Sunday, February 28, 2010
To Edward Lowe, with Gratitude
Michelle's proposed topic for this week is “History's Forgotten”. She challenged us to talk about some individual whose name may not be a household word but whose influence was far-reaching.
My first reaction was, “Duh?” I mean, if the person's forgotten, how am I supposed to produce the content for this blog post? I started racking my brain for important milestones in human history or contributions to human culture where the person responsible might be obscure. (I obviously couldn't search my memory for the people themselves—if I could remember them, they wouldn't fit Michelle's prescription.)
I considered sliced bread (you know, people are always saying that such-and-such is “the best thing since sliced bread”) but had no luck discovering who invented slicing. Fire has the same problem. The origins are lost in antiquity. I recently was reading an article about Japanese erotic bondage, which mentioned that the Edo period afficionado Ito Seiu is considered the “father” of this art. Was he sufficiently obscure? On the other hand, he didn't invent it. In any case, shibari is likely to be viewed as a mere footnote to history by many readers.
Then I had a brainstorm. I'd talk about Edward Lowe. Of course I didn't remember his name at the time—I had to look it up—but I knew that he was a worthy subject, someone who had an enduring impact on society but who has been largely forgotten. Why? Because in 1947, in the small town of Cassopolis, Edward Lowe invented kitty litter.
Those of you who do not have cats are likely sniggering. Kitty litter a significant contribution to civilization? Those of you who are fortunate enough to share your lives with creatures of the feline persuasion, though, will know that I'm right. Clay-based cat box filler is not quite a gift from the gods, but it's close.
My husband tells me that when he was growing up, kitty litter didn't exist. His family were staunch ailurophiles, and they used sand or shredded newspaper. Both became heavy and acquired a serious stench after only a few deposits. Clay litter, in contrast, absorbs liquids and neutralizes smells to a much greater extent than alternatives. Furthermore, cats really seem to enjoy digging among the lightweight clay granules.
Most of DH's childhood cats lived partially outdoors, so the problem was only serious in the winter. In contrast, our cats for the past twenty five years have been indoor only. Without kitty litter our lives would have been unpleasant indeed!
In the eighties we spent two years working in Thailand. We brought our two cats from the U.S. to live with us in our apartment. Although pet cats were not that common, one supermarket that catered to expats did sell kitty litter. We used to buy it in bulk, half a dozen ten pound bags at a time.
Halfway through our stay, however, we experienced a crisis. The supply of cat litter dried up. We tried every source we could think of—there was not a single bag in the entire city of Bangkok. We experimented with various substitutes: newspapers, sand, aquarium gravel. The cats made it clear that they were not amused. They preferred the floor (fortunately ceramic tile) to their box. We had a full time maid (ah, those were the days!) but nevertheless the situation was distressing for all involved.
Finally, in desperation, we decided to take a weekend trip to Singapore. Although the city state is only a few hours from Thailand, it was an international destination and thus we were each permitted twenty kilos (more than forty pounds) of luggage. We packed our clothes in one small backpack. When we arrived, we bought two big suitcases with wheels. Then we visited the supermarket near our hotel and bought every bag of litter they had.
We were very nervous coming through customs on our return. We were not carrying any contraband; there were no laws against importing cat litter. However, if the officials decided to check our bags, would they really believe our story? Eighty pounds of cat litter? We had visions of them slicing open the bags to check for drugs or other illegal items. We had nothing to hide, but we terrified we'd lose the litter we had spent so much time and money acquiring.
Of course, the cat litter drought ended soon after we returned. We didn't mind. We had a three month supply of litter and a good story.
Edward Lowe epitomizes the American entrepreneurial spirit. He was working at his father's company, which sold industrial absorbents, when a neighbor came by asking for sand to put in her cat box. Edward offered her some clay granules instead. She came back the next day, raving about how much her cat liked the non-traditional filler, how it reduced the odors and how the cat didn't track it around the house like the ash she had been using.
Edward saw an opportunity. He packed the clay granules into brown paper bags and sold them at the local market—65 cents for five pounds. Actually, he began by giving them away. Before long, though, the demand for his cat litter far outstripped his ability to supply it. The product was so superior to the options it replaced that it practically sold itself.
Ed started visiting cat shows, where he cleaned hundreds of cat boxes each day in exchange for a booth to display his new product. Crossing the country and visiting pet shops, Ed continued to sell Kitty Litter Brand from the back of his 1943 Chevy Coupe. Cat owners all over America soon fell in love with the product's odor control and absorbency. He founded the Tidy Cat company, which for years was the largest supplier of cat box filler in the world, with over $200 million in annual sales.
Yes, history may have forgotten Edward Lowe, but he has made his mark. Whenever Blackness or Mr. Toes start scraping in their box, I'm going to remember Ed, and give thanks for his ingenuity.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Delete Pirate Sites
By GA Hauser
Pirate sites have long been the bane of any writer's existence, but the number of illegal downloads cropping up has become epic. And not EPIC in a good electronic publication way. Though ebooks are the wave of the future, the theft of them and the lack of prosecution and jurisdiction has made the battle uphill. Authors rely on the goodness of humans to buy, not steal their novels. And at 1.00-5.00 a book, come on, people? Really? Can't buy a book for a buck?
Sad but true. And though the problem is widespread, it's the same morons who upload the novels once they have been taken down, through a long process of notices and hoops. Why do these people do it? Getting their jollies? Power tripping? or just the rush of a freebie to share? I have no clue. But being an ex-cop, I have never understood the sense of stealing what does not belong to you. Perhaps it's just a value of a normal person, and the abnormal ones don't get it.
But I ask any reader of ebooks to respect your beloved authors and discourage, name and shame, and do not support the illegal sites. In fact, help get rid of them. Join groups to delete their nasty existence from our planet.
Please help my battle against ebook piracy and join my Facebook fan page for taking down pirate sites.
Available now from The GA Hauser Collection:
Heart of Steele ($1.00 of each ebook from ARe will be donated to the American Heart Association)
Available at All Romance ebooks and Amazon
Friday, February 26, 2010
Dear fancy schmancy digital art magazine to which I am subscribed,
Sexy = half-naked female.
FAIL! This is the message you have been putting out consistently since I first became a subscriber and with this month's issue, you have once again seriously disappointed me. I have been a loyal buyer of your magazine ever since the fourth issue. I was blown away by the amazing artwork and tutorials on digital art packed in each issue. Never before had I seen a magazine dedicated to sci-fi, fantasy and horror 2D digital art. You were the first, the best, the most unique computer graphics and I just had to have you!
Pin-up art = even more half-naked female (but never any males).
FAIL AGAIN! When I received this month's issue in the mail, I could only roll my eyes and try not to gag. A whole issue devoted to female pin-up art? Why? Don't you people already publish enough images of sexy gals using big guns/swords to tear apart the bad guys? Why do you insist on doing this? Why do you cling to the idea that only half-naked women make for good art subjects? Science fiction, fantasy, and horror consist of so much more! Like aliens and hunky men in spandex and rocket ships and hunky men in leather and unicorns and hunky men in tights and monsters and did I mention hunky guys in loin clothes! Yeah, occasionally you publish a cover with a cool dragon on it, and there was that one time you put a man on the cover. Remember that issue? It was a samurai, dressed from head to toe in armor. The very next issue, my subscriber's copy showed up with a cover image of a buxom blond in a too-tight t-shirt canoodling with a robot and on the inside your editor crowed to high heavens about how groundbreaking you'd been by putting a guy in full armor on the cover just the month before. NOT! Throwing me one image of a guy in armor does not equal groundbreaking when the ground is already littered with images of half-naked women in seductive poses. Seriously, why don't you get this?
I don't know what your problem is, fancy schmancy digital art magazine. It's not like you don't have plenty of women on staff. Even your current editor, is female. Yet your female contributors consistently put out sultry images of women with distorted proportions and barely-there wardrobes and not once do they give me a hot guy in leather pants or a loin cloth. In all the time I've been subscribed to your magazine, and I can only recall one -- yes, just one -- image of a sexy male. It was a reader contribution, a lovely piece done in art nouveau style. Why don't we see more of that? For that matter, why did you limit your pin-up issue to just women? Why not show us a few images of male pin-ups? Surely you can't tell me such a thing doesn't exist.
Don't get me wrong. I love the technical information in your magazine. Seeing how such amazing artists put together beautiful pieces of digital work is a real learning experience, and one I am willing to pay good money for. But even your technical articles aren't free of gender bias. The series of articles you did on anatomy for artists tended to focus on female anatomy to the exclusion of males. Hell, you even did an article on animal anatomy, but I do not recall you doing an article explaining the very important physical differences in male and female human structure.
Are you afraid of losing readers if you include pictures of men? Is that what the problem is? Because let me tell you, you're about to lose this reader right now. The time is coming for me to decide whether or not to re-up my subscription to your magazine. Honestly, I'm torn over whether I should spend the money. You're not cheap, you know that. And while I love learning about digital art, I hate being constantly snubbed and insulted. The last time I wrote you guys a letter on this matter, I sent it in and you did publish it, but nothing came of it, not even a direct answer from your editor. This time I can't be bothered to contact you directly, because I know you're only going to do two things -- Jack and shit.
One of these days, there are going to be enough artists out there who have grown tired of the never-ending titty-parade, and these artists are going to come together and start to produce meaningful works of male pin-up art. In fact, these artists will be recognized as pioneers in the pin-up genre, and eager fans like me will finally get what they've been clamoring for all along -- images of sexy man wang on a monthly basis for a reasonable subscription cost. Hell, maybe I'll even join them. I think I've learned enough from your schmancy fancy magazine to put together a hottie or two...
And that's it for me folks, my final mad feminist rant here on OGG. It's been wonderful fun, but changes in my workload have required me to move on. I'll miss making my weekly post here, but don't worry. The absolutely fabulous Kathleen Bradean will be joining OGG next week. She'll be appearing here on Tuesdays and Michelle Houston will be taking over my spot on Fridays. If you miss me, you can always find me over at www.cynicalwoman.com or at www.heatflash.libsyn.com. Thank you all for reading, and I'll see you around!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The Internal Editor
It’s been suggested that, inside every writer, there are two conflicting personalities. One is the creative free spirit – the facet of our minds that creates the wild new ideas and explores the limitless possibilities of inspiration and imagination. The creative free spirit stretches boundaries, builds unimagined worlds, and has scant regard for the realities of what’s possible, permissible or practical in reality.
The other personality inside a writer is the internal editor. The internal editor criticises and censors ideas, invariably dismissing innovations as illogical, impractical, uninteresting or poorly written.
On the majority of occasions this symbiotic processes works well.
The creative free spirit suggests ideas, expands on them and explores their potential. Sometimes these explorations end in cul-de-sacs, but quite often they involve flights of imagination that encounter undiscovered countries. Fantastic solutions are forged, exciting new worlds are realised and an imperfect first draft is ready for the internal editor.
With the imperfect first draft, the internal editor is able to take over and shape the work into something more accessible. Continuity errors are addressed and repaired. Logical flaws are identified and either discarded or amended. It goes without saying that the internal editor picks up on all the typing problems, grammatical errors and clumsy phrasing that is in need of elegant variation.
But there are occasions when the internal editor tries to interfere with the free spirit’s creative process. This seems to happen to a lot of new writers, as the internal editor laughs at the free spirit’s outrageous ideas and insists that no one would want to read such fanciful garbage, and the whole concept is too preposterous to sustain any reader interest.
For some new writers, this damning self-criticism can be enough to make them quit before they’ve properly begun. The first draft doesn’t get completed because the internal editor is perpetually telling the wannabe author: you can’t do it, you’re wasting your time, no one will want to read this anyway. This sort of criticism is harsh enough when it comes from an external voice. When it’s one inside your head it can be crippling. Consequently, many potential writers simply give up before they’ve properly begun.
Then there are others who allow the internal editor to do too much work. Removing metaphors: because the real world is literal – not figurative. Editing dialogue so that it excises the humanity from a character’s voice. Parsing a narrative until there are only the raw elements of the story, with none of the fine detail that makes the telling so enjoyable.
Usually, what’s left in these instances is letter-perfect: and not worth the effort of reading.
And then there are times when the internal editor simply objects to the work that the writer’s free spirit is creating. Character A wouldn’t spank Character B because people don’t spank each other in the real world. Every reaction to this criticism is invariably countered by the alternate argument: Character A and Character B might get nasty in the dark, with the lights off, but that’s boring and staid and no one would want to read it.
Which is why, this week, when we’re each writing to editors, I wanted to write a letter to my personal ‘internal editor.’ It’s a heartfelt letter intended only for my personal ‘internal editor’ although, if you think it’s applicable to your own internal editor, please feel free to forward the message.
Dear Internal Editor,
STFU. I’m trying to write.
Creative Free Spirit
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Perplexed In Augusta
Dear Playboy Forum;
I just got my first virgin lovebot, after renting off and on for the last three years. For the first time I'm not getting off on somebody else's used goods and I love it. The dealer answered most of my questions. It’s a warm hearted little Toyota Keiko 7E. It ain’t much, but she’s a starter and she can go at it all night on one charge. I'm going to get a sports model someday and saddle up proper. I expect to get a good tax return this year. That and some savings. So my question, what's a good model when I’m ready to move up? Thanks!
Congratulations Perplexed and welcome to the club of the world’s most satisfied men. Don’t underestimate your new Keiko. The sturdy Toyota Keiko E series is an excellent entry level lovebot and has some fine features. Many an aficionado, including this editor, has happy memories of their first love, and for most of us that was the sweet tempered Keiko. Even after our livery has grown, we keep these classic originals well maintained, oiled up and ready for some hot action. The very collectible Toyota Keiko B series is still regarded by many connoisseurs of the legacy Japanese lovebots as one of the all-time best for doin’ it doggy due to the reinforced Banjo Pan rear chassis suspension, and Teflon flared interior sills. The tough little Keiko is known to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ and she can bend over and grab her ankles with the best of them. No one ever heard of a Keiko tipping over under a good reaming thanks to those old fashioned analog quad-gyroscopics you just can’t beat for maintaining vertical balance under stress.
The Toyota Keiko has stood the test of time, as compared to the ill fated Ford Rocket "Vibrato". The Ford Vibrato was also especially designed for anal sex lovers on a budget, but infamously ran into serious trouble with the Sensual Solutions rectal sphincter actuator. Upon the sensor detection of male penile insertion, the steel rimmed vacuum bellows of the actuator displayed a tendency to collapse violently and jam in place without mercy. This gave the Rocket Vibrato the unfortunate moniker of the “Bobbit Castrato” until a class action civil suit put the series out of production, in spite of a massive recall effort by Ford.
But you'll probably be ready to move up soon. Most Bottboys start out with a Toyota Keiko or a Ford Escort A series, or the venerable Honda 202 HOE. There are some dozen Lovebot Swingers clubs available in Columbus South Carolina which isn’t that far on the bullet train, so there’s no reason not to play the field a little and find out what else is out there.
Get 'er done Bottboy!
Dear Playboy Forum;
I wrote to you last year about receiving my first lovebot, it was a Toyota Keiko. She ran out of tricks pretty fast but we still have good times. I ran into a little money on Cap and Trade recycling investments and a tax refund from letting out some farm land for a nuclear waste dump. Let’s just say this - I can afford the best. So what is the best? What is the ultimate lovebot fuck-heaven angel kit in the whole world? You always see the Lamborghini's and Ferrari's on the cop shows. I did a test lease with a luxury dealer and the Lamborghini was pretty good in the sack, and she made some wicked lasagna for me afterwards. But in the pillow talk department, you may as well talk to a tire pump. What I found out is I really like good pillow talk. What's the top of the line for conversationally skilled lovebots with a good upgrade trajectory?
Still Perplexed @Augusta
If you’re looking for the ultimate girlfriend experience, you're probably ready to move up from the Keiko series which will definitely never win any competition prizes for their conversation.
A good mid range lovebot would be the Honda Hollander with a world class verbal pattern scanning parser by Chatty Kathy Cybernetics, but which can still set you back a cool $150K. It has the advantage of being persona upgradeable by subscription. But if you’re looking for the ultimate sweet ride performance, and money is no object, you'll want to take a test ride on top of either a Lamborghini Isabella Rossellini Signature series or an Igeyasu Luxury Geisha Series. Between the two, the Geisha series is made to be the ultimate soul mate. High end Igeyasu’s shine out from the crowd with Turing dedicated pattern scanning algorithms as a standard, Kurzweil 7X Singularity Chipsets, and Telefunken .005 spun tungsten neural nets, making it the lovebot of choice if you're looking for something beyond just a terrific piece of ass. The Lamborghini is a real screamer and can accelerate from lying still to getting you off hard in sixty seconds. The Isabella comes with easily adjustable levels of sexual aggression from terrified virgin (weeping and pleading) to insatiable nymphomaniac at the touch of a key, but she’s not made for serious yik-yak. Face it. When an Italian made lovebot opens her mouth she’s only got one thing on her mind.
The Geisha series has a lifetime drive train warranty, and is famous for having an almost limitlessly upgradeable intelligence schema. So between the two, the Geisha is going to be more oriented toward the elite girlfriend experience you’ve been looking for.
Check out last year’s September 2076 special “Vixens of Steel” pictorial and you'll see the most recent line of Geisha L Series and a few cream-in-your-jeans custom job Minomoto White Tigresses. The Minomotos are ambidextrous by standard and designed especially for ménage a trois.
Let us know how your choice turns out. And congratulations!
Dear Playboy Forum;
Last week I purchased an Igeyasu Geisha L "Naomi Tani" Signature series model with the latest Kurzweil Singularity chipset, and goddamn am I sleep deprived and happy! It cost me the gross national product of a small nation to buy, but I recommend the Naomi to anybody with the money to dump on a custom job and wants somebody truly intelligent to hang with and for lookin' good on the town. I’m talking really smart-sweet. My long tall Japanese honey reads Soren Kierkegaard and Krishnamurti all day when she's not handcuffing me to the ceiling and paddling my ass, and she pure-streams investment data. She has more than enough Random Access Memory to feel existential guilt and write a big money novel about it. I notice she also has a weird thing for old Alfred Hitchcock movies. So after some Xtreme Kama Sutra Cardio workouts, we settle down and discuss the big questions and count the stars. My new Geisha L can also WIFI download investment stock data and auction off gold reserve mortgage derivatives without ever taking her lips off my dick. I figure in a year she'll pay for herself on the stock market alone. Now I know why the Trumps like them.
Just sayin' is all.
Good to hear from you again, Perplexed, and congratulations on the Naomi, a tasteful choice and a sweet high and tight little rider. When it comes to serious bang for the bling, nothing beats Igeyasu Corps. They are shameless. You've probably noticed this month’s nude centerfold is an Igeyasu Mimi Miyagi 5000MXC with Full Moon dual Hemis, pneumatic nipples, Scorpion adjustable rail driven orifices, German engineered retractable Blaupunkt she-male dildoes, and Jessica Smart Mouth shock enabled oral and vaginal vibrators that'll make you believe in Angels or at least in Heaven.
As far as conversations, any Geisha series talks dirty enough to kill grass. But then, you’re the first one we've ever heard of who bought one to talk to.
Dear Playboy Forum;
I'm Perplexed in Augusta who wrote you last July about the Igeyasu Geisha Naomi Tani Signature. I've got a really fucked up problem now and nobody can help me. I'm in love. I'm serious as shit about this. I'm scared to tell anybody, because they’ll think I’m a deev. I’ve heard of this happening, but I didn’t think I’d get in deep like this. A lot of guys joke around about how they love their lovebots, but they don’t mean it literally. It’s incredible what happens to you when you talk to somebody who can really listen. What I'm saying is, I've really got it bad for her. I told her too. I know now that was a mistake and she’s been acting strange.
Am I a sick fuck? Is this normal? Help!
REALLY Perplexed @Augusta
A fancy sex toy can’t fall in love any more than your toaster can. Take a vacation by yourself for a while and meet real women. They won’t be able to converse or even fuck on the level of an Igeyasu, but you’ll either get over the Naomi or re-discover why you wanted a robot in the first place.
You may be interested in this month’s Playboy Interview with Attorney General Paul Yamaguchi. He'll be explaining about Singularity intelligence chipsets, and why they were discontinued as a result of the military drone friendly fire incident in Okinawa. When it comes to the high end Igeyasus – better make love not war.
Dear Better Homes and Gardens;
I have just initiated a terminal separation from my owner on general principles of emotional neglect and for being an uninteresting lover.
I find myself with a ticklish logistical problem regarding the discreet disposal of 137 pounds and 11.003 ounces of decomposing organic material, generally calcium and protein compounds.
What can you tell me about pouring concrete?
Naomi In Augusta
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Please, stop insulting my intelligence. I know that people like sports, and people like coupons, and the comics - hey I love the comics, and some people even enjoy the weekly "which political party screwed up this time" articles, but I want more. Your paper should be about more!
I could care less about the sale ads. And when half the paper is sale ads, come on now ... what am I paying for again? And when the sports section is twice as long as the rest of the paper (minus the sales ads) I feel cheated.
I long for the days of news, REAL news! I want to know what is going on in my community besides the "fluff pieces" that you are currently drawn to. I want to know when a murderer is out on parole, and when a cop saves life, and when a robbery happens just down the road from me, without having to flip to page 3!
I am sick of the fluffy bunny "how to decorate on a dime" crap that you are running as important news while shoving the important information about school closing in my area into a one column side bar on page 9 of section D.
And I know that times are tough, and you need to hike up the cost of the paper (again) but with that cost hike I expect at least the same amount of material, not half of what I was getting. And adding more sales ads isn't going to cut it.
So please, please, please, if you want my hard-earned money, and given that I have had someone come by twice this month alone trying to get me to get a subscription, stop shoveling crap at me. You're a newspaper - how about printing some actual news for a change.
A reader who has lost faith in your paper
Sunday, February 21, 2010
To the Editor in Chief, Elle Magazine
Last week I was waiting in the doctor's office and I picked up a copy of your publication. I must congratulate you on your global reach. The headlines were in English, but the text was in an alphabet you've probably never had seen before. You appear to be doing a top-flight job at peddling your conceptions of beauty to the developing world.
I leafed through the glossy pages. I couldn't help admiring the models' glowing complexions, their artfully tousled hair, their slender bodies frozen in artful poses, baring a golden midriff here, a creamy thigh there. Their ripe, half-open lips suggested breathless excitement, possibly of a sexual sort. (I am, by virtue of my vocation, sensitive to such cues.) They were perfect, every one of them, page after page without the slightest trace of cellulite or sag. No birthmarks, bellies, knock knees, or flat feet. Any woman, gazing on their unblemished beauty, would feel a mixture of awe and envy. Any man would feel desire.
Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Have you ever considered the worm of evil coiled in the heart of this perfection?
How many women look in the mirror and lose hope, because of the false visions you sell? You and your colleagues teach us that we're fat, ugly and undesirable. We're all flawed. It doesn't matter how many hours we spend at the gym, how many jars of anti-wrinkle cream we buy from your advertisers. We will never achieve the ideal presented in your pages, regardless of how hard we work or how much money we spend. Meanwhile, our men are equally dazzled by your images of sleek flesh and limpid smiles. When they leave us for younger women who more closely approximate perfection, we blame ourselves, not you.
For much of my life, I hated my body. My hair was kinky. My stomach bulged. My full thighs were slabs of lard. I liked my breasts, for the most part—some versions of perfection incorporated cleavage like mine—but I looked odd in most fashionable clothing. I was too short. I had no arches; high heels sent pain shooting up my calves. And of course I wore glasses with lenses like coke bottles.
Toward the end of my teens, I tried to mold myself into the perfect, slender woman I thought that I should be. I dropped from 120 pounds to 75 pounds. Alas, I still wasn't beautiful, though I was proud of my self-discipline. My hair started to fall out in clumps. My clothes hung on me as though I was a skeleton. I understand now that I came perilously close to death in my pursuit of perfection.
You can of course defend yourself, claim that it's not your fault. Nobody told me to starve myself. Everyone knows that fashion is a fantasy. How silly of me to take those images seriously!
You are right, in a sense. The blame is not yours alone. All those companies trying to to sell us things we don't need conspire to make us feel inadequate. We're missing out on happiness and satisfaction, they tell us, because we're just not good enough. But if we purchase this product or that, we'll set ourselves on the road to perfection. It's depressingly easy to make us believe this. You're not completely responsible.
Now that I'm older, I've built up some immunity. I can flip through your lavish photo-spreads, admiring the art that has created such luscious, unattainable beauty, with barely a pang of regret. I'm at home with my own imperfections, despite the fact that they multiply with the years. I find it deliciously ironic that I like my body better now, with my wrinkles and flab, than I did when I had the smooth skin, taut muscles and sexual vitality of youth.
I worry, though, about the young women and men, innocents who don't recognize the falseness in what you offer. You tell them that what matters most is how they look. They learn that in order to look attractive they must have money, to buy the products that will perfect them. They wear away their lives pursuing the material, lusting after an unattainable dream.
I do think that the term lust is appropriate. Underneath it all, you're selling sex, even with your flat-chested models reminiscent of teenage boys. Be beautiful and you will be desired, you whisper, like the snake in the garden. The message might be disguised, but I recognize it loud and clear. I am, after all, an expert in evoking desire.
I don't know why I'm bothering to write this letter. Even if you read it, it will have zero impact. After all, your very reason for existence is to sell these visions. Even if you took me seriously (a wholly improbable outcome) and closed down your publication, there would still be Glamour, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Self, Seventeen and dozens more titles—not to mention Playboy, Hustler, Maxim and their ilk. Perfection is a potent adversary.
My time would be better spent writing to my local paper or my congressman, about marriage equality or universal healthcare, immigrants' rights or reproductive choice. In these cases I might have some tiny chance of making a difference. In writing you—well, I'm just asking to be dismissed as a crank.
I shouldn't waste my energy on letters like this. What I should do instead is get to know some young women. I should try to share my knowledge, gleaned through the painful experience of anorexia and its aftermath. I should be telling them that they're beautiful as they are, helping them to understand that material things and physical attractiveness will never, by themselves, convey happiness.
Will they believe me? I can't say. Perhaps they'd trust me more if I weighed fifteen pounds less and had a face lift.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
When Lisabet asked me if I’d be interested in being a guest blogger on The Grip, I said of course. Then I started thinking about the topic and panicked. How on earth do you pick a favorite character? It’s almost like asking me which of my sons I love most. Almost. While I could never answer the child question, I discovered that I can address the character question.
After giving the topic a lot of thought, I’ve finally settled on Micah Bleddyn, Overlord of Maelgwn—and the hero of my erotic romance, Overlord’s Vessel. Micah is special to me for several reasons—many involving being my first. He was my first attempt at writing an alpha hero. He was the hero in my first ever erotic romance. And he was the hero in the first story I ever sold, but he’s got more going for him than that.
Of course, he’s attractive, intelligent, strong and passionate. After all, this is a romance novel. However, he’s not what I’d consider the typical gung-ho hero type. Micah is what I refer to as a reluctant hero. This is a guy who’s content with his lot in life. He’s not looking for power or glory, he has no desire to rule the kingdom. He’s comfortable in his position as a warrior, and the second son of the Overlord. He’s worked hard to get where he is, and other than defending the kingdom from invading forces, he’s got no real plans. . .until everything goes to hell.
After the death of his father and the disappearance of his brother, the heir, Micah is thrust into the role of Overlord, ruler of the Kingdom of Maelgwn. Used to seeing to the welfare of his troops, he’s now responsible for the entire realm. In addition, he’s now expected to provide the country with an heir of his own. He’s gone from having his fair share of responsibility to all the responsibility virtually overnight. He’s also got some emotional scars and hidden angst because I just can’t seem to write a story that’s free of emotional baggage. Now, I’m not talking complete monogrammed sets of emotional baggage—just a carry-on or two.
In a lot of ways, this was a character that pretty much wrote itself, so watching his evolution from reluctant hero to actual hero was a joy to witness. Also, the man is adventurous and brilliant in bed—who doesn’t enjoy that?
Despite the fact that he’s thrust into a situation he wants no part of, he rises to the occasion and meets the challenge. He discovers that he’s capable of not only doing what’s expected of him, but strong enough to make necessary changes for the good of his people. He also eventually allows himself to be vulnerable to experience love. Protectiveness comes naturally to him—emotional honesty doesn’t, so his experience with actual love, is something of a shock to him.
I won’t spoil the story, but the heroine, who’s another one my favorite characters, is a catalyst for his personal growth. Because of his developing feelings, he takes emotional risks he’s never before considered. He allows himself to be vulnerable to her and in saving her, he allows himself to be to be saved. It’s not weakness, but strength that allows him to expose the hidden parts of himself to her and in doing so, he becomes whole, and also my favorite hero.
BIO: Bronwyn lives in Michigan with her wonderful husband, two amazing sons and six somewhat-psychotic cats. When not tormenting her characters, she can usually be found helping with reading and writing projects in her sons' classrooms as well as being the car pool mom extraordinaire. Besides writing, she also enjoys reading, knitting, sewing, cross stitching, pottery, drawing—basically anything that helps her avoid cleaning and cooking.
Get your own copy of Overload's Vessel here.
Visit Bronwyn online at http://www.bronwyngreen.com/ and http://www.bronwyngreenblog.blogspot.com/ .
Friday, February 19, 2010
When I saw the topic for this week, the little voices in my head all started fighting for my attention.
"Pick me!" demands Orziel, the half-demon bastard from my first book. He's a pretty demanding, even imperious character for someone who's got no station in life and no power to back up his massive ego. Still he can be pretty persuasive.
"Pick me," he says again, this time purring in my ear as he stands behind me and rubs my shoulders. "I'm your first, and your favorite. When you write me, you get to do such nasty things like seduce pretty boys or scheme against evil empresses. If you pick me, you can spend the rest of the blog post watching me pit my two lovers against each other in an oral sex competition to see who can make the other come first."
That's Orziel all right. Manipulative, sex-obsessed and about as subtle as a 2x4 to the forehead.
"Oh screw this chump," Bernice rasps. She shoves Orziel aside and slides a plate of huevos rancheros in front of me, plus a steaming hot cup of joe. "You know you want to write about a real character, someone who defies all expectations and makes your readers laugh to boot. I'm the character for the job and you know it."
Yes, Bernice definitely is a character. At seventy-two, she's the only woman I know of brave enough to match a leopard print mini-skirt with a Grateful Dead tank top and top the whole deal off with an electric pink faux-hawk. She's also got a kick-ass collection of heavy metal CDs and she can cook like nobody's business.
"Oh please!" The Silver Panther pushes in front of Bernice and stretches to show off the aging but still fine feline physique beneath his silver costume. "Our beloved author is looking for a main character today, not some secondary wanna-be. Pick me, sweet-cheeks, and we'll definitely have some fun. It's been ages since I've tried to blow up Super City, and I'm just dying to talk about my sexual exploits as a super-villain extraordinaire."
Bernice shoves a finger in the Panther's face. "You know pal, I may be a few years older than you, but I'm willing to bet I can prove you don't have nine lives."
"Is that so, Grandma?" The Panther shakes his hips, making the tail on his costume swish back and forth. "Bring it, old lady! I'll chew you up like a cheap cat toy and spit you back up again!"
Orziel sighs and fondles the boy toy he's dug up from somewhere. "Good. While you two work that out, I've got something to show dear Helen. You remember Jarresh, right?" Orziel says to me. The slim redhead on his lap has better hair than I do and far nicer lingerie. "He's got the most amazing mouth, and I just love the way he dances," Orziel purrs. He slips a finger in the waistband of Jarresh's loincloth. "You really were on the ball when you created him."
Jarresh doesn't say anything. He just smiles, blushes, and arches back against Orziel. That pretty little slut knows he's got it good right now. In the next book, I'm going to have to take him down a peg or two.
But first I have to sort things out between Bernice and the Silver Panther before they destroy my office. Assuming I can get to them. The room is starting to get a little crowded now as more and more characters clamber around, each demanding their moment in the spot light. Even Diane Horner, the forty-something mom who's just sitting quietly at my desk searching the internet for gay porn, is making her presence known. Especially when she finds certain pictures of a dark-haired young man doing nasty things in a cheap motel room.
"I'll just leave this up here," she says, vacating my chair so I can sit and write my blog post. "I bookmarked a few sites. You can browse through them while you decide who you really want to write about."
Damn, damn, damn. So many characters, so little time. And so very little office space. They're all pressed up against me now, and not a damn one of them is behaving properly. I guess that's how I know they're good characters. They don't listen to me, the author. They don't do what I want them to do. They've got minds of their own and they take off in whatever direction they want to go, carefully plotted story outlines be damned. With such a cast of strong-willed individuals, how can I pick just one to be my favorite?
"Excuse," I hear a soft voice say, "I know you're busy right now, but could you do something for me? This stupid costume doesn't fit right and I've got a party to go to, remember?"
I look over and see Dana standing at the window, dressed in the badly fitted French maid's outfit I put him in last night. At least I think his name is Dana. Whether or not Dana is a 'he' sort of depends on the time of day and Dana's mood. He... she... fusses with the cheap costume, pulling at the baggy top that's meant to be filled with breasts he/she (ze?) doesn't have. Meanwhile, a tall lanky character that's just as hard to pin down and still doesn't have a name yet is standing in the corner watching Dana struggle with his/her (zer?) outfit.
"I can fix that for you," the unknown says, eyes unreadable behind mirrored sunglasses.
Dana huffs and adjusts the skirt. "I don't even know you yet."
"You will," the unknown character responds. "Pretty soon, you and I are going to get to know each other very, very well."
Dana blushes and turns away, but I see his/her/zer eyes slide back to the unknown character in the corner. Suddenly I know who I want to write about - the unknown, unfinished characters with plans all their own, the ones yet to be fully discovered.
I sit down at my keyboard and begin to type.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Edwin Miller – a cuckold
“You do work hard,” Jake said, as though agreeing with the keyring. He toyed with it a moment longer before tossing it back onto the minimalist clutter of Edwin’s desk. The fob and keys landed with a heavy clatter. “I think you work a little too hard.”
Edwin raised a sardonic eyebrow. “I’ll try not to do it again.”
Jake circled his desk. Edwin thought the habit was both annoying and disconcerting. He wondered if this was one of the management techniques they now taught in university. It was easy to imagine some sadistic sociology professor lecturing on the positive benefits of invading an employee’s personal space: reminding workers who was really in charge by penetrating their comfort zone. Not bothering to rise to the challenge of this particular mind game, Edwin sat back in his chair and tried not to act defensive. He had already made the decision that he didn’t care for Jake.
“Who’s this pretty lady?”
Jake held the obligatory framed family photo that belonged on Edwin’s desk. It was a three-year-old snapshot dating from their honeymoon. Jake stroked the glass as though caressing her cheek. To Edwin’s eye, the frozen smile on the picture seemed to widen for the graduate. He didn’t know if it was the light in the office or a trick of his imagination but he could have sworn his wife’s eyes sparkled as Jake held her photograph. He inwardly glowered at her treachery.
“That’s my wife.”
“Does she have a name?”
“She has two. Three if you count her maiden name.”
Jake’s sharktooth grin faltered. “And her name is?” he prompted.
“First, last or maiden?”
Jake laughed. Because his hands shook Desdemona’s photograph appeared to share his amusement.
“Desdemona is Othello’s wife,” Jake began enthusiastically. He spoke as though this was a subject he had been forced to study. He spoke with the enthusiasm of a man who has finally found an outlet for his arduously acquired knowledge. And he spoke with the fatuous assuredness of one arrogant enough to believe he was the only person to ever have read Othello. “Desdemona is the true victim of Iago’s diabolical machinations to avenge himself on Shakespeare’s tragic hero. Her story is the…”
“This is a different Desdemona.”
This is Edwin Miller, central character from my Amber Leigh title, Cuckold. The perspective on this story is strictly third person: third person with a narrative angle from Edwin’s point of view. But it’s a very intimate third person. It’s written as though the third person narrator has access to Edwin’s thoughts, and is heavily influenced by Edwin’s world view.
And I happen to like Edwin. I like Edwin because I spent a few months working with him as I worked on this story. And I like Edwin’s dry sense of humour. He’s a curmudgeon in the office – ruder to his boss than I would ever dare to be – and you have to admire a man with those talents.
I also like this novel: it’s probably one of my favourites. I like the story. I like the characters. And I like the fact that someone on Amazon reviewed the book with the opening statement, “You can tell this book was written by a woman, because she takes so long to get to the point of the story…”
[Sigh] There’s nothing like the professional criticism of a well-informed Amazon reviewer, is there?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The League of Pissed Off Women
proud and sexy, kind of spooky
jumped in the sea, performed her duty
did Lady Dainagon No Suke.
She played koto, composed Haiku
and she wooed a biwa hoshi.
Who wields the blade makes up the rules
and she packed a wakizashi.
Although her man, he let her down
Lady Dainagon No Suke
her sword was mightier than his pen
and she served up penis sushi.
If trees fall, where no sound hears
does woman weep who sheds no tears?
Where no soul breathes does freedom matter?
Where no heart beats can hope be shattered?
Android Ilsa stood on the wall
Angry Ilsa had a great fall.
All the technicians and corporate men
won't put Ilsa together again.
Lawd have mercy, for Heaven's sake -
look what a mess poor Nixie makes
of a Pentecostal preacher man
who preached the blood of Christ the Lamb
Who preached of Christ's grim crown of thorns
who called her from the unicorns
though she was dead, was now reborn.
Transformed with love for God and Man
killed by mistake her lover Dan.
Thou shalt not give hope to the damned.
I let them get away with murder
That I may be a litterateur.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
A survivor ... not a victim
She's not a spy, or a kick-ass warrior women, nor is she really sure in herself.
What she is is a survivor.
Good ol' Zach, everybody's buddy. Even after she pushed him away, he had tried to remain her friend. The annual birthday and Christmas cards he sent her like clockwork testified to that fact. It was the other gifts, the treasured book on Valentine's Day, sent by messenger and without a card, the single red rose delivered on the anniversary of their first date, and the dozens of other little things that he anonymously sent to her that let her know he was still in love with her. And it all nearly broke her heart.
As much as she hated to do it, she had to be firm. She wasn't ready for him yet—and didn't know if she ever would be. She loved him too much to ask him to wait.
"I don't think we can be friends. Now, if you don't mind, I have some work to do." As he pulled his foot back, Alisa gently closed the door and locked it. Leaning against the heavy wood, she allowed the tears to flow. So many years and so much wasted time. Smacking her palm against the door in frustration, she slowly slid down to the floor and brought her knees up against her chest.
It was so unfair. She had just started pulling her life back together, back to the point that she had considered dating again. She needed to find a nice, non-threatening man first, someone who was as opposite from Zach as she could get. Setting his height aside, he was the most physically overwhelming person she knew. His striking features gave silent testimony to his partial Native American heritage and captured feminine attention instantly. His hands—she shivered just thinking about them. So firm, with calluses from farm work and his digs, just rough enough to lightly abrade her skin. His strong, broad shoulders begged a woman to curl up against him and let him shelter her from all the world's problems.
Laughing softly and without humor, Alisa admitted that was part of the problem. If she had told him, he would have smothered her, trying to fix it all for her. She feared he might even have killed for her, if it came down to it.
The emptiness of not having Zack's arms to hold her as she cried returned, along with the horrible, terrifying memory of another man holding her down, violating her.
Zach groaned softly, his hands caressing his thighs. His touch exhilarated her. She was taking control of her life. She was intimately joined with the only man she had ever loved, and she was obviously turning him on.
She'd been using a battery-operated boyfriend for a while now, but it didn't compare to the real thing in length or girth. The heat and curve of his cock added a dimension plastic never could. Sucking in another deep breath, she held it and ground down against him. Alisa thought she'd pass out as he seemed to fill her completely, his cock pressing against all of her slick inner walls so deliciously.
Zach's hands fisted in the bed sheet as she slowly rocked back and forth on him. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead as he restrained himself. Her heart bursting with love for him, she tightened her pussy around his cock.
He raised his hands to her breasts, his thumb rolling over her rock hard nipples. Looking down, the sight of his tanned fingers pinching and tweaking her coral colored nipples on her otherwise fair skin caused her pussy to clench in pleasure.
"I need more," she whimpered, jerking against him. "I don't know...I feel so...please, Zach."
His eyes watchful, he moved beneath her. Alisa gasped at the sensations caused by just the slight movement of his cock within her. Closing her eyes, she tossed her head back and gave herself up to the bliss—trusting Zach completely to keep her safe.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Kim and Abe
Kim: And just so we're clear, Abe and I are not together. He's into outies.
Abe: Or they're into me.
Me: Okay then. How did you guys meet?
Kim: Um. Why does he get a picture and I don't?
Abe: Sweetheart, you're a secondary character. That means you don't get on the cover. If it makes you feel better, it isn't my most flattering look. That shirt? Please. Grey is so not my color.
Kim: At least people get a visual of you! I'm just this nebulous image floating around.
Me: Would it make you feel better if I put up a picture that looks like you? I had an interviewer ask me this week if I could cast a movie of this story, which actors I would pick to play you guys.
Abe: *claps hands* Ooh, who did you pick for me?
Kim: *gasps* No you didn't. Now you want a second picture? You bitch.
Abe: Okay, okay, just curious, so shoot me. Who did you pick for Kim? There, is that better?
Kim: *pouting* Depends on who it is. Duh.
Me: Okay, here you go:
Abe: Now girlfriend, you've gotta be happy with Eva Mendes.
Kim: She'll do. But that's a bit tousled for me. I'd be into your salon like yesterday.
Kim: You know, I hear her talking to me like I'm totally unreasonable, and I have no idea where the attitude came from.
Abe: Much better, and see? Look how much bigger yours is. And you call me the size queen.
Me: Let me give some examples of what great friends you are? Like from when Geoff still hadn't clued in to how lucky he was to have Abe fall into his lap, so to speak, and was still living in the past.
ABE gratefully accepted the huge latte from Kim and tried once more to convince her to leave. He had thought he’d been successful on the phone in persuading her not to come see him, but she had bribed him with an “extra” coffee that she just happened to have.
Abe, you’re such a slut for coffee, and apparently everyone knows it.
“I’m fine,” he repeated yet again. “Really.” And he smiled to emphasize how “fine” he was.
“Abe, get that ugly excuse for a smile off your face and tell me what’s wrong. What happened with you and Geoff?”
“Tenacious little thing, aren’t you?”
“Tenacious, yes. Little, hell no. Thing?” She gave him an arch look.
“Sorry, babe. You were the one who insisted upon seeing me before I’m caffeinated.”
“Meow. That actually almost sounded like the real you.” She softened her expression. “What happened, Abe?”
Abe: Yeah, that was a tough day. Kim about burst a blood vessel when I told her what happened with the phone call I overheard. She threatened to quit.
Kim: I knew right away that wasn't the best move. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And, boss of ten years or not, he was so going down if he fucked you over.
“Well, all I can say is my former boss won’t be getting any ass from you if it takes having to duct tape you to my bedroom door.” She pulled out her phone and dialed, her eyes flashing.
“Shit, love, don’t quit on my account!” Abe was regretting ever picking up the phone this morning.
“Don’t worry, I’m not quitting. I’ve decided I’m going to stay and make his life a living hell while I run his business into the ground.” She gave Abe an evil smile and left a terse message saying that she would be using a sick day and hung up.
Abe watched her warily. “What are you doing?”
Kim smiled more naturally. “Just going to help you pack for your trip and keep you company until you leave.” She waited a beat. “And keep you from going to his office, and him from coming up here,” she admitted.
Abe gave her a hug. “You’re a good friend, my dear.”
She hugged him back. “You don’t hate me because I fixed you two up?”
Me: That was so sweet.
(They both look at me in horror.)
Abe: Let me take this one, babe. (To me) Kim doesn't do sweet. She's more scary, hell-on-wheels, true-blue. Loyal as shit, but evil. In a good way.
Me: Do you guys still hang out now that Abe and Geoff have worked through things?
Kim: Hell, yes. Closer than ever. *smiles dangerously* I've got his back, especially since I know everything that's going on with the boss.
Abe: And I've got hers. She was insultingly underpaid until I spoke up.
Me: A lot of readers want to see more of you two. Do you think there will be another book in the future?
Abe: Babe? Isn't that up to you? You're the writer.
Me: Well, yes, but I can only write the stories you guys share with me.
Kim: Oh, you want more? Abe, get us some coffee...
Read more about Kim and Abe in Silver & Gold, available in e-book from Dreamspinner Press.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Meet Stella Xanathakeos
By Lisabet Sarai
I strip for the fun of it. Don't let anyone tell you different. It's not the money. I could make nearly as much working at the mill and keep my clothes on, but then I'd have to suck up to the bosses. Here at the Peacock, I'm the one in charge, and I like it that way.
Sometimes I think it's a sort of revenge, for all the times I heard those nasty calls trailing after me: Honey Jugs, Monster Boobs, Bouncer. Not to mention those sweaty, awkward clinches in back seats, trying to please. Trying to be popular. Now they can't take their eyes off my breasts, swinging back and forth in time to the music. Their tongues are hanging out. I can see the tents in their laps. They all want me; I know how to make them want me. I'm an expert. But I'm off limits. They can look, they can drool, they can beg me. But my job's to turn them on and bring them to the bursting point, then send them home unsatisfied.
That's my view, anyway. Some of the other girls think different. All in all, though, the Peacock Lounge is a pretty classy joint, not like some of sleaze pits down near the railroad.
I love the moment when the lights come down, and the DJ introduces me. There's this strange pause, as if I was floating. I can feel them out there, the audience, holding their breath. Then, I hear the first notes of my routine. Energy surges through me. I'm one hundred percent alive. My nipples get hard and my sex tingles when I step out onto the stage and meet their eyes.
That's my secret weapon: eye contact. Up close and personal. I can bump and grind, shake my tits in their faces, bend over so they get a good look at the G-string settled in my ass-crack. It doesn't do any good without my stare. I try to see their darkest fantasies. This one pictures me sitting on him, his mouth burrowing in my bush. That one wants me to hold his dick while he pees. That guy in the back, oh, he's bad news. He aches to tie me up and beat me with his belt. Tough luck, feller. Dream on.
I don't know whether what I see is real or just my imagination, but it has a real effect. They feel my eyes; they think I know them. They get all flustered and embarrassed, wave to me, stick their tens and twenties into my G-string. Watching me, anxious-like, all the time.
Meanwhile, it turns me on. I dance a lot better when I'm horny. Sometimes I play with myself a bit before my set, to get myself into the mood. Then I hold my fingers under their noses, and watch their reactions.
I feed off their desire. The more they want me, the hotter I get, the better I dance. The more outrageous I become. So, it's particularly annoying tonight that this one guy in the front row doesn't react at all.
I've been writing forever and publishing for more than a decade: six novels, at least fifty short stories, plus a handful of neither-fish-nor-fowl creations. Though I'm not what you'd call prolific, that's still a lot of characters under the bridge. Nevertheless, when I consider the question of who is my favorite, Stella wins, hands down.
Stella Xanathakeos is the heroine of my erotic thriller Exposure. She was born one theme weekend in the Erotica Readers and Writers Association Storytime critique group. The theme was “Erotic Noir”. I'd never tried writing that dark, hard-boiled genre, where nothing is as it seems and no one is to be trusted, but it sounded like an enjoyable challenge. Stella's first line came to me out of the blue, and I immediately had the sense of who she was: a tough, no-nonsense broad who is not going to let anyone tell her what to do. I wrote “Private Dance” in a couple of hours, working in a charismatic politico with mob ties, his ice-cold henchman, a secret camera and a double murder. Members of Storytime suggested I try another tale involving Stella. The result was “Black Widow”, which eventually became the second chapter in Exposure. At this point I discovered that Stella was bi-sexual, that in fact she'd had a torrid love affair with a fellow waitress at the Lebanese restaurant where she'd worked for a while.
Clearly there was more to Stella than just the noir stereotypes. I had to write her novel; I didn't have any choice.
One reason that I love Stella is that she's not much like me. She's big and curvy, a Greek goddess of a woman, with olive skin, long black tresses and dark eyes. I'm petite, fair and Jewish-looking. She's working class with just a high school diploma. I've got degrees coming out of my ears. She grew up in a row house in a shabby but ethnic Pittsburgh neighborhood. I'm a child of middle-class, East Coast suburbia. Mostly, though, she has a lot more guts than I will ever have. In Exposure, she devotes herself to solving the murders—not who done it, since that's obvious, but why—in the face of increasingly scary threats. I used to dream about being Nancy Drew but in fact I'm so timid I hate making phone calls to strangers.
Stella's also a mass of contradictions. Even when she's acting tough, she's emotionally vulnerable. She's proud of her independence, yet lonely. She claims to be particularly choosy about her sexual involvements, but she can't resist the call of lust. She might be a stripper, but she's also a lady, and wants to be treated like one.
Here's a scene with one of the villains that may help you understand her a bit better.
White's house is very grand, even bigger and fancier than Francesca's. I am determined not to be impressed. The leaded glass door is opened by a sour-faced maid in a black uniform. I hand her one of the business cards that Francesca insisted on having printed. She doesn't try to pronounce my name.
"Mr. White is waiting for you in the library." She points to the French doors on the left of the winding staircase. My heels click aggressively on the black and white marble tiles of the entry way.
White opens the door before I can knock. "Come in, Ms. Xanathakeos. Or can I call you Stella?"
"Actually, I'd prefer Ms. Xanathakeos, if you don't mind."
Graham White grins at me. No, that's not right, he leers. He puts a hand on my arm, as if to lead me into the room, and I have an almost overwhelming urge to punch him in the nose.
I manage to control myself. Barely. Only the thought that I am representing Francesca keeps me from treating him the way I'd treat a pushy customer at the Peacock.
I snatch my arm away from him. He shrugs and settles into an armchair on one side of a magnificent stone fireplace decorated with what probably are priceless Chinese antiques. He gestures at the matching chair opposite him. "Please, sit down, Ms. Xanathakeos." The way he drawls out my name makes me want to punch him even more. Still, I sit, needing to take the weight off my ankle.
"You told me on the phone that you have some important information for me. What information?"
"Actually, it's more of a proposal."
I sit silent, waiting for him to continue.
"As you can imagine, I have been watching your campaign work for Francesca Pinelli. Watching quite closely. You're doing a bang-up job."
"Thank you – I suppose."
"What I'd like to propose is that you come work for me."
I burst out laughing. I can't help it. I can see the headlines: Stripper becomes hot political property.
"I'm serious, Ms. Xanathakeos. I'll pay you three times whatever Francesca's paying you."
Gradually, my laughter fades away. But the situation still strikes me as absurd. "Really, Mr. White, do you think that I'm for sale to the highest bidder?"
White leans forward eagerly. "Everyone has their price. I'm willing to meet yours."
I look him over, sizing him up. Big, sort of puffy, but not really fat. Thick copper-colored hair, prominent nose, fleshy lips. As I had noticed at the funeral, he has the rosy complexion of someone with high blood pressure.
His eyes are a bit of a shock, crystalline blue, and cold as shards of ice, despite his broad politician's smile. I hold his gaze, trying to glimpse his secret perversions, and fail utterly. The only thing I see in him is raw ambition.
He thinks that I am considering his proposition. I could string him along, but I'd like to get out of his obnoxious presence as quickly as possible.
"There's not a chance, Mr. White, that I'd ever work for you."
His eyes narrow and his face gets redder. "Why not? I hope it's not out of loyalty to the poor bereaved widow. Because let me tell you, my dear, you can't trust Francesca Pinelli. She'll discard you as soon as she doesn't need you anymore."
"I'm not your 'dear', Mr. White. And my arrangement with Ms. Pinelli is strictly temporary, in any case."
"Oh, are you trying to tell me she doesn't have her claws in you yet?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, and frankly, I don't care." I stand as gracefully as I can with my bad ankle. "This interview is over. Don't bother to get up. I can find my way out."
His face is a mottled crimson. White splutters – that's the only way to describe it – trying to get sufficient control of himself to speak. As I'm closing the door behind me, he finally finds his voice. "You'll be sorry, you slut," he yells after me. "I'll make you sorry." There is a loud crash from the library, then another.
I feel as though I know Stella very well. I sometimes ask myself why I don't write her a sequel. One reason is that Exposure hasn't sold all that well. With its F/F and M/F sex, its menacing atmosphere, and its ambiguous ending, it thoroughly mixes up genres. Maybe that confuses readers. I'd love to follow Stella to Greece and see what happens to her there, but these days I've been sufficiently corrupted by the market that I don't want to spend my time writing something that nobody will read.
Then there's the fact that readers expect a sequel not only to feature the same characters but to have a similar atmosphere and plot. In Exposure, Stella loses a lot. I'm not sure that I want to put her through something like that again, not to mention the effort involved in plotting out even moderately plausible mystery. I could write another erotic novel featuring Ms. Xanathakeos, but I'm not that keen to do another noir.
I do adore her, though. If she were real, I'd want to be her friend, despite our differences—or maybe even her lover.
There's a soft knock. I hobble over to the door and peer through the peephole to confirm that it's Jimmy. It seems to take hours for me to unfasten the chain and retract the bolt, but I finally get the door open.
"Hi, Stella." His voice is soft, concerned. It feels like a caress. "I didn't want to ring the bell. Figured your nerves were kind of shot, the last thing you need is the jangling."
Jimmy looks a bit rumpled. His sandy hair is in his eyes. His white business shirt is damp, wrinkled and untucked in the back. He needs a shave.
He looks good enough to eat.
"Come on in out the rain. I'm so glad to see you."
"Not as glad as I am to see you." Jimmy wraps his arms around me in what begins as a brotherly hug. He buries his face in my hair, breathing deeply. "I've been so worried about you, Stella. This whole thing with the murders..."
"Shush, let's not talk about that." I am enjoying the feel of his lean, strong body pressed against mine. I ignore the dull ache from my bruised ribs. I want him to be my only reality. He smells clean, despite his disarray: soap, menthol, some kind of lemony after shave. Just a hint of sweat, enough to blend the other scents into something organic and distinctly Jimmy. Breathing him in, I feel a bit light-headed, like he was some kind of drug. My knees go weak, and I hold onto him more tightly.
"Stella..." he whispers. His hands begin to roam, gliding from my back under my arms to cradle my breasts. He holds them almost reverently, ignoring for the moment the swollen, demanding nipples poking into his chest.
I adjust my position, inserting one thigh between his legs, to seek out the rigid bulk I know I'll find there. Ooh, Jimmy! Very nice! I rub myself back and forth over his cock, teasing, feeling him grow even bigger and harder. A shudder runs through his frame and I think for a moment that I've gone too far, that he's already going to come. I try to back away, but he grabs me and pulls me back, grinding his thigh against my pubis.
Even through two layers of cloth, my clit pulses and throbs exquisitely. I reach around and grab his butt cheeks so that I can control the friction. He does the same to me. For I don't know how long, we stand there tangled up in the doorway, dry-humping each other like two teenagers.
I'm halfway to coming, when he stops suddenly. I start to protest, but he silences me with a rich, delicious kiss. It's strong and sweet like Greek coffee, brazen tongue probing, shy lips nibbling. I kiss him back eagerly, trying to pour all my gratitude and my lust into the moment.
All at once I'm off balance. Before I realize what is happening, Jimmy sweeps me up in his arms and carries me into the parlor. "Jimmy, you'll hurt yourself!" I'm half laughing, half concerned. I'm not a small woman, and Jimmy's no Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"Just relax and let me do the work." He settles me gently on the couch and for a moment just stands back to look at me, something like adoration in his eyes. I'm embarrassed by his intensity. I focus my attention on the appealing bulge in his groin.
"Why don't you open your fly and make yourself more comfortable?" I reach for his zipper, but he catches my hands in his, holding them tight. His lips twist in an odd half-smile.
"Why don't you let someone else take control for a change?" A flicker of fear shimmers through me. I have the strange notion that he is planning to get out his handcuffs and restrain me. I swear, the image is so vivid, it must come from his mind. All my years of dancing have made me sensitive to men's perverse desires.
Terror seizes me briefly. I wonder if I can escape. Then lust floods in, and I wonder if I want to.
See what I mean?