Monday, June 30, 2014

The Fellowship of the Word, for Better or Worse

Sacchi Green

Yesterday (Saturday) Annabeth and Jeremy Edwards and I got together for a lovely lunch and chatfest, with friendship among writers, erotica writers in particular, as a major theme. After lunch we went back to Jeremy’s very nice apartment for a more focused discussion, which Jeremy recorded on his, well, recording equipment. I don’t even know the right term, but this was as close as I’ll ever feel to being in a garage band (albeit on the fifth story instead of in a garage.)

I eventually left to get home in time for an interview via Skype that my publisher had set up for me with Dr. Dick, whose sex-positive podcast series may be familiar to several of you. Lots of fun. Annabeth and Jeremy, who know their way around recording and cutting and making sense out of rambling streams of thought, kept on working to dig out and arrange the bits that would present our discussion well enough to share here, and Annabeth is going to do just that on Thursday.

I intended to give an overview here, but last night I was distracted, even overwhelmed, by the news that an online writer/graphic designer friend had attempted suicide. In fact we thought at first that he had succeeded, but it turned out that he’d been found in time and was in the hospital.

I don’t want to give too many details, because the specific details don’t matter. But the rallying of friends to share news and find out news and work on raising support—in spite of being a brilliant writer, our friend was essentially destitute and would need help if/when he got out of the hospital—was something I’ve seen before online, but never in as personal a context as this. He really mattered to many of us, and we could understand at least a small part of his despair even when we didn’t share his particular mental condition. My contribution, besides contributing, has been in locating one of his family members. I remembered the name of someone posting occasionally on his Facebook page who spoke as though she were related to him, and I managed to contact her by posting on a topic there where she had posted previously. (He’d recently blocked most friends from his page, but I was one of the dozen or so still allowed there, although he’d stopped posting.) She turned out to be his half-sister, and was very grateful to be notified. At this point a family member from the west coast is flying across the country to help out, and the family knows that we’ve raised some funds.

This seems to me to be a stark example of both the pluses and minuses of both online friendship and shared community friendship.

On the downside, our friend’s increasing depression had affected some of us who were inclined toward depression ourselves (which I’m not.) I’ve recently seen a report that Facebook participated in a study along these very lines, manipulating posts so that a selected group of people got mostly downbeat posts, and then assessing those peole’s own posts to see if they got gloomier. Sure enough, they did. I don’t know whether the report is true—I’d think that the study would be illegal, but I’ve never read the fine print in the Facebook agreement all that closely. It’s true, though, that being exposed to depressed people, people you’ve come to think of as friends and with whom you share the trials and stresses (as well as the gossip and helpful advice) of a community of like-minded people, in this case writers, is hard on us.

On the upside, most of us aren’t that extreme in our moods, and we can share our common concerns and be part of a worldwide community that gives us insights we might not otherwise have. There are friends I feel I know well in New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, Germany, England, Canada, and various other places. Some of them have written stories for my books, and I’ve written for some of them, while others share a variety of other interests. We might have been in contact on matters concerning writing even without the online forums and communities, but we probably wouldn’t have come to know each other as well.

Even the downside has an upside, because when our depressive friend needed help (though he may resent it) there were things we could do, and support we could give each other. I don’t know how matters will go from here, but we’ve done what we can.

Now back to the cheerier subject of our lunch and chatfest. Don’t miss Annabeth’s post—podcast?—where our freestyle musings have been distilled down to the gems of wisdom or food for thoughtful contemplation that were in there somewhere. Just be grateful—I certainly am!—that my own many digressions and indiscretions  have been discreetly pruned away. I may even dare to listen to it myself.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thoughts About Friendship in the Digital Age

Spencer Dryden

I describe myself as a gregarious loner. In this realm, many things only exist in contrast, so an oxymoron seems appropriate as a self label. If you met me—and it's unlikely, given my reticence about people—you'd probably find me to be a witty, engaging and delightful person. I am, to a point, but I am not comfortable around people, less and less so as I get older. I especially avoid crowded places. I have that figure/ground hearing thing. Hello, is anybody in there?

I think it would be odd to meet a writer who is a glad handing extrovert. Our craft involves introspection, observation, the creation of other realities. We need separation. A touch of melancholy serves me well.

To paraphrase the professional golfer, Fred Couples, I hate the sound of my phone ringing. Inevitably, there is someone at the other end and they want something from me. I like texts. Send me a text anytime.

My standard of friendship is my partner in failed business ventures, John Young. Among his many talents, he was (too disabled now) a skilled DIY'er, having restored several turn of the century homes. He loved them and loved the craftsmanship. When my wife and I bought a Victorian home sadly in need of repair, John loaded his tools and drove all the way across the country to help me and infect me with the DIY bug. A friend knows what you need without you asking, and shares what they have without diminishing themselves. While we failed in business, John's gift to me has been a great source of security for my wife and I, and  part-time cash to support my writing jones. I am Homo Habilis Rex (The Handyman King) You should have a friend like me. I can fix stuff. I have shared my partner's gift to me by always making time for widows and single moms who don't have anyone for those annoying household repairs.

Facebook has distorted the meaning of friendship. I embraced Facebook at first, as a way to connect with long lost family and friends. Lately, in the real world,  I've been unfriending as much as friending. I'm really not interested in your latest rant on guns, abortion, or your definition of a patriot. You're not my friend, you're just someone who has my address. Go away.

As an emerging author however, under a pen name, I have frequently wished I had 50,000 friends who could be urged to read my book and pass it along to ten friends, qualifying them for the blessing of angels, fairies, or what ever—and don't break the chain. Not.  I hope you don't want that kind of friend either, no matter what dimension you occupy.

For all my grumbling, the web has brought me the opportunity to participate in a community of writers, that is both engaging and helpful. Writing is a solitary craft. I'm happy with that. I write my best stuff when I am simply entertaining myself like a kid in a sandbox— piles of dirt become castles, sticks are spaceships, ants are invading armies. My wife is kind enough to let me play there. She only requires that I wash my hands before eating. She doesn't particularly like my stuff, she prefers the bodice ripping romance of Bertrice Small. But I knew I was getting somewhere when I had her down on the floor laughing at my send off to the undead, "The DVLZ Do". She's not much use as a critic or editor.

Then the day comes when you get this absurd idea that you'd like to try to publish. That's when you realize you need lots of people—people who can see the blatant errors in spelling, grammar and construction. More people who can tell you if your characters and plot are working. Still more people to offer suggestions on how to achieve your dream.

When I finally admitted to myself that I wanted to write erotica, I went searching for resources. The Erotic Readers and Writers Association was the first or second item returned in the search. I clicked the button and like Alice falling into the rabbit hole, I fell into a different reality, full of helpful and supportive people, many mad as the Mad Hatter, dedicated to advancement in the art of storytelling. There are many days when I don't want to return to the real world.

I don't know what it's like to be an addict, but I got a whiff of the experience the first time an editor said 'yes' to my anthology submission. The idea that someone, a professional no-less, was entertained by something I wrote, had me as high as I've been in many years.

Today, Spencer Dryden has more Facebook fiends than the guy who adopted the pen name of the first drummer for the Jefferson Airplane. Many have been friends in the truest sense—people who have helped me without expectation of repayment, people who have listened without judging, people who have rejoiced in my success and patted my hand during disappointment. If there was more of that in the real world, maybe I wouldn't be such a misanthrope.

So please feel free to  'like' Spencer Dryden and pass it along to your ten thousand closest friends, then angels, unicorns, fairies, mermaids, shape shifters, even zombies will shower you with blessings.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


by Giselle Renarde

No, you can't be my Facebook friend.  Sorry.

Was it here or on Twitter that Annabeth Leong and I were talking about not having a Facebook account?  I don't remember.  I don't remember much, these days.  But yes, it's true, I am a (relatively) young person (or, at least, I keep telling myself I am...) and I don't have a Facebook account.

How did I become a Facebook resistor?  I remember having reasons, but I can't recall what those reasons were.  I think I always felt like I didn't want my whole life on the internet but, honestly, if you read my posts here or at Donuts and Desires, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know I tell the internet everything.

Oh, and my life is in my work, too. Duh. There's a reason my writing has been called "scary honest."

There are lots of little reasons I still resist setting up a Facebook account, despite pressure from those who care about my marketing efforts. Thing is... I'd feel sleazy establishing a social media account for the sole purpose of selling stuff.  People with low self-esteem shouldn't be allowed to run businesses.  My self-deprecating brain is always thinking, "It's going to bother people if I keep telling them about my new book."  (Although, to be honest, it does irk me when someone's Twitter feed is a steady stream of book ads. I usually unfollow them.  So I don't want to be that guy.)

There's an obvious solution: set up a Facebook account and don't be a dick. Ta-da!

But, you know, it's just one more thing to babysit. It's one more password to remember.  One more goddamn online presence.  One more thing I need to remember not to forget to sign into and keep up with and provide content for on a daily basis.

It's exhausting, all this, isn't it?

I went to a St. Vincent concert last week (See? I told you I was young! I go to concerts... just like young people!) and a lot of the songs on her new album speak to the digital experience.  In Every Tear Disappears, she sings, "Yeah, I live on wires. Yeah, I've been born twice."  Every time I hear that, I'm like tell me about it!  I spend most of my life as this internet incarnation. I miss the days when, if you wanted to know something, you had to read about it in a book... or experience it, first-hand.

Anyway, I'm swerving a little off course.  I came here to talk about why I'm a Facebook resistor.  And now that I've talked about it, I realize that none of my reasons sound all that convincing.

When it comes right down to it, I just don't want an account. I want to hold on to what's left of my privacy.

And as I write this I realize these concerns about the online sphere extend seamlessly to my personal life. Why would I invite Facebook friends in when I can't even invite flesh-and-blood friends?

I've always kept people at bay because I'm still afraid (after all these years!) someone might get a little too close and see a little too much of my ugliness, my messiness, my unsavoury-ness. It's funny how there are some things you never quite get over.  This pushing people away is a blatant leftover from growing up in an alcoholic household. You know (or can imagine) how it is: we were all too ashamed to bring friends home. My family was so insular because we had a secret to keep.  As open as I seem to be, I'm still haunted by a wide variety of demons.

Sorry, potential friends, but I'm just too psychologically damaged to join your social network.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Cahoots" A Friendly Story

The world will end today at seven fifteen o’clock in the evening.

Greenwich Mean Time.

Everyone in the world knows this. They have known it for about a year.

An old man who knows this, is on his knees pulling weeds in a garden out of habit. It occurs to him this is a useless thing to do and that habits themselves are useless. He takes off his gloves and tosses them away. Let the weeds have their time.

He grunts, sighs, staggers to his feet. His knees hurt and his head spins. He rests his hand on a tomato stake to steady himself and glances at his watch to see if the second sweep hand is still moving at the same speed. He glances at the long afternoon shadows of the tomato plants. Holds out his hands to see if they have changed in any way. He understands what is about to happen but there is no way to perceive it

A child takes his grandmother’s most precious vase of Dresden porcelain and drops it from the second floor stairs onto the hard wood floor. His grandmother watches placidly, waving a fan over her face and sipping tea from a glass which is never quite empty. The priceless vase shatters, assembles itself, and leaps upwards to his little hand. He screams with delight and drops it again, over and over like a lavish yo yo. She puts down her tea and goes upstairs to try it herself.

The old man stands in his garden with his old wife, the retired entomology professor. She has veins in her legs.

He waves at a large bug with delicate wings.

“May Fly,” she says to him. “They live a day, no digestive system. They just mate and die. All in a day.”

“Oh,” he says, waving it away. It occurs to him. They haven’t fucked since New Years Eve of last year. “It’s very hot,” he says. “Would you like to take a little nap?”

They walk towards the house holding hands.

In a prison a man is sitting before an open cell door talking to the drunken driver who killed his wife a year ago. All the cell doors are open. Some prisoners have walked off. Some have been here so long they are terrified of the world outside. If only it had happened tomorrow, the widower jokes and the man sighs and wishes it were so. They sip cold coffee together and chat about their regrets.

At seven fifteen Greenwich Mean Time, this evening, Time as a dimension, as a phenomena, will come to a full stop.

No one knows why.

On a beach a man and a fat woman are laying in bathing suits. The fat woman should look ridiculous in the tiny suit, which covers her loins no better than a pocket handkerchief, which hides her nipples no more than a pair of Dorito chips on a string.

They have been friends since childhood. They have witnessed each other’s divorces from a distance. They have never touched each other.

The man has always loved her but never been able to say so. 

Children run by and play in the waves, and clouds pass back and forth over the sun. They chat about their memories. Do you remember that time when? They chat about their first marriages and where they lost their virginity. In this last moment in a world increasingly without consequences, when people dressed in white robes crowd mountain tops to pray for the rapture, he has eyes only for her thighs, for the soft peaks of nipples that tent her top in the tickling heat of the sun. She chats of her first husband and how the children turned out well in spite of the selfish old asshole, especially her second son who is an air force test pilot. Yes, he was almost an astronaut, did he know that?

He comes around and places himself on his belly between her big thighs and presses his face into the tiny napkin covering the wiry hair below and inhales the musky cloth between her thighs smelling of sun block. He presses his lips into the sweat toasted skin of her broad thigh and licks it. Whatareyoudoingareyoucrazy, she asks. Whatever I want most to do, he says mildly. She raises up on her elbows to get a good look at him, maybe for the first time. He doesn’t care if she scolds or slaps him. He doesn’t want this last regret of never knowing what would happen next if only he had done this boldly. In this moment he regrets everything he has ever said to anyone because he did not say it boldly. As he presses his face insistently between her legs which she parts for him and he breathes her deeply, children run past chasing a ball.

People have congregated together. What difference does it make, they say, if we were rich or poor. We are all as we are now. We are in the same net.

In Palestine, a Muslim militant sits at a tea stall with a Jew. They pass each other pictures of their dead children.

Time is coming to an end.

Soon it will be still. No one knows what comes after that.

The fat woman, filled with curiosity and anticipation - no man has made love to her in years - has allowed her friend to stay where he is. She is publicly humiliated and also deeply thrilled that such transgression is now a possibility for her.

The man, still laying on his belly, his face pressed against her bikini bottom, hooks a finger under the seam of the cloth and tugs it back, exposing her hairy, oily sex. Behind him people have stopped to look.

Girls giggle.

Hey man, shouts someone, get a room.

He looks at her sex, really looks at it, adoring it. Its not the same as looking at a picture of a stranger in a magazine. To see the sex, for the first time, of a woman he has known all his life, to see it exposed to his gaze is terrifying and thrilling beyond words. It is a revelation within a revelation.

Here at the beach, aroused almost to violence, he feels time slow, feels it actually and a growing desperation as his scheme reveals itself to him.

Somewhere in a house the pieces of the Dresden vase are hanging drowsily in the air.

On the mountain top people are holding up their arms in exultation because the world will see them chosen at last, which is fast changing to moans of doubt and then fear. And then rage. Why has God not appeared on the clouds with a trumpet and a shout to carry them away, abandoning the rest to their fate?

In the prison, the widower and the prisoner push through the thickness of space to embrace and croak out their mutual pity and forgiveness.

The Palestinian and the Jew clink tea glasses together with resignation and irony as the air turns thick around them. The evening light from the dusty avenue glows bluely off the bottoms of their glasses. Dust hangs in the air and sparkles like falling stars.

On the beach, the man presses his tongue deep inside the sex of his oldest friend and breathes her again as he feels the drum beats of his heart slow to peaceful taps. He sucks the stiffened nub of her clitoris between her lips, sucks it firmly, massages the warm shaft of it with his puckered lips, arranges it and sets up a sucking rhythm that makes her gasp and lay back in surrender. She suddenly seems to understand what he is trying to do, opens wider and presses against his lips.

In Greenwich England it is seven thirteen.

Near the Dover Cliffs a man is playing with his old dog, throwing a stick straight up in the air, because the old animal has bad hips and doesn’t run well. They have been together eighteen years. They both leap with joy just as time slouches to a full stop. The man, the dog with open jaws, the ever tumbling stick float leisurely in the air like thistle seeds waiting to come down never.

The fat woman feeling her transport coming over her, is humping her sex desparately against the man’s agile lips. The couples around them having understood the man’s revelation are furiously copulating in the sand trying to catch the next wave of time exactly right and ride it.

At exactly seven fifteen the fat woman, shouting the man’s name to the falling stars, shudders and orgasms. Time freezes her perfectly in the moment.

On the mountaintop the saved remain standing like disappointed statues.

The fat woman, joined to the man’s lips and tongue for eternity, goes on throbbing in ecstasy. Throbbing.





Tuesday, June 24, 2014

You've Gotta Have Friends. J.P. Bowie

In the Dark Ages when as a young lad I left home to find fame and fortune in the big city, I also left friends behind and I think it was then that I realized just how important it is to have people in your life you truly relate to. I was lucky, being that the early part of my life was spent in the theatre. In that world, friendships are easily made. You share so many things...the rehearsal space, the dressing room, the same digs on tour, sometimes the same bed - but more of that later.

Friends can be a part of your maturing, of molding you into the person you are to become, much more so, sometimes, than family. That was especially true in my case. Leaving home at an early age, being a wee bit naive, can leave a person quite vulnerable, open to making the wrong kind of friendship, and in retrospect I suppose I had my fair share of those. Strange, how in the so many years that have past, I can't remember those names. They are just vague shadows, relegated to the occasional, 'Wonder what happened to so and so?'

Enduring friendships are rare and precious things,made up of people you will never forget even though time and distance make it less possible to meet on a regular basis.When I came to the US, once again I left friends behind, but because of my ties to the theatre, new friends were made, and I found myself in the enviable position of having the 'worldwide web' of friends. Just from my stint at the London Palladium I am still in touch with friends in Vancouver, Cape Town, Connecticut, Glasgow, Madrid, London and Los Angeles.

A few years ago we had a grand reunion and while we were no longer the sprightly young things that pranced across the London stages, we still had the energy to have a damned good time, recount hilarious memories of the past and drink a lot of champagne toasts., to those who could not be with us.
Losing friends, as time takes its toll, is a harrowing experience. Suddenly the one you'd meet for morning coffee, or pick up the phone just to talk to when you're feeling down, is no longer there, and that gap in one's life is very hard to fill. Sometimes, it never completely is, because some friends are just irreplaceable.

Out of friendship can come love, and not just the platonic kind. Before I settled down with my first long time lover, I was a bit of a rover. Guys I knew as friends would sometimes morph into something more. I found out that could be dangerous when you're in a tight crowd. Gossip and jealousy can be the order of the day, especially when on tour and practically living in one another's pockets. Nevertheless, I have some really hot memories of those times when I was regarded as 'fresh meat', and even found my way into the pants of a couple of 'stars', who of course shall remain nameless.

Friendship plays a large part in all my books. Even the vampires demand love and loyalty from their minions. I had a letter from a reader who told me I had created a wonderful family of vampires - don't know what Bram Stoker would have thought of that, but friendship leading to love is a constant theme in my stories.The line from the song Beautiful Friendship still resonates for me - "This is the end of a beautiful friendship, and just the beginning of love".

Monday, June 23, 2014

Friends and Lovers

By Lisabet Sarai

I was primed to want him long before I met him. Was this a deliberate ploy on my husband's part? Or just the consequence of my hyperactive sexual imagination?

“James is a really good friend,” K told me. He'd known James for years before I appeared on the scene, during his tumultuous period living in San Francisco. “He's a physicist. Does research at UCSF hospital.” My ears perked up. I've always found intelligence to be an aphrodisiac. “Oh, and you should see his paintings and sculpture. He's really talented.” Oh my! An artist too! Was I wet already?

We were on our way cross country and planned to stop in the City by the Bay before heading south to Los Angeles. Having spent the last few years in grad school on the East Coast, K hadn't seen James in a while, but he assured me that we'd get a warm welcome.

“And did I tell you about his time in Japan?” K executed a neat maneuver to pass a battered, dusty pickup, then pointed the Subaru straight across the sere plains of eastern Colorado. The Rockies were blue-gray shadows hugging the horizon.

I squeezed my husband's thigh. “No, I don't think so. What was he doing in Japan?”

“Working in a sex show.” He gave me a quick glance, as if to gauge my reaction, before returning his gaze to the empty, monotonous highway.

A tingle swept through me. “You're kidding, right?” At that point I hadn't yet visited Japan, but everyone had heard bizarre stories about the Japanese sexual underground.

“No, not at all. For three months James and his partner performed live in some club in Tokyo. Fucking on stage six nights a week.”

I sat silent, staring into the distance and pondering this thrilling and disturbing concept. I considered myself a free spirit, a bit of a sexual outlaw, but public sex, for money? What sort of person would engage in such behavior?

“Why?” I asked finally, expecting some wild tale of extortion or human slavery.

“He was curious to see what it would be like,” K responded with a chuckle.

I was quiet for a long time after that, contemplating with excitement and trepidation the prospect of meeting this “friend”. I had no idea what he looked like, but I was already half in lust.

James turned out to be lean and loose-limbed, a good half a head taller than K, with unruly hair, a soft voice and an easy laugh. As K had promised, he offered us the spare room in his Mission District flat. We shared take-out Chinese, red wine from a gallon jug and lots of pot. We talked about art, science, philosophy, politics. Well, K and James talked, mostly, catching up after years apart, reestablishing the bonds of their friendship. I listened, uncharacteristically mute, watching James' long, expressive fingers trace patterns in the air as he explained some nuance of electromagnetic theory, wondering how those fingers would feel feathering across my nipples.

K asked about James' partner – ex-partner as it turned out – but the one subject we didn't discuss was sex. Still, the entire evening buzzed with erotic tension. When James looked at me, I felt the heat simmering in his lanky body. What had K told him about me?

I honestly don't recall how we ended up in bed together. All I remember is how easy it was, how light and relaxed - how friendly. I didn't worry about jealousy; that seemed a non-issue as I mounted K and James slid his cock (long and thin like his fingers) into my rear hole. My first double penetration - only the second or third time I'd ever experienced anal sex, actually. I can hardly believe, looking back, how little resistance James found. At the time, I was too turned on to even think about the question. I was neither surprised nor shocked. It was obviously the natural thing to be doing. We all agreed about that.

Sandwiched between a man I loved and my new lover, I felt not only acute pleasure but a delicious sense of connection. I was cherished and desired, giving and receiving. The brazenness of our actions thrilled me. The three-way intimacy kindled a new kind of joy.

I remember the details of the next day more clearly now than I do that incandescent night. The three of us went to see a matinee of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. We strolled down the San Francisco sidewalk, arm in arm in arm, with me in the middle once again. I wore a flouncy white cotton dress I'd bought in Tijuana, with nothing underneath. I felt like a dirty angel, high on residual arousal, perversely proud we'd been brave enough to push friendship to its next obvious level.

Even after K and I moved back East, we remained close with James. We attended his wedding. Later, after their son was born, we visited him and Priscilla in their redwood-encircled cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. We never had sex together again, but our mutual erotic history gave the relationship a special poignancy. I knew James remembered, as I did.

We're still in touch, more than three decades later, though James' struggles with addiction and psychiatric problems have weakened the connection. I regret that deeply. As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate more fully how remarkable that episode really was – despite the fact that it felt inevitable at the time.

Enumerating a list of my long-time friends, I'm a bit embarrassed to realize how many of them were once my lovers. One might point to this as evidence of my unbridled promiscuity during my twenties and thirties. I interpret this fact differently, though. I've always been sexually attracted to people I like and admire, both women and men. Although I've had close friendships that were completely platonic, that's not the norm for me. All too often, the intellectual and emotional buzz from meeting someone special transmutes into sexual desire.

In most cases, I've refrained from acting on my lusts, especially in recent years. Instead, they spill over into my dreams. Even people I haven't met in person – people I've come to know and love remotely, in the guise of Lisabet Sarai – have found their way into my night visions. That's one reason why I am reluctant to get closer to some of you in the real world. Friends are always welcome. At this stage in my life, though, I probably don't need more lovers.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Test of Faith

by Jean Roberta

I’ve never really experienced religion first-hand. I was raised by parents who joined the local Unitarian Fellowship (this is a community of Unitarians without a resident minister) after leaving more orthodox Protestant churches when they were teenagers. Still, the ethic of denial that they were taught when they were young seemed to stay with them in secular form.

When boys began inviting me out, my parents warned me that boys liked sex. Presumably, this was something I couldn’t understand. Later, my mother advised me to go to a doctor to get medication to “cure” me from wanting “sex with men all the time.” I told her I didn’t want it all the time, just now and then. I said, “You know what that’s like.” Apparently she didn’t.

The message I got from all my grandparents was that sex was immoral except within marriage – and even then, if I were a normal woman, I wouldn’t like it. The message I got from men was that any past sexual experience I might have was much more disgusting than theirs. (And this was from self-defined sexual revolutionaries.)

My parents were threatened with Hell as the ultimate punishment for lust. I was threatened with psychiatric “treatment” and social ostracism. It seemed as if the disapproving God of old times was replaced in the mid-twentieth century by the “mental health” establishment and a general consensus on how women were supposed to behave.

The Puritan streak in North American Protestantism seems to prompt a belief that pleasure in most forms is self-destructive and contrary to God’s will. And that hard work is virtuous, not because of what it can produce, but because it numbs the mind, heart, and libido.

I’ve always wondered if the “wrath of God” that is so feared by so many could be a well-buried internal rebellion against self-denial. If there is a God, and if He/She is angry, the causes might be the opposite of what is usually preached from the pulpit.

Some people join religious communities and accept rigid rules to escape from “temptation,” the supposed corruption of the world. But the kind of spiritual seekers I admire don’t run from chaos, dirt, or human appetites – they work in the world’s worst slums, and try to bring comfort, not judgment or deprivation, to their fellow-beings.

My story, “The Battle Lost and Won” (in my single-author collection of historical erotica, The Princess and the Outlaw) is set in a vaguely medieval world that is dominated by a Church that seeks to control whole populations. Susanna, an innocent maiden from a large family, has entered the local convent as a novice to save herself from the Seven Deadly Sins. After an older nun offers her a shockingly carnal kind of love, and Susanna runs away, she is confronted by a supernatural being. Is her tormenter a demon or an angel?

Susanna is tested in much different ways than she ever expected as a sheltered virgin. She learns that children are sacred, even if conceived outside of wedlock, and that Christian charity can be expressed in a brothel. She learns that love is never an abomination.


This is the opening scene:

"Sister Mary Agnes."

The creamy, insinuating voice held a hint of mockery as it echoed off the high ceiling of the convent kitchen.

Everything else within the room could be identified and put back in its place. Cups, bowls, tableware, sun-bleached tablecloths, pots, pitchers and candlesticks waited patiently in the cupboards until they could be of service. Like penitent sinners, the dirty dishes from the evening meal were being scrubbed clean, dried and placed safely where they belonged.

Sister Mary Agnes enjoyed washing the dishes alone, when she could focus on her work and not on the presence of another sister. Everything about this humble task was satisfying, from the warmth of the soapy water to the caress of the young nun’s plain habit on the skin of her legs as she moved back and forth.

But someone else was in the room with her, and its voice was too androgynous to be identified clearly as that of a man or a woman. "Do not ignore me, Sister, at the risk of your immortal soul." The voice was not human, yet it reminded her of someone she knew.

The sister, who had been named Susanna by her parents, was armed against temptation. "Then tell me your name. I command you."

A chuckle rumbled and bounced from one stone wall to the one opposite. "'Beseech' would be a better word from your lips, lady. My name is Gabriel."

The sister was unconvinced, and she knew that demons have myriad different names to confuse the gullible. She lifted both hands from her basin of water and sprinkled each corner of the room, as if to cleanse the air. Water ran down the walls, left puddles on the floor, and soaked her habit in spots. "Tell me your true name, hell-spawn!"

"Do not toy with me, wench!" trumpeted the voice. "I am Gabriel, messenger of God. If you do not wish to hear what I have to tell you, I shall leave you at once, and worse visitors will come in my place. Doubt this at your peril."

Sister Mary Agnes was shaken, despite her determination not to show fear, and despite the timbre of the voice, which seemed to lack the masculine thunder of either God or the Devil.

Moved by some instinct she hadn't known she had, the sister looked into the water in the basin, and saw the amazing reflection of a smooth, shining face with delicately arched, cruelly sarcastic eyebrows above terrible dark eyes and full, sensuous lips that wore only the hint of a smile.

She was not convinced that her visitor was an angel, but she knew better than to continue to antagonize him (her?) unnecessarily. "Speak, then. I will listen."

"Susanna, you refuse the gifts that God has set before you. This is neither wise nor virtuous. You wish to be of service to all the other children of your Creator, but goodness requires courage and action, not cowardice and lethargy. You shall be tested three times, and much rests upon the choices you make."

The face in the water dissolved into wavering shapes. A faint hiss, like the sound of steam from a kettle, signaled the departure of the mysterious being from ordinary space and time.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Religious Erotica

by Annabeth Leong

I'm religious. As in, I believe in God, I attend church regularly, and I have a shrine to Mary in my home. I pray, I have religious dreams, and my religion plays a role in my sense of morality. I particularly believe in my religious obligation to help the people around me and to share my belongings and resources with those who have less. Religion is a deep, important part of my identity.

I also have a complicated, insistent sense of my sexuality. I've explored my sexuality in many ways, including some that violate societal taboos. I write about sex because it fascinates me and turns me on, and because I believe in combating shame, supporting a variety of gender expressions and groupings, and enjoying the bodies we've got. Sexuality is a deep, important part of my identity.

In negotiating the terrain of sex and spirituality, I do what I always do with deep, important parts of my identity—I write about them. Religion is a major theme in my erotica, and I'm proud of the various ways I've explored it. I want to give a few examples because I don't think these issues are simple or one-sided.

1. Acknowledging Common Compromises

What I most often see is erotica, about characters who aren't religious at all and have no moral issues with sex, opposed to inspirational romance, about characters who are waiting for marriage. I'm really interested in subverting this because it doesn't reflect the reality I've observed at all. I know very few religious people who actually waited until marriage (I certainly didn't). And yet, many people who fornicate remain religious for other reasons (again, this is me).

The Ellora's Cave Branded line—which requires sexually active characters to be married to each other—was dubbed "inspirational erotica" by some and mocked for that. On the other hand, I think this is an interesting step toward putting sex and religion together, and I love acknowledging that sex and romance don't end when a couple gets married. I've written for this line (Get Laid) and am proud of that work.

Really, though, I like to go farther than that and write about characters who are living with the contradictions. In Run for Your Love, a book I wrote about the zombie apocalypse, my characters are practicing Roman Catholics. The Church also play an important role in providing for the people hurt by the chaos in the world. My characters sincerely believe in their religion and try to follow its morals (for example, the hero, Zach, is a pacifist because of his interpretation of Christianity). They're also fornicating. They discuss this and decide that it's not a priority for them to worry about that. I'm really proud of these characters and that scene as a true reflection of what I've seen and admire in life, but it was very uncomfortable to write. I know tons of Catholics who don't do exactly what the Church tells them to do, and yet I so rarely see that portrayed.

2. Portraying What Is Possible

I'm really excited about a story I have forthcoming from Storm Moon Press called "Never Not a Priest" (It will be in an anthology called Devout). It's about a gay priest whose life is changed by the legalization of same-sex marriage in his state. This isn't a character who dismisses worries about fornication—he believes in and wants to experience the sanctity of marriage, but has been suffering because he's been shut out of choosing it. A major issue in this story is the repair of the relationship he's been in, which has been damaged by being kept secret.

This is sort of the flip side to what I said above. It's possible to choose to ignore certain pronouncements of church and/or state, but what if you don't want to? I frequently see liberals suggesting that queer people suffering discrimination in the south should just move, but this is an inhuman demand. It's not a solution to order people to leave their homes and families (and the Human Rights Campaign recently made a very poignant video to this effect, interviewing many Southern queer people about why they don't want to leave). Similarly, people are sometimes told that they should just stop being religious.

I'm not willing to give up on religion. Changes have happened. For example, there is a general acceptance of divorce that was really not present just 50 years ago. The Anglican Church has torn itself apart dealing with issues including ordination of women and same-sex marriage, and I respect that struggle. I want to help it, not abandon it. That's my political motivation behind "Never Not a Priest"—I wanted to present a positive view of religion becoming more inclusive. I believe in the importance of showing visions of possibility.

3. Reveling in Transgression

I'd be a huge liar if I failed to acknowledge the enormous thrill of doing what I'm not supposed to do. Part of the fun of sexual exploration lies in being naughty, and religion can really juice that. I've done a lot of kinky things that play with this fact. I've put on Catholic schoolgirl skirts and played Christian wife and all the rest. It's hot. I do think that, as a person who sincerely believes in this religion, I get more excitement out of fucking with it than a nonbeliever would. I could participate in a kinky scene that screwed with, say, Hindu mores, but I doubt I'd get the full-body fear and pleasure effect of blasphemy from doing so. Also, I think I'd be uncomfortable with doing this. Since Christianity is my religion, for better and for worse, I feel okay about criticizing it or toying with it in a way that I don't when it comes to the religions of others.

As far as heresy and transgression, my magnum opus is "The Miracles of Dorothea of Andrine," which is forthcoming from Forbidden Fiction. I filled this story with authentic detail about how the Roman Catholic Church historically conducted investigations into miracles and potential beatification, and then I accompanied that with an equal helping of kinky acts (lactation fetish, self-penetration with large dildos, blasphemous phrases translated into Latin, etc). The main character is a bishop who thinks this is all terribly dirty—until he just can't resist participating.

While this story is mostly about transgression, I also adapted many authentic Marian prayers into celebrations of the divine feminine. By the end of the story, the characters have set up a heretical branch of the Church that changes the role of the Holy Mother to something much more sex-positive than what exists in mainstream Roman Catholicism. I generally can't help myself from including some of my political views, even when I'm out to be naughty.

4. Mining a Rich Tradition of Story

The recent story I'm most technically proud of is "The Good Brother," published in the Coming Together: By the Book series (sales benefit Darkness to Light, an organization working to end child sexual abuse). This is a contemporary retelling of the story of the rape of Tamar, and it's an exploration of the aftereffects of rape and incest (including more incest).

I'll never forget the first time I encountered the original story in the Book of Kings. I was pretty young, and I was generally interested in being "good." People frequently extolled the virtues of daily Bible reading, particularly the value of the Bible as a set of instructions for living. Well, at this point, I'm pretty sure that you can't describe the Bible that way if you've actually read it. It's full of contradiction and mystifying stories and it's short on clear instructions. But I didn't know better yet, so I was trying to read it every day. I was a bookish kid, so after a while I encountered the rape of Tamar. That story disturbed me and wouldn't let me go.

But this is actually key to the value I do find in the Bible. The story of the rape of Tamar is ugly and confusing. It raises questions, and it shows injustice clearly. I've since been in church while it was being read aloud, and I enjoy the discomfort it produces. We need that discomfort. We need to talk about these brutal, terrible things. We need to talk about sex that isn't sexy, and also sex that is sexy when it feels as if it shouldn't be.

When I write with a rich tradition of story behind me (whether that's Greek myth or Biblical lore), I often get a resonant effect. I'm proud of the language in "The Good Brother," and I'm proud of the sense of doom that will kick in for readers who are familiar with the King David cycle (because they, for example, know what becomes of Absalom). I disturbed myself writing it, but sometimes I need to go to that place, and religion can help me get there.


I'll cut this post off here because I've already gone quite long. But I expect to write much more religious-themed erotica over the course of my career, and I hope I explore even more aspects of the territory.

Meanwhile, in real life, I'm also negotiating the territory. I'm functionally Roman Catholic, but I attend a church with more politically liberal policies because I can't stomach any less. I go straight from church to kinky weekend events. I choose to hear particular Biblical passages as coded references to BDSM. I judiciously ignore some things and speak up about others. I wear sky-high heels to church and secretly get off on it. I worship, and I accept my confusion, and I live with the contradictions and the resonances.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God is Glue

by Daddy X

There is no god that exists apart from ourselves. There are no protective or vengeful entities watching over us, or for that matter, watching the universe. There is no otherworldly superior male or female deity.

But in reality, we don’t know it all.

An occupant of a two dimensional world would comprehend only what could be experienced in length and width. There would be no concept or effects of height. No up. No down. Nothing beyond a flat surface could even be imagined, let alone seen.  Perhaps that’s where spirits reside, in dimensions we can’t envision. 

A three-dimensional being strolling through a two-dimensional world would be experienced by those within that 2-d world as a suddenly occurring/disappearing negative space in the shape of a footprint. To be more precise, it would be whatever shape is created by the intersection of a three dimensional creature. The entire two-dimensional world could travel up and down without the occupants being aware of the movement, except on some vague and uncontrollable level. Perhaps as the 3-d world experiences the fourth dimension—Time

We 3-d dwellers have a sense of the fourth dimension, but time runs in a realm out of our control. We are affected by time as it moves along its own trajectory, at its own pace. We don’t get to go back. A fourth dimensional being would have that control of traveling through time. Who knows? From their perspective, they may even get some hint of a fifth dimension that they can’t control.

There are tools, (as Lisabet mentioned last week) psychedelics—that open doors, through which we see, if only in glimpses, into other dimensions. When we were in an altered state, how familiar it all was! There always seemed to be a sense of:

“Hello? I’ve been here before. This is a state I’ve known intimately, earlier in my existence. This is the way it used to be—I used to be able to travel back and forth between this state and others at will—at one time, way, way back.”

Now, was that ‘way back’ in my infanthood? Before I was born? Before being distracted by the trappings of an earthly world? Could it be inherited memory? Collective memory of a species?   The answers lie within us; they are not things a superior being invented. Someday, we will learn the hard science of these phenomena.

This innate familiarity seems common among those of us who did acid, as well as under the more benevolent predecessors like mescaline or psilocybin. It’s not necessary to the conversation to argue which is the better trigger drug than the other. Point is that they opened doors, enabling us to experience the world differently.  We had peeks into other dimensions. We understood the why’s of things. We knew the wherefores. We understood how the universe comes together and how it operates. More importantly, we were made acutely aware that these truths were not ponderable, let alone accessible, within simple three-dimensional limitations.

There are obviously other doors to enlightenment than drugs. There are those who would use the denial of the flesh, such as fasting, isolation and other ascetic behavior to achieve a transcendent state. But that’s denial. What about excess?

What about flagellation, for instance?  Some Christian cults use that path to mysticism. Aficionados of BDSM will have much to say about the discipline, spirituality and ultimate spiritual freedom of submission and/or dominance.

But I won’t go into BDSM here.  I’ll leave that to those with experience in that realm. Having no knowledge, beyond pinking up a plump rump every now and then, I won’t pretend to wax philosophical about “the life.” I’d likely make a fool of myself, in both errors and assumptions.

What I will speak to is what I understand to be the true higher power. The confluence of human souls. Bonds of communication between people can be the most familiar of spiritual experiences.

Clearly there are many paths to spirituality. Others here have mentioned music, and I’ll take that a step further to include all the arts as potential doors to the inter-dimensional connections we human beings seek so passionately. Writers, as the grand communicators we hope to be, speak of the muse who brings us thoughts and ideas of which we ourselves have no experience. Where did those thoughts come from?

We become closer, more bound to each other when we converse. We get very much closer if we have sex. Some refer to the state as “becoming one”. Lovers who regularly experience simultaneous orgasms will know what I mean. Practitioners of Tantra will understand. Approaching sex as one of life’s little lagniappes can achieve altered states for those willing to try. 

Compare that thinking to how most religions approach the subject—reducing sex to a simple need to be filled, or at worst, a nasty hunger to avoid, eviscerating the very spirituality from its natural home within us and tossing it off as trash.

Enlightened sexual travelers invite inter-dimensional shifting, exchanging, anticipating  partners’ desires, needs—intuiting paths to satisfaction. Opening themselves to levels of ecstasy and insights others can’t even imagine in their limited scope. People adamantly limited to the third dimension, working with 3-d values and concepts, will continue experiencing on a pedestrian plane.  

The connection itself is god. Communication—is spirituality—is God—as glue. As human beings bond at any communicative level, thoughts, words and actions increase in strength at an exponential rate, become kinetic. Power attracts power, becomes common to collective consciousness.  Take for instance the (usually) negative phenomena of “mob mentality.” Communicative power weaves a fabric among us; it bonds human beings. Sexual confluence, in all its build-ups, pre-lims and variations, is one of the most powerful and commonly attainable paths toward higher communication. Perhaps the ultimate in communication.

Some call what is created “love,” one great door to sexual, intellectual, and spiritual bonding.

Now that’s creationism. Communicative creationism.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Combining the spiritual and sexual

Sexuality is closely related to spirituality in several ways. In its negative aspects of lust, sexual excess, degradation and rape, it appears as the antithesis of spirituality, and in this light it has been seen in the Christian tradition. However, in its positive aspects our sexuality can open our heart to love, and enable us to have experiences similar to meditative states and mystical bliss during or instead of an orgasm and its afterglow. In a less obvious way, sexual energies can be channeled upward to develop our energy centers or chakra system and higher energy bodies. According to esoteric and yoga teachings, this is all part of our spiritual evolution.
Mention the word sex and eyes widen and ears perk up. The strong reaction the subject arouses reflects the spicy nature of sexual energy. Say you’re at the gym feeling tired and depleted. And say someone we find attractive starts working out next to us. Our energy level is suddenly boosted and as it sizzle through our body it becomes a combination of spiritual and sexual energy. All your favorite body parts come into play.
Pure sexual energy is as like dynamite: unstable and explosive. It can transport us to sublime states of bliss and delight (just as spiritual energy can), or cast us into the darkest pits of anguish, terror, and depravity. The volatile and wild nature of sexual energy convinced some religious traditions to view it as an impediment to spiritual development, and to some degree this belief still exists because of the confusion, heartache, and pain that sexual intimacy can cause.
But how do we redeem sexuality and elevate it to the spiritual status it deserves? How do we reconcile the square of sex with the circle of spirit when sexual pleasure is often responsible for so much shame, trauma, and pain?
Obviously, we can’t alter our sexual instincts. What we can do, however, is use spiritual practice to overcome the limitations imposed by nature on our sexuality. In fact, we can transform the inherent mismatch between male and female sexuality into an incredible opportunity for spiritual growth.
We can't have a healthy spirituality and healthy relationships without a healthy sexuality. Sexuality is about our relationship to ourselves and how we relate to one another as men and women both physically and emotionally. It doesn’t matter whether the relationship is short term or long term. Combining both aspects creates a richness to the relationship that blends body, mind and spirit.
I look at the books I write, full out erotic. I always begin with my characters, and as they develop the story unfolds. If there is not a richness to the relationship, the story doesn’t work for me. Why? Because to me any act of sex is as much spiritual as it is physical. To me, that’s the secret to a good—no, great—relationship.