friend never puts on airs, other than a childlike sense of wonder. She never tries to tell you or convince you of how dangerous, or even out of the ordinary she is. But by the end of the paragraph, she doesn’t have to.

Just for fun, let me throw in one more from the first messy draft of a story I’ve just started working on. The story is a “speculative fiction” erotica in the future called “The Peanut Butter Shot”. Here’s how that starts – this time around anyway –

The Peanut Butter Shot

They used to wrap tape around your hands to keep you from busting your knuckles up against the bones of somebody's face. Me, it’s the opposite. I have to wear special gloves when I'm not in the ring. These gloves, see, they go for about $12,300, something like that, dermatologically custom made. The insurance pays for them, so like I give a shit, but that’s what they go for. I've got real warm soft hands. Women tell me they're softer than a baby's hands. My champion hands are insured by management for about $567,000. My tongue’s insured too, definitely, so I can't drink anything hot or cold or eat spicy, which sucks but it’s the job. It’s the price of artistic talent. My tongue and hands are my weapons. My instruments. My money makers.

The old fighters, they’d wrap that heavy double sided tape around and around, and you had to flex your knuckles to make sure when you made a fist, the bones of your joints would press nice and tight against the wrap, so that when you connected with somebody's head or maybe his ribs, the finger bones, especially around your pinky finger, wouldn't move around and bend and break and then you end up out there fighting with a beat to shit busted hand that hurts like hell . Then they'd stick your hands into these padded mitts so you wouldn’t haul off and just kill the other guy if you hit him hard enough and long enough. But even then they had these other illegal fights, pit fights where two guys'd just go bare knuckles at it until one was down. It was simple justice.

And it was the magic too. The magic of being lethal and working beautiful at the same time, the sweet science they called it. Fuck; what I’m going to do lethal doesn’t cover, lethal isn’t the word for what me and that lady are going to do to each other out there under the lights. They don’t have a word for it, when you play for stakes like that. Damnation maybe. I’ll bet fuck all that devils in Hell, shit, they don’t even have a word for what we do. But they sure wish they did.

You the reader don’t have to like him, but you have to be able to wonder what will happen next. What is this guy telling me? What is he doing for a living that’s so bad it scares the shit out of him?

Trivia has another place in writing narrative, and that’s in the technique of description. And there you have to pick your trivia sparingly, a stilletto not an axe. When your'e describing a scene and you want to put an element of emotional power in the scene, what you want is a simple and very specific trivial detail that captures the soul of what is happening with the simplicity of a zen brush painting. I don’t claim to be good at this, I wouldn’t do that, but I do claim to understand the theory. For instance, in another story “Singing in the Dark” I have a character who for various reasons is crossing a railroad yard in the dead of night. This rail yard has no lights, it’s an industrial wasteland of tracks and cars in the moonlight and this guy is very desperate to get across it. His problem is that he is pathologically terrified of the dark. But he has to get across and after a short way he collapses in a panic attack.

Now this rail yard is dark, very dark. But you don’t just say “It was dark.” We know that, buddy. That’s cheating, that’s just being lazy. Make us FEEL that darkness with a carefully placed scrap of trivia:

. . . . His body became heavier and heavier until even drawing a breath felt as though he were pushing a great rock up a hill. Reeling, he half kneeled, half fell to his knees and folded his hands. “San Toribio,” he whispered. “Santo Patron del Jalisco. Protector de los emigrantes y aquellos quienes tienen que hacer ese cruce peligroso. Aie Jesu. Aie Jesu!”

He sank until his face banged against his knees and he toppled sideways; his chest heaving in half breaths and his senses filled with the rank odor of old engine oil as he dropped face down, breathing grimed mouthfuls of oiled dirt. Inches just in front of his eyes, the moonlight glinted like a Christmas star off the edge of a shard of broken bottle glass. . . . .

The moon on the bottle glass, that’s trivia. But its useful, purposeful trivia. Its something the narrator would know, but you wouldn’t know without having it shown to you. The detail, if the magic is working, can make the dark seem real enough to feel what this poor guy is going through.

Trivia ges a bad rap, like a lot of good things. But in its place it’ll be one of your best tools. Trivia is your friend.

C. Sanchez-Garcia

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cities of a Far and Distant Future War

The trivial things I know are useless. Which sounds a little redundant, since trivia by its very nature is often useless, but when I say useless I mean oh my God, so much, much more useless than anyone else's trivia.

Other people's trivia has the flavour of genius. It's important and brilliant. They can use it in their books, to flesh things out and make their characters and places sing. It's stuff like when a classical composer was born or how much cheese exists in France or the names of cheeses or what cheese weighs or other stuff about things that are not cheese because my trivia is so useless, I can't even think of any beyond the giant fromage wheel that's now spinning inside my head.

I know nothing about cheese. I don't even know how it's made. I know you don't cook milk to make it, but then again...maybe you do! How the fook should I know, my trivia is useless.

Here is my trivia:

1. Every name of the marines from the movie Aliens: Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez, Gorman, Spunkmeyer, Frost, Drake, Apone, Ferro, Wierzbowski, Dietrich, Crow.

2. The name of the band who wrote the song Let Go from the movie My Demon Lover: Intimate Strangers. I also know all the lyrics. It wants the spirit world inside to protect you.

3. The age, height and CV of Armie Hammer. I know this level of trivia about a great, great many men. So many men, in fact, that I fear this useless information is starting to drive out normal information, like: how to walk. What to do with a spoon. Where my house is.

4. The name of the scary girl from Ringu. It's Sadako Yamamura.

5. How much milk needs to go in a packet of Angel Delight. It's 300ml, BTW. But if you put in a little bit less it makes the Angel Delight just a touch firmer, which I like. Then I put cherries and squirty cream on top and pretend I'm eating chocolate trifle. Because...I dunno. I can't afford real chocolate trifle? I can't be bothered to make real trifle? I can't be bothered to go out and buy ready made real trifle?? You know, lined up like this my life sounds pathetic. Which I suppose is the problem with listing the flotsam and jetsom floating around inside your head.

Suddenly your life is reduced to the aimless knowledge you've accumulated, and according to my aimless knowledge I'm a psychotic Aliens fan with terrible taste in music, a stalker-esque obsession with famous men, a terrible diet and poor spoon dexterity. Also, I might be cursed by a girl who comes out of TVs.

I'm composed of nothing. At dinner parties I couldn't let out little nuggets about the size of our galaxy or the mating habits of iguanas. Where that knowledge exists in other people, I'm just a void of pathetic film and hunk trivia. I could tell Lord Fontleby the Third about the dialogue Scott Valentine utters as he turns into a creature in My Demon Lover, but somehow I suspect he wouldn't care.

And then I'd do something like flick a fork into his eye, because all my knowledge about Bradley Cooper has shoved out the ability to use other items of cutlery, too.

Though please, don't go away thinking all of this depresses me. That I'm terribly sad about my vacuous brain and its suspect contents: I'm not. I don't feel guilty about it, either.

I love my brain. I love that it's like a giant future-war trash heap, littered with the bones and bricks of movies no-one else on earth has ever cared about. I love wading through its jagged landscape like Wall-E, forever sifting for jewels and dancing on dust, waiting for my Eva to come.

He always comes. He lives amongst the debris. Out of the ashes whole worlds emerge, and with them is life, and love, and everything. I love you, my brain. And I love your useless trivia.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Queen of Useless Info

I auditioned for the game show Jeopardy once upon a time. The test didn't strike me as all that difficult, although if I'd studied the Supreme Court justices and which President nominated them, I would have aced it. Anyway, I passed, as did three other people in the group, but they only accepted one of us as a contestant. So my brief career as the Queen of All That is Trivial ended about as well as Lady Jane Gray's attempt to circumvent the English line of succession for the throne. I guess that makes me the Historical Footnote of Useless Info rather than the Queen.

While I might not have had the chance to humiliate myself on TV (maybe I won after all), in my hovel, I am still the undisputed champ of specialized knowledge. Want to know where the fingernail clippers went to since they aren't where they belong? I know. When is R's sister's birthday? I know. I can even field the vague ones. "What was the name of that ...*snap, snap* You know. Where we went with... *helpless look* Were Pam and Mike with us? You know. Last May. And they had the thingy, and... *pleading gesture*" And believe it or not, I will know what R is talking about from just that bit of information, and have the answers.

There are also things I'd rather normal people didn't know that I know. While shopping for ski gear with R last November, the topic of Star Trek naturally came up. You know. Like it does. As I looked through a rack of parkas, R commented about the blue aliens in the original series but couldn't remember the name of their race. Without looking up, I said, "They were the Andorians, dear." A deep, melted chocolate sort of chuckle jolted me out of trivia mode. On the other side of the circular rack was a scruffy, buff, twenty five-year old sex God. His brown eyes fairly twinkled with amusement. Yeah. Great time to get my geek on in public.

My real trivia talent, other than finding nail clippers and embarrassing myself in front of out-of-my-league-anyway hotties, is the ability to remember obscure facts about people. Tell me that you're looking for a horror writer who has worked in film production in Canada, and if I've ever met such a person, I'll not only remember that they mentioned it in passing several years ago, but I'll introduce you. Connecting people is a bit of a hobby of mine. While the experience or traits that bring them together are trivia, I don't think that's a trivial pursuit.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Big Picture

By Lisabet Sarai

This week's topic at the Grip is "Trivial Trivia". Michelle's commentary continues:

Here's your chance to share all of that useless trivia crowding out stories in your brain. It can be about sex, or not. It can be about writing, or not. Anything is game.

I have to admit that I'm stymied. I'm a concept sort of gal. I don't do trivia. Okay, probably I do have isolated, obscure facts rattling around in my brain, but in general that's not my cognitive style. I tend to focus on the fundamental principles of things, the important relationships, the critical skills. I figure I can always look up the details.

There is, of course, also the question of defining just what trivia means. "Trivial" implies unimportant. I could cite lots of rules and terminology in the area of grammar, for instance. Does the fact that counter factual sentences require the use of the subjunctive in the independent clause count as trivia? I don't think so. I write software for a living and can program in at least a dozen languages. Are the rules for using parentheses in C trivia? Hell, no! Use them wrong and your banking system may cheat depositors or your launch vehicle might crash.

In fact, it occurs to me that even the facts that most of us might agree were trivia are important to someone. The birth date of Queen Elizabeth the Second, for example (April 21, 1926) might be considered trivia, but I'll wager that Her Majesty doesn't view it that way. The proportion of egg yolk to oil when making mayonnaise (one yolk to a cup of oil) might seem like trivia to you, but certainly not to Julia Childs!

In any case, trivia are not in any sense my specialty. I almost always focus on the Big Picture. That's usually the way I write, as well. The majority of my stories begin with a premise - not a specific scene or character, but a notion about some situation that has dramatic narrative possibilities. What if someone had visions revealing future disasters, but couldn't control them? (Necessary Madness) What if a woman couldn't let go sexually with someone she cared about, only with strangers? (Incognito) What if you had lovers who had no physical bodies? (Bodies of Light) I start with the basic idea and then allow the other story details to develop.

This is probably one reason that I often write "to spec", that is, in response to particular calls for submission. I'm pretty good at taking a theme or topic and turning it into a premise. The only one of my books I can think of that violated this pattern is Exposure. I heard Stella's voice, the way Mike says he hears characters, telling me: "I strip for the fun of it. Don't let anyone tell you different." I had no idea where the story would go from there. I had to let Stella tell it. The book began as a short story that concluded with a double murder. I really could not have told you who was responsible or what was going on. I had to turn the story into a novel in order to find out.

I'm looking forward to reading what my fellow Grip folk have to say on this topic. Michelle is a biologist, so almost by definition she's going to have a raft of nifty facts at her fingertips. Garce is a bookish and slightly obsessive sort who accumulates arcane knowledge. As for Kathleen, Charlotte, and Mike - well, I can't even begin to predict what they'll come up with.

That's half the fun of participating in this wonderful blog. Which by the way I have now been doing since February 1, 2009 - more than two years!

I had to look that fact up, by the way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Three Men That Have Inspired My Writing

After my last experience blogging at OGAG, I felt sure I wouldn't be so lucky with topics again. And yet, when the awesome Charlotte Stein told me what this week's topic was, I giggled with delight. Yes, literally.

I mean, eyecandy inspiration? As a frequent luster-of-hot-men, this blog post practically wrote itself.

So, without further ado, I give you my top three hot guys of all time and the stories they have inspired. (Note: The list of hot guys is naturally much, much longer, but I realise you haven't got all week).

1. Jared Padalecki.

My number one, absolutely madly-obsessive object of lust. He's 6ft4, built like a brick shit house, has hair you just want to pull (in a nice way of course) and a smile (with dimples) to die for. Oh, and he plays Sam Winchester in one of my favourite shows, Supernatural. What's not to love?

So... what did he inspire? Well, there are quite a few smutty stories I've penned that feature very tall, well-built guys. But one instance where the guy has basically been taken from real life and inserted into a story is Just Couldn't Wait, my story from Uniform Behaviour.

I totally just took Jared, dressed him in a posh waiter's uniform, shoved him into my story and let the female lead seduce him. And it was delicious. The story was so much fun to write because I barely had to visualise the male character. He was already stuck in my pervy brain in all his glory. Which leads me to...

2. Jensen Ackles.

Good buddy and Supernatural co-star of previous lust object. Ackles plays Dean Winchester in the show. He's not quite so tall or bulky but, as you can see, still absolutely smoking hot. He has a smile that would make you melt and eyes you could stare into forever. Which is how he found his way into my story Succubus Comes Home, which is featured in the upcoming Cleis Press anthology, Dream Lover.

I took Ackles' on-screen persona of the oldest Winchester brother and put him in a bar, where he got picked up by a succubus on the prowl. But don't worry, he's a big guy, he can look after himself. He was an awesome character to write, and given some comments I've had about his description, I think it turned out well!

3. Alexander Skarsgard.

Here we have another giant of a man – do you see a pattern emerging? You've probably also sussed out my TV watching habits, too. Yes, I'm a True Blood fan, and a fan of Eric Northman in particular. He's a Viking vampire; cool, calculating and scary as hell. So, what did I do with this 6ft something, blonde haired, blue eyed alpha male? I made him into a submissive.

Yes, in a move that surprised even myself, my as-yet-unpublished BDSM story Punish Me Good features a submissive vampire. I wanted to write something that took vampire lore and twisted it. Most vampires are portrayed as strong, fast and powerful – and very much in charge. So I turned this perception on its head and was quite pleased with the resultant story. I just hope the publisher I submitted it to is impressed too – watch this space!

So there you have it, just a snippet of how my TV watching habits and smutty mind result in lots of Google Images searches, naughty Twitter conversations, and oh, some erotic stories. I just hope you find them as hot as they're intended to be!

Thanks again, OGAG-ers, for having me. And readers, I'd love to know your top 3 lust objects and whether they've inspired you creatively. I wonder if some of the same names will crop up? Only time will tell...


Lucy is a graduate of the University of Derby, where she studied Creative Writing. During her first year, she was dared to write an erotic story - so she did. It went down a storm and she's never looked back. Lucy has had stories published by Cleis Press, Noble Romance, Ravenous Romance and Xcite Books. She is also the editor of Uniform Behaviour - Steamy Stories About Men and Women in Uniform. Find out more at Alternatively, find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Visual inspiration for the auditory writer...

I've spent the last week reading, and mulling over, the posts of my fellow grippers. Each of us is very different, and I love that we all have slightly different takes on things.

I love looking at attractive pictures, and I admit, sometimes I will find one that just fits a character. But that is normally well after the character has always started speaking to me. Very rarely will an image spark a story ... although sometimes I will see an image the strikes me so much that I just know I will be using it in a cover, someway, somehow.

For me, I hear things ... and that is what will spark my imagination. I hear whispers of conversation from the couple on the walking track behind me. I overhear a bit of a conversation in the mall. Just little teasers here and there, that is what forms characters.

Very rarely do my characters come out on the pages as fully fleshed out. I might give hair and eye color, sometimes references to tattoos and piercings, but I leave the actual details to the reader. Why?

I admit, it isn't something so charitable as I want each reader to feel drawn into the story. See, I am not that smart. LOL

For me, it is simply the fact that I many times don't know what the character looks like. See, I am an auditory person. I am not visual. To illustrate, many of you know that I am a biology major. Which means, lots of labs. But, while I LOVED my classes, and passed the lecture portions with flying colors, I often bombed the labs. Not because I didn't care, and not because I didn't study my ass off. I just don't have very good visual recognition. I look at a bird and see a brown bird. Not the eye stripe that my ornithology professor saw that told him that the bird was this type of warbler and not that type. Just never clicked.

Partially because when I close my eyes, I see nothing. I don't visualize jack. Sometimes I see flashes ... but that is about it. I am an auditory person. I hear my stories in my mind, almost like a narration ... I don't see my characters.

So, long story short, eye candy is nice for self-lovin' purposes, but doesn't do much for muse sparking.