Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Weakesses...I have so many (a visual journey) by Suz deMello

They've changed, of course, over the years, as I've sought to defeat all of them and have done so at various times in my life.

But temptation has a distressing tendency to pop up over and over again.

First: men. This is a weird one. I actually don't like very many men or for very long. My most lasting and fulfilling relationships are with women, and I do profess myself bi-curious. One day I'll act on that. 

I do have one very dear male friend:

Tom is the sweetest, kindest guy in the world. Too bad I'm not in love with him.

And here's my worst temptation and greatest mistake, the man I called Trapper in a fictionalized memoir, Perilous Play. I know I  should stay away from him, but few days go by that I'm not tempted to contact him. But I don't. Not often, at least. I have that much sense. 

I've even gotten to the point that I don't like even looking at his photo, though I do sometimes as well as reread our correspondence, in the way that a child pushes on a bruise to see if it still hurts.

It does. It also turns my stomach.

I don't drown my sorrows, though I have had my innings with booze. I'm more likely to eat to fill that empty place inside me. Many women crave chocolate. That's okay, but I love salty snacks.

My current weaknesses. Twenty minutes into Game of Thrones, I'm poking in the bottom of the bag to get the crumbs. Bliss!

And there are the smokables--or the vapables, pot and tobacco. These days our vices are denatured.

And here's a weakness I glory in: Regency romance, the first romances I ever read and still do adore. Is the tendency to take comfort and find refuge in books a weakness?

I don't have any brilliant conclusions or even a clever quip to end this blog, except to note that the struggle to become a better person is neverending.

As Gilda Radner said, "There's always something."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weakness Is the Mother of Invention

Sacchi Green

What do you do when you have to come down out of the trees because the climate has changed and the trees become scarce and now you’re living in a savannah environment where the grasses are tall and most other creatures, both those that want to catch and eat you and those you want to catch and eat, can run faster than you can?

Right away I’ll back off my choice of title and admit that evolving to stand erect so that you can see farther across the savannah is a form of survival of the fittest that has nothing to do with invention. But consider what happens when you can see the prey or the predator from far away, but the predator is stronger and has bigger teeth and claws than you do, and the prey is still too fast to catch easily. How do you compensate for your weaknesses?

You invent weapons for protection, and for hunting. You figure out how to use fire to scare the sabre-tooth tiger away from your cave, and incidentally to cook your food and keep warm, and you invent snares to catch small prey and throwing devices to kill prey at a distance. If you had been the biggest strongest species around, there would have been no need to invent weapons, or tools, or much in the way of strategy and tactics.

This is not to deny that necessity is also the mother of invention. Invention has two mothers. Probably more. Necessity is also the mother of evolution; when we lived in trees, it was necessary to be able to hold on to the branches, so those who survived were those who evolved to have opposable thumbs, and without opposable thumbs we would have had a much harder time inventing weapons, or much of anything else. Once supplied with an erect posture and opposable thumbs, we were able to invent work-arounds to compensate for our many weaknesses.

Farther along the human timeline, when population pressures or changing climate or just the curiosity that goes along with inventive minds drove us from the warm regions of our origin to colder, harsher environments, we figured out how to compensate for the weakness of our bodies when it came to keeping warm by wrapping ourselves in the skins of animals we’d killed, and later with woven fibers from plants. If we hadn’t compensated like this evolution might have eventually restored our ability to grow enough warm fur of our own, but then again it might not.

Of course the more we compensated for our weaknesses the stronger we became, in terms of survival. We learned to grow and breed our food, to irrigate our crops, to produce and save enough food and other resources to be able to diversify our work, so that some people didn’t have to produce their own food but could trade their crafted goods or various skills for what they needed. Some people needed physical strength for farming, hunting, protecting the resources their communities had amassed, but other people could make their living in ways that depended more on mental strength than on physical. Eventually some people could be weak in every way, but survive due to the resources of their families. Survival of the fittest wasn’t what it used to be, but neither was the environment one needed to survive in.

These days strength of one sort or another is still valued, and weakness despised, but oddly valued at the same time if it makes the despiser feel more powerful. Let’s not get into the labyrinth of gender relationships in this regard, except to note that men who seem to appear weak get the most disrespect. Women who seem to appear stronger than culturally approved get disrespect, too, and resentment, but at least in recent times they’ve been able to get away with wearing clothing similar to men’s in ways that men can’t manage the other way around.

The more complex our society gets, though, and the more important technology becomes, the more valuable inventiveness becomes, and the less necessary physical strength turns out to be. That ninety pound weakling on the beach might get sand kicked in his face by the muscular brute eyeing his girlfriend, but he may well own a tech start-up that pays him enough to buy lawyers who can flatten the muscle man. (Sorry, youngsters, for using a metaphor from old magazine ads that was already passé before you were born.) And that rich techie may well have his youthful nerdiness to thank for motivating him to study and create and compensate for his own perceived weakness. Strength gets redefined, and so does the fitness to survive.

Am I grasping at straws to handle this time’s theme of “weakness?” You bet. Just be glad you avoided my real thoughts on the subject, all of which have been focused lately on the weaknesses that come with aging. Not my own, except by unavoidable extrapolation, but those of my once strong, handsome, intelligent, and compassionate father, who, at ninety-five, is still compassionate, but needing more and more help, and feeling guilty to be needing it, however much my brothers and I assure him, truthfully, that he’s earned every bit as much help as we (mostly me, for valid reasons) can give him.

So you can see why I chose to take the long, long view of weakness as a benefit in the development of our species, rather than get up close and personal. Also, social media addiction and general procrastination have already been covered pretty well, so there’s no need for me to go there. Thank goodness.        

Friday, June 26, 2015

Equal And Opposite

Warning: this blog contains cricket.
There are several definitions of “weakness” in the dictionary. I choose, today, to sidestep those, and look more at the source and nature of some weaknesses.
Just as darkness gains its definition from the existence of light, so weakness can often be defined by strength. And can, in fact, become a strength itself. That wacky ol' Newtonian “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” kind of territory.
Here in Australia, the sport of cricket is very popular. One of our greatest players ever was a man named Steve Waugh. In his early days, he showed a propensity for getting out to a particular kind of shot (the hook shot). It was his greatest weakness in that facet of the game.
It cost him his place in the national team for nearly two years. Upon eliminating that shot from his repertoire, he regained his place and eventually became the national captain.
Not a particularly exciting tale, of course, but the point I’m getting to is that he recognised his own weakness (or had it pointed out to him enough times that he could no longer deny it). And he worked around it. That weakness stayed with him for the rest of his career. He just didn’t give it a chance to weaken him.
That weakness, in fact, became a strength. How? The opposition players knew very well his flaw in technique, and tempted him with it by delivering the ball at the perfect height and width for the hook shot. By refusing to play it, he forced the bowlers to change their game plan.
Closer to home (writing), and adopting essentially the same metaphor, there’s a popular meme floating around on Facebook.
Synonym (noun) – a word used in place of the one you can’t spell.
Every one of us, as writers, has flaws, gaps, habits... in short, weaknesses. The inability to spell a word, uncertainty in the use of a semi-colon (or whether semi-colon is, in fact, hyphenated), or phrases we use on a regular basis.
One way we can address those is to adopt a Waugh-like process of elimination. After all, a weakness suppressed is nothing more than a secret. It's effective, though it's arguably a dour way to write. A real "defence wins matches" philosophy.
But then there’s another kind of weakness (laboured metaphor warning ahead!) The weakness which consumes us, and which we consume, until we cocoon ourselves in it. The weakness which changes us and allows us to bloom. It's that “equal and opposite” situation.
I’ve said before on here, and many other places, that I have a particular weakness for the more curvaceous and voluptuous female form. It’s not my only weakness when it comes to women, but it’s certainly my most acute. Yet that very weakness has become a focal point for my writing.
Similarly, though I’m about as Anglo as you can get, and so is my wife, I profess a great (and growing) weakness for the beauty of darker skin tones. That, too, has infused my writing, though so far it’s mostly sitting on my computer, idling until it’s ready for release.
To admit a weakness can take great strength. Again, equal and opposite. Yet just as in the world of physics, the two parts need to co-exist. One without the other is an utter imbalance. There can be no "equal and opposite reaction" without first having the action. In my example, there can be no strength without first having the weakness.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Way You Wear Your Face

by Giselle Renarde

A teacher once said to my mother, "There's steel in that girl."

At the time, she was right. Still, I fought back tears when my mother told me. I couldn't decide whether I should be proud. I knew it was true, but was it really so obvious?

The neighbourhood I grew up in was and is very different from the place I live now. Earlier today I was walking down the street and asking myself, "What would be the perfect soundtrack to give this area?" The first song that popped into my head was Pleasant Valley Sunday.

I'm trying to think of the perfect song to accompany the area I grew up in. It would be whatever music scares you shitless, really. Or just the sound of music through apartment walls and people screaming, and then a big crash and you sweating bullets and thinking, "Fuck, should I call the police?"

But of course you shouldn't because it's none of your damn business.

I can't pinpoint any event or moment that turned young Giselle into steel. It was home life coupled with where home was. My mom still lives in that same house, and when I tell people the intersection their eyes widen and they go, "Why?" or "Wow" or just "Yikes." Because why would anyone choose to live in such an unsavoury area?

That's a question I can't answer. I left as soon as I could. I left the steel there, too.

This came to mind the other week, when I was watching So You Think You Can Dance. There was a young woman on the show who had that same steel in her. She came from a rough neighbourhood, too. She faced addiction in her family.

I saw my old self in the way she wore her face: hard, inaccessible, a brick wall of a face. A face you don't want to mess with.

That was me, guys! That was me until I moved to a neighbourhood where I can walk around any time, day or night, and not be afraid. Sure it's weird, being poor and living in an incredibly affluent neighbourhood. I'm surrounded by ego and entitlement and it gets to me sometimes, but at the end of the day entitlement isn't going to steal your jewellery from around your neck or spray bullets from a car window.

Man, it feels good to not be afraid of the place you live. I'm practically Pollyanna when I'm out in the world. I talk to strangers! I smile at everybody! I love them all! Mwah-Mwah! Kisses all 'round!

And then I take the bus back to the neighbourhood where I grew up. Suddenly the smile in my eyes feels embarrassing. It makes me vulnerable. So I shut it down. I lock Pollyanna and her Pleasant Valley Sunday in the basement until I'm back at home base. Because I don't want to be targetted. I don't want to be picked out of the lineup. That one smiling face sticks out, on the bus to my mom's house.

But I feel odd about it. I love the compassionate me. She's my favourite kind of me! I want to share her with the people who live where I used to live. They're sort of like family, in a way.

I try, but I feel uneasy. The world I grew up in seems so predatory, so violent, so ready to take you down.

Out comes the steel, but I put it on like a mask now. It's not coming from the inside out. I'm wearing it so I'll blend in.

Sometimes I feel Pollyanna kicking and screaming, but I make her wear that mask. It's for her own good.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Word To The Weak J.P. Bowie

Weaknesses - who doesn't have them. Find me someone who says he/she is strong willed in every way , and I'll show you a liar. It's in our nature to have weaknesses. Whether it's the inability to say 'no' to ice cream or preen at the attention from a charming, dark eyed stranger when one should know better, I believe it's inherent within us to show a weak willed streak from time to time. Perhaps weak knees when it comes to the dark-eyed stranger.

These days people tend to disguise their weaknesses by calling them 'guilty pleasures'. I have a load of those too. Watching old Western movies, the Italian epics starring Steve Reeves, my favorite singers in concert, Ella Fitzgerald in particular. Now, you may say, there's nothing guilty about any of that. What's wrong with him?

Well, I do all that watching on YouTube when I should be writing my next manuscript! Okay, so that is just weak. I can't even start to count the times when I'll pause mid sentence  or mid blowjob (on the page) and distract myself for half an hour with You Tube. It really has become my nemesis in a way. I feel completely ashamed at the end of the day when I've only written a thousand words instead of the five thousand I need to get the bloody thing near finished!

Just today, I watched god knows how many clips of disasters around the world, earthquakes, tsunamis, sink holes etc., instead of getting on with how in hell is Steve ever going to get Bob to say 'Okay, let's do it'. No, suddenly watching cars and houses getting swept away, or Apaches leaping over the walls of Fort Defiance, or a Prom concert from the Albert Hall has much more appeal. I tell myself, you'll never increase your royalty check at this rate, your editor is going to start nagging for the next in the series, you haven't finsihed the edits on the last manuscript, etc., etc., etc.!

Amazingly, as weak willed as I am, I seem to have the strength to ignore all those inner voices. I simply click that tantalizing You Tube icon,  sit back and enjoy the next episode of  some old soap that was canceled five years ago. It's all there you know, just a click away.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Yes Woman

By Lisabet Sarai

Our Grip topic for the next fortnight is “Weaknesses”. Now, there are a lot of ways one can interpret this (like most of our topics), but as is often the case, I’ll consider the most obvious: personal weaknesses, bad habits or character flaws.

Of course I have many—don’t we all?—but there’s one that seems to have become all too prominent recently. I have a low tolerance for stress, particularly stress induced by over-commitment. I absolutely hate the feeling of pressure that comes from having too many tasks to complete in what seems like too little time. I’ve been known to throw literal tantrums when faced with apparently impossible deadlines, screaming, crying, banging my fists on the table, tearing at my hair, hitting my head against the wall... Really, I’m not exaggerating. Fortunately, I don’t go to these extremes too often, but I’ve given myself sore throats and lumps on the skull in the past after allowing my panic to gain ascendancy. My poor husband (who’s much better at coping with stress than I am) tries to help, but I know he’s wondering just how his intelligent, competent partner suddenly became a shrieking madwoman.

I think I’ve always had this weakness, even as a kid. I’ve attempted to compensate by starting assignments early and planning my time well in advance. Through four years of college and four of graduate school, I never once did an “all-nighter”, nor did I ever turn in an assignment late. This wasn’t a reflection of virtue, but rather, of terror at the way I knew I’d react if I wasn’t on top of all my work.

The strategies I’ve employed throughout my life still function reasonably well. These days I have tasks in so many different realmsteaching, research, consulting, writing, editing, reviewing, marketing, and more. If I didn’t have a detailed to-do list, and a pretty clear vision of when I was going to tackle what, I’d drive myself (and my DH) crazy. I also try to set priorities. Marketing always comes last, for example. That’s partly because I know that no matter how much I do, it won’t make much difference!

Unfortunately, I have another weakness that tends to exacerbate the first: I can’t say no. When someone asks if I will take on some task or project, my first inclination is almost always to agree. Indeed, when I see the need for some work, I’m perpetually tempted to volunteer my time and efforteven if nobody has asked. I want to be helpful, especially in cases where I think a task is important. And I know, honestly, that I can do a better job than many other people who might agree, half-heartedly, to take on some work. Furthermore, exactly because I’m so terrified about not fulfilling my commitments, I know that I, at least, will get it done...somehow.

Like most weaknesses, this one’s a problem only when it manifests to excess. I believe that, in moderation, my willingness to make commitments is a desirable trait. (I see far too many people who expect that someone else will be responsible for solving all their problems.) My concern about following through is also a positive trait. There are few things worse than depending on someone else to get something important done, then having them drop the ball.

However, I’ve learned that I need to sit on myself, to refrain from raising my hand, to avoid putting myself in a position where I’ll have another tantrum. I need to remind myself that I have a finite number of hours in the day and also that my relationship with my DH is more important than any task that might beckon. When I go ballistic, as I’ve described above, it hurts him. I really don’t want to do that.

This week, I’ve already squelched a bunch of ambitious plans I was thinking about proposing: editing a new Coming Together book, offering a crit of a new author friend’s story, creating a set of trailers for all my books so that I can build a You Tube channel... The list goes on. My to-do list looks more manageable today than it usually does. I have to remind myself that’s not an excuse to take on more work.

Still, I’m so very tempted by that latest call for submission...

No. No. No, no, no.

That’s so difficult for me to say.

Friday, June 19, 2015


by Jean Roberta

To inspire literally means to draw air into the lungs. For the ancient Greeks, inspiration was given by the gods to selected mortals, who were deemed worthy to receive sacred revelations and transmit them to the rest of their human community.

One of the oldest of the ancient Greek shrines, the one at Delphi (said to be the omphalos or navel of the world), was presided over by the Pythia or priestess who was inspired to utter prophesies which were usually hard to interpret, the avant-garde art of antiquity. In some sense, she was said to be married to the god Apollo, who supposedly inspired her via the fresh air of the mountains, or the water of the sacred spring at the site.

I spent my formative years (ages 4 to 16) in southern Idaho, a state that is completely on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, which form the state’s eastern border. From age 9 to the summer I turned 16 and moved to Canada with my family, I lived in a house three miles outside the nearest town, where I could see mountains like this from all the front windows of our house. I liked to write stories while sitting on our second-floor balcony, looking across a valley to Chinx Peak, which looked somewhat like the rugged mountain in the picture.

It was a three-mile walk from our house to the town of Pocatello (said to be a corruption of “Pork and Tallow,” a name given to a local native chief by 19th-century traders.) Halfway to town, there was an artesian well where fresh, clear water constantly bubbled out of a hole in the earth. When I got there, I always cupped my hands and scooped up enough to drink. That was my earliest idea of a sacred well.

From age 16 on, I have lived in a part of North America that is famously flat, but I still sometimes dream of mountains and fresh water. I don’t yearn for a strenuous hike or a climb, just the pleasure of a scenic view.

Forests are equally inspiring, though I’ve never lived in or near one. I have visited the boreal forest of northern Saskatchewan, and the last time I was there, I loved writing in pencil in a cabin. If the mosquitoes aren’t unbearable (and I am marinated in Deep Woods Off), and it’s not raining, I like to write outdoors.

I love writing in my office at the university, where I transferred most of the books from my home library. (Sorry I didn’t take a photo of it to show here.) There I have a floor-to-ceiling window to the outside world, which shows a concrete walkway connecting buildings, and several trees. Unfortunately, I usually have too much actual work to do in my office: mark student essays, find handouts to be photocopied, and counsel students, including strays who ask for directions. Writing for my own pleasure tends to come last.

I also like to write in the “library” on the second floor of my house, but when I’m here, my spouse is usually home too, and if I leave her alone for hours with her laptop in the front room downstairs, our eventual meeting isn’t sweet. When I see her again, she usually makes sarcastic remarks about our separate lives. Besides, the “library” window shows the side wall and part of the roof of our neighbour’s house. It’s not inspiring at all.

The outdoors seems freeing because it seems completely unconnected to the publishing biz or the larger economy. When I feel surrounded by nature, I don’t have to ask myself whether my idea for a story fits any current trend.

Here is the beginning (backstory) of my unpublished gothic story, “The Water-Harp,” about a little girl who is inspired by her natural surroundings. Eventually, she is put to work in the laundry run by the local convent, and there she is “discovered” by the young lord of the manor, who thinks she would be an amusing plaything. He learns the hard way that he can no more control her than he could single-handedly divert the local river:

The Sisters of Mercy named the baby Dorcas as soon as they had fetched her in from the doorstep, where she had been left like a gift, wrapped in a clean blanket and tucked into a wicker basket. Sister Ursula said that Dorcas was a good name for a willing servant, and all the other sisters agreed that it was perfectly suitable.

As the baby grew to be a child, and then a young girl, all the sisters remarked that she loved cleanliness, and did her chores willingly enough when these involved scrubbing away dirt, and turning disarray into order. She followed instructions to the best of her ability, and no one could call her disobedient. Yet Dorcas spent as much time outdoors as she was allowed, and there was something about her that made her seem out of place in the orphanage, and unfit for the social station for which she seemed destined.

As a five-year-old will-o-the-wisp, she once led Sister Ursula on a merry chase to the bank of the river, the child’s favorite place to explore. Dorcas had unplaited her raven hair, and it streamed behind her like a banner in the wind. To make things worse, she wore no shoes.

“Dorcas ! What a ragamuffin you are!” called the sister, gasping for breath as she reached for the child. “’Tis time for your bath.”

“I can wash myself in the water,” laughed the sprite, wiping her muddy hands on her dress, “and when I’m clean enough, I can visit the mermaids that live down there.” She pointed at the murky water that rippled over unseen stones.
“What nonsense,” declared the nun, but her tone was gentle. “You mustn’t believe Sister Margaret’s tales. God has created a world of marvels, but He would never make a woman with the tail of a fish.”

The child looked troubled. “Perhaps that’s why they don’t want you to see them,” she explained. “I’m sure they think you have no manners.” The child put her tiny hand so trustingly in the calloused palm of Sister Ursula that the nun was momentarily inclined to forgive her.

Or perhaps the good woman saw a flash of her old Adversary in the dark eyes of the little girl, and did not want to confront him then. “Where are your shoes and stockings?” she demanded.

“Here,” said Dorcas, showing them, “but I can’t put them on my dirty feet. I went in wading.” Sister Ursula, with a strength developed by years of domestic labor, picked up her charge and carried her back to the orphanage where Dorcas could be made presentable for the company of the other orphans and their caregivers. And if the patient nun felt a pang of regret that she had never had children of her own while she had the chance, she never said so to anyone.

And so Dorcas was raised more indulgently than many children with two parents alive, although she knew nothing of worldly luxury. She introduced several of the other orphans to the river and the woods, with their music of rippling water and rustling leaves. And as Dorcas’ young friends saw with delight the flash of a fin, the flicker of a furry tail or sunlight on feathers, they felt as though they too belonged in the world.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Places in the Background

by Annabeth Leong

I don’t enjoy writing in coffee shops, though there are times I’ve managed it. They’re too distracting. Interesting people are moving around, conversing about things that make me want to eavesdrop, parading haircuts that inspire my envy. The various machines whirr and swoosh. Baristas call names that make my head snap to attention. My name. The names of ex-lovers. The names of former bosses.

I need to write in places where the background acts like a background. My favorite places are a certain sort of outside. Warm or hot, so I’m not shivering. Isolated enough that I’m not always catching movement out of the corner of my eye. Close enough to where I live that I don’t have to trek a long way.

I tend to gravitate to bleachers in school parks. Maybe part of it is that I’m a huge baseball fan. I relax right away when I clamber up a good set of them, shoes ringing against the well-punished metal.

These days, I do compose entirely by computer sometimes, but I know what to do when I get stuck. Print that shit out and take it to the bleachers. I revised most of Untouched at the bleachers closest to my apartment, soothed by the scents of sunscreen, hot aluminum, and spring grass. I do lots of my initial thinking and outlining there. I sometimes do first drafts, and I often do the first couple of pages of a new project.

When it’s winter, I long for that place. I rack my brain thinking of sunny places that can substitute. There’s an atrium at one of the libraries in Providence that I’ll visit when I’m desperate. Sometimes, if it’s not outright icy, I’ll stick a notebook in my bag and try a nomadic sort of thing, walking to keep myself warm, composing in my head, pausing to write stuff down from time to time.

Most of the time, I use familiar walks and places to relax me enough to overcome the many anxiety-producing aspects of the blank page or blinking cursor. There have been a few times, though, when I tried it the other way, leaning on writing to counteract the enormity of my location.

I once tried to hike Mount Katahdin with my sister, who was just completing a northward hike of the Appalachian trail. The short story is that I wasn’t remotely in shape to keep up with her. After a morning of pushing myself to my mental and physical limits, we were both at our wits’ ends.

I didn’t know how much more I had in me, and I looked ahead and saw several ascents still rising ahead of me. I also knew that the plan was for us to climb down a trail known as “the knife edge.” I deeply questioned the past version of me who thought a trail with a name like that would be a thing I could handle.

She was exhausted and frustrated by putting up with my slowness, which held her back from climbing with the friends she’d made over the course of the trail. Not only that, she was physically dragging me up certain rock faces.

We reached a plateau, and I had a powerful epiphany. There are many cliches about not quitting and never giving up, but I recognized the deeper wisdom of the one about knowing when to hold and when to fold. It was time to fold. I found a spot where my fear of heights didn’t feel too intense, sat down, and told her to go to the top without me. “I’ll be here, and I’ll be fine,” I said. “Just please come back for me because I know I can’t get down by myself.”

In truth, it was scary to watch her disappear into the mist, knowing I’d need a helicopter to get me down if she didn’t come back. I sat alone on the side of the mountain, water bottle propped between my ankles, and I pulled out my notebook and started planning a story.

I’ve never actually written it, though I still have the outline. I was thinking about times when heroism isn’t enough, when it’s time to fold, and I tried to come up with a story reflecting that. More than the story itself, though, I was interested in the act of writing, a lifelong habit that I thought might make this awe-inspiring and terrifying place move into the background so my racing heart could slow.

And it worked. When she came back for me, I was deep into my notebook and able to hike to the bottom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Night at the Movies

 by Daddy X

I could mention a hotel window I know in Verona. But all that would do is inspire me to sing opera. While I’ve never been good at singing, or particularly fond of opera, I am fond of sex. Yum. Not that I wouldn’t want to have sex in Verona while hanging (banging?) out a window. Singing.

But never mind all that. I found an inspiration much closer to home.

On June 6, I attended an evening at the San Francisco Center for Sex and Culture, promoted by M. Christian through his involvement in Digital Parchment Services. Quite inspiring. The speaker that night, Chris’s partner in the project, was Jean Marie Stine who worked for the sex film industry in the 60’s and 70’s. Her droll delivery and wry sense of humor was both entertaining and enlightening.

Most of William (Bill) Rotsler’s films were, compared to today’s standards, soft-core, featuring simulated sex. Although he did some hard core stuff toward the end of his movie career, he was known more for the simulated variety. There were no home computers and VCR tapes were just being developed; so if anyone saw his films, they likely saw them at porn houses. At that time it was all considered transgressive.

Rotsler was more than a filmmaker, proficient at many things, a true renaissance man. One of his many mainstream accomplishments was the novelization of the film “Arachnophobia”. His stories won five Hugo awards. His sculpture occupies public space in Los Angeles and he designed the Nebula Award trophies.

Digital Parchment Services is a complete ebook and print-on-demand service for literary
 estates and literary agents with clients who want to self-publish new and out-of- print
books and see these titles made available to the public. They have resurrected William
Rotsler’s classic work: “The Golden Age of Erotic Cinema” as well as reprinting his

The three-session program is over for now, but anyone interested in Digital Parchment Services or William (Bill) Rotsler may try these links:

The Golden Age Of Erotic Cinema (1959-1972)
The estate-authorized William Charles Rotsler site http://www.williamcharlesrotsler.com

The estate-authorized William Charles Rotsler site – featuring his adult films and photography (http://rotsler-erotic-cinema.blogspot.com)

Digital Parchment Services (http://digitalparchmentservices.com)

For information please feel free to contact mchristian@digitalparchmentservices.com

Watching sex films featuring all those cute hippie chicks who I fell in love with back in the day makes me want to have sex. Or at least to write about it, given I can’t always find a willing partner at this age. (Thank goodness Momma X still comes across :>) 

So, here’s a flasher inspired by that night at the (smut) movies:

                                                           Half Masked                        

What if Eleanor’s father sees the film? Or one of his lowlife relatives? Even if she didn’t actually go all the way. 

“If you keep refusing to fuck,” said the flustered director, “lose the mask. I’m not paying for that sweet face unless it’s covered in jizz.”

“I’ll still suck somebody off. Maybe just a half-mask. We could go with a New Orleans theme. Mardi Gras. I’ll wear pasties and a feathered merkin. 

“Sounds like a cool outfit, sweetcakes. But what about the money shot? Producer wants semen in those pretty eyebrows.”

“Shit. Do I hafta?”

“That or fuck. Plus—take a look at who you’d have to blow.”

“Oh my god. He’s old!”

“Hah! Wouldn’t you rather fuck? At least you’d get somebody more your age.”

The grizzled derelict shuffled up in a collapsed hat, his limp, pasty cock hanging visible between the flaps of a stained overcoat. “Suck on this baby-” he muttered.

“So why does he get to wear a mask?”

“Not the same, honey,” said the director. “Robber’s mask looks creepier, and nobody’s gooping up his face.”


 “Now take it off!”

“Him first. I can’t wear a mask, neither does he.”

“Okay—take it off, Herman.”

“ … Uncle Herman?”


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesday Morning is the Best Time to Arrive in Havana by Suz deMello

Some of the creative graffiti I saw in Havana Centro, near where I stayed.

I travel as much as I can, not just for inspiration but for engagement. When I'm unhappy, the best way for me to get away from the source of my distress is to leave (duh). Additionally, when I travel, especially to someplace new, I'm deeply engaged in my life and have no mental space for worrying about whatever it was that was bothering me. When I don't know the language, don't know where I'm staying, don't know where I'll eat my next meal, I have a lot more to focus on rather than dwelling on my last unhappy love affair.

And so it was with my latest trip out of the USA. After the president announced plans to open the USA's relationship with Cuba, I decided to travel there ASAP so as not to see Havana when its skyline would be dominated by the Starbucks mermaid and the Golden Arches.

But I really screwed this one up.

At this time, Cuba has no banking relationship with the USA. That means that you have to have money in hand before you leave for Cuba, because your ATM card and credit card won't work there. So I planned to go to Cancun, withdraw a bunch of pesos, fly to Cuba and change them to the local currency there.

There are hordes of tourists in Havana.
They're just not Americans.
Unfortunately, I neglected to tell my bank, so when I started to withdraw money, I got maybe $400 and then...nada. Zip. Zero.

I emailed my bank to no avail.

I tried to phone, but neither my hotel phone nor my cellie would get through (Damn you, Virgin!)

So I landed in Cuba with maybe a quarter of the funds I needed to have a really good time, or even to eat three meals daily.

I told myself that this was a good time to lose weight.

I shared a taxi from the airport into Havana with a couple of Ukrainian dudes and immediately paid the host of my casa particular for the stay. Alex was extremely kind, allowing me the use of his computer so I wouldn't have to pay a hotel at their business center for internet access--I was trying desperately to make sure I'd have enough money for the next phase of my journey, which was Isla Mujeres.

Despite my straitened circumstances, I had a good time researching my next

story, One Hot Havana Night. I couldn't afford taxis, so I walked all over Havana Vieja, the tourist quarter, where I set my story. A friendly expat showed me a lunchroom where I could eat a huge meal for $1-2--so that's where I ate. It was pretty good food--a protein (eggs, chicken or meat) with a little salad, plus rice and beans--typically Cuban meals. I even had enough left over so I could go to a bar and get a drink while listening to the local music every night.

Havana was great, but it's nevertheless a tourist trap. It's just that the tourists aren't Americans. Lots of Europeans, especially Italians, and a number of Japanese.

The Victor Hugo house inspired
the setting for my story
I learned a lot. Most people seemed pretty contented. As for the economic system, while I heard someone complain that they work really hard for little money, I saw only one or two people who seemed to be badly off. Everyone else looked happy and well-fed, though not obese. I saw many of the famous classic American cars, but I saw a lot of new cars as well--Peugeots and Kias, Hyundais and even Benzes. I just didn't see newer American cars. That's because Cuba isn't isloated at all. It's just that we don't have an economic relationship with them. Other countries have been trading with Cuba quite happily.

Still, I can't say that the place is well run. The Castros seem to be good at getting and keeping power, and not so hot at using it. Many
of the old, beautiful buildings are crumbling, though I must say that they're making an effort to resurrect them. Many streets are dug up as improvements are being made. And this brings me to the title of this post.

So why is Tuesday morning the best time to arrive in Havana?

Because the trash is picked up Monday night, at least in the part of Havana where I stayed. Until then, it's thrown into giant Dumpsters by the locals. As you can imagine, the garbage gets pretty ripe in the tropical heat. 

But Havana smells great on a Tuesday morning.


One Hot Havana Night will be available on July 1 in the Naughty Escapes anthology. 

Here’s where you can preorder a copy:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Faraway Places, Faraway Times

Sacchi Green

Long ago, as a kid, I dreamed of traveling around the world, living in very different places, seeing people and countries like the ones I encountered in my voracious reading. The India of Kipling. The China of Pearl Buck. The Thailand of Anna and the King of Siam. Yes, I realized later that everything I’d read was written by European observers. Europe and the UK were closer, but seemed just as entrancing; the England of Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes, the France of Colette’s Claudine at School. Yes, I realized even at the time that it wasn’t just faraway places I craved, but faraway times.

Thinking about places that inspire me, though… That’s a different matter. I’ve written several stories set in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I have a cabin retreat beside a river that flows down from Mt. Washington, so I could truthfully say that I was inspired by that region.

But there’s another place, one I’ve tried harder to describe in writing than any other. One that defies description. The Grand Canyon is as much a place in time as in space. I’ve only been there three times, but dreamed of it long before that, ever since my favorite aunt gave me a subscription to the magazine Arizona Highways when I was about twelve. None of that excuses my presumption in using it as a setting for erotica, but after all, the Canyon doesn’t care. It just is.

Here’s a series of excerpts from my story “Bright Angel,” published in Best Lesbian Erotica 2007 (Cleis Press) and again in my collection A Ride to Remember (Lethe Press). I hope it’s not too disjointed this way to make any sense, but I tried to pick the passages most related to the setting.

 Bright Angel
Sacchi Green

Maura lounged against the railing, gazing out over the vast, bright gulf of stone dropping away at her feet. Dark sunglasses masked her green eyes, and those famous waves of long chestnut hair were tied down by a Hermes scarf rippling in the breeze. "Are you trying to tell me all this was carved by that little trickle of a river?”

In spite of her studied nonchalance, I could tell she was as awestruck as any other tourist.  "The Colorado's wider than it looks from this distance. And it was carrying billions of grains of rasping sand over millions of years." I didn't look toward the river at all, gazing only at Maura's slim, vivid form. The view of the Grand Canyon from Mather Point had gripped me often enough over the years, and I had photographed it for many a magazine and guidebook, but long ago I'd come to terms with the inability of the human mind to fully comprehend its grandeur. Comprehending Maura, however, might still be within my grasp.
Did I even know who she was any more?
"Hey Roby," Maura said, without turning her head, "Too bad you don't have the balls to fuck me right here." Oh yeah. I still knew exactly who she was. "If you'd had the foresight to wear a skirt," I told her, "You'd be bent over that railing right now praying you could hold on long enough to ride my fist to glory." I pressed closer and reached around to unzip the fly of her elegantly cut jeans. "You could still drop your trousers and make all these amateur photographers rich on sales to the tabloids. Or you can let it simmer a while, and I'll fuck you somewhere even better."
While I checked in at Bright Angel Lodge, Maura watched the tourists signing up to ride down the nearby Bright Angel Trail tomorrow morning. Even in April, well before the high season, there was heavy traffic along the route. This late in the afternoon we wouldn't have had long to wait to see the mule train returning from the river at the bottom of the canyon, four-fifths of a mile straight down and eight miles of switch-backing trail below, but I had no intention of waiting. Our cabin out behind the Lodge perched close to the edge, with just room for a narrow path and a wind-gnarled pinõn pine between its wall and the canyon's rim. Even a year ahead of time it had taken luck and the pulling of few strings to get the reservation.
The furnishings were of comfortably updated 1930s craft design, highlighting natural wood tones and artistically simple lines. The stone fireplace incorporated specimens of all the different rock strata revealed by the river's carving of the canyon, from pre-Cambrian black Vishnu Schist to the Kaibab Limestone of recent millennia. The platform bed was modern, wide, and inviting. Maura prodded the mattress with a manicured finger, sat on the edge, then lay back. She eyed me speculatively.

"You must need to rest a while after your trip," I said with exaggerated solicitude. "Go ahead, take it easy. I understand." I began to unpack, hanging things in the closet, watching for her next move. She got up and started to unbutton her shirt. Not a bad idea. The day was getting hot. So was I, but I wasn't ready to take her deceptive bait. Maura is never that easy.

My own bait was more subtle. I moved into the living room, pulled open the curtains of the window beside the fireplace, and crossed to the far side to set my cameras and equipment out on a table. Maura followed.  I didn't let her catch me watching, but she knew I could see her in the mirror as she shed her jacket and peeled off a tank top damp with sweat. She hadn't bothered with a bra. Then, to enhance the temptation, she turned around to present a rear view while wriggling out of her jeans. Her lovely ass-cheeks paused in mid-wriggle as she saw the view presented by the wide window.

The vista, tinted gold and copper by the late afternoon sun, was breathtaking. Maura gripped her loosened jeans tightly and edged past chairs and coffee table to gaze out, spellbound. It was the same scene she had surveyed from the rim outside, but somehow intensified, made more personal, more deceptively comprehensible, by the framing effect of the window. From inside it looked as though the cabin extended right out over the shining void.
I gathered her thick chestnut hair in my fist and yanked her head back. "Surprise, my knees aren't all that decrepit yet," I hissed into her ear, and brought my right one hard up against her ass. She jerked, but spread her legs to let me thrust between her thighs and nudge into her crotch.  "You wonder how the river carves a canyon through rock?" I asked. "You think you're stone? Haven't I cut my petroglyphs into you?" My other hand worked its way around to her belly and slid down to her shaved pubic mound. The scars I'd given her, where even bikini photo spreads wouldn't reveal them, were too shallow for my fingertips to find like this, but I knew they were there; four tiny, curving lines forming a delicate circle like a secret mandala, cut by the business end of an ice-climbing screw.

"I suppose you think the water always flows gently, smoothly, taking forever to wear away resistance." My fingers moved lower, stroking gently, too gently, over her clit and lush outer lips. "Working down through layer after layer, " I went on, going deeper, sliding back and forth in her growing slickness, keeping it up slowly, slowly, as the silk gag muffled her accelerating whimpers of demand. When she arched into my touch, desperate for more, harder, faster, I drew my fingers away and approached from the other side, starting with long strokes down between her buttocks and into the tender strata of her soaking crotch.  "But sometimes storms batter at the rocks, and spring floods from mountain snowmelt surge through the ravines." I was really getting into it now. "The water pounds, thrashes, filled with sharp silt and uprooted trees." I raised my hand suddenly to the nape of her neck, still holding her hair roughly back. The scent of her juices on my fingers roused my own..  ***
I spread my fingers then and slapped hard, again and again, marking her buttocks with red hand prints like the marks on the walls of ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings far below in the Canyon. Suddenly Maura lurched backward, pushing off from the window sill, nearly toppling me. I lifted her just enough to swing her around and then dropped her hard onto the Navajo rug in front of the fireplace. In the seconds it took for me to get a latex glove from my pocket onto my hand she had torn off her gag and kicked her pants free of her ankles, and now she crouched, long hair falling forward to veil her face, her butt lifted toward me and her swollen labia exposed.  "Do it!" she snarled, so ready that there was no need for lube. I thrust into her, slid out, thrust again, and then she was pumping herself onto me, heaving, panting, her cries rising higher as my other hand pinched her nipples. When the spasms struck, tightening her cunt around my hand and wrist like a trap, I supported her until her grip finally loosened and I could withdraw, gently, holding her wide open for a few seconds and admiring her glistening folds. "Dusky rose," I said softly, "Like the sandstone layers of the canyon wall at dawn."

Maura whispered something I could barely hear. I leaned closer. "Was this the 'better place' you had in mind?" "No," I said honestly, not sure whether she was working up to another challenge. "This was just an opportunity seized. You'll know when you get there."

And she did.  It wasn't along the rim trail or at any of the famous points where cameras clustered, not even Pima Point at sunset when the river winding far below to the west turned briefly into a ribbon of gold. It wasn't the moonlit vista of the canyon as we leaned together against a spreading branch of the pinõn pine outside our own cabin. It wasn't anyplace that easy.

We were up at dawn the next morning, breakfasting on the Bright Angel Lodge terrace. "Why 'Bright Angel?'" Maura asked.  I told her about Major John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River, and the story that after his men named one muddy incoming stream the Dirty Devil, the Major had compensated by dubbing the first clear creek they came to Bright Angel, flowing down from the north to join the river across from what later became Bright Angel Trail. I thought, watching Maura's beautiful face, as luminescent in its own way as the morning light suffusing the mist rising from far below, that he must also have been thinking of Lucifer before the Fall, Milton's "angel bright" of Paradise Lost.

Or, just possibly, he had known someone like Maura.
"Just a little farther," I said, urging her past the spring, its fringe of greenery lively with small birds. "We'll fill our water bottles on the way back." A hundred feet off the trail, through a crevice between boulders, we were on a narrow shelf out of sight of passing climbers at our own level. Our view of sky and rock seemed as wide as infinity, and hikers and rafters deep in the Canyon could see us easily if they looked up; see us, but not clearly enough even with binoculars to recognize Maura's features from past magazine spreads or future appearances on the big screen.

Maura stood with her arms outstretched like wings and her back to the cliff. Just above her head a twisted juniper grew out from a cleft in the rock, casting a tracery of shadows across her face. "This is the place," she said with certainty. "Right here. Right now."  I drew a wet trail with my tongue along her dusty cheek and kissed her, for once, gently. For once, she allowed the tenderness, kissing back with more sensuality than challenge. Maybe wearing her out was the secret. Or did the vastness of the world spread out before us make petty conflict seem too insignificant? More likely, it was just that she had grander things on her mind than private games.

"Roby...do you think anyone is watching?" Her fingers scrabbled in haste at the buttons of her shirt, and when she'd cast it aside and yanked off the tank top beneath, she went to work on the silver Navajo belt buckle purchased just yesterday. Sunlight glinted from its highly polished surface like spears of fire.

"I'd bet there are at least a dozen pairs of binoculars and as many cameras aimed right up there," I told her, pointing out the peregrine falcon riding the breeze above us, undoubtedly watching for one of the small birds by the spring to stray from the sheltering shrubbery. "And now that you've been wriggling hard enough to flash signals from that silver mirror sliding down along with your pants, most of them must be checking you out, and calling their buddies to look, too."

Maura kicked aside her jeans and raised her arms. Her fingers could just grasp the gnarled trunk of the juniper. "Tie me," she said.  I pulled the bandanna loose from her hair. A twist around slender wrists and up over the juniper, and she was bound just far enough out from the cliff for me to slide behind her and press my thigh hard up against her butt, bending my knee slightly, taking some of her weight. That juniper must have been clinging to life here for a hundred years or more; I hoped to spare its roots for another hard-won century, in spite of her thrashing. And she would thrash.

"So show them what you've got, girl," I muttered in her ear as I pulled on a latex glove. I'm not sure she even heard me. Her focus was far out over the bright canyon, past labyrinthine ravines and spurs and phallic turrets carved by water, wind, and time. The sharp pinch of my fingers on her breasts grabbed her attention, though, and over her shoulder I watched pink nipples swell and darken into nubbled peaks as wildly beautiful as any rock formation.

To tell the truth, I am a bit ashamed of using the Canyon like this. But after a bookstore reading a few years ago a young man, a beginning writer, came to me afterward and thanked me, saying he’d never realized you could do all that in erotica. So there’s that.

“Bright Angel” is the second of three stories I’ve written about these characters. The third one, “Meltdown,” takes place in my other inspirational place, the Mount Washington Valley, and has just recently been published in Don’t Be Shy from Ylva Publishing.