Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Like Hearts Enchanted

I love the cover of Like Hearts Enchanted, edited by Kathleen Tudor and Cecilia Tan. It'll be out soon from Circlet, and it includes a story of mine, "Violets." The original call described the anthology as follows: Everyone has experienced some form of unrequited love, but what if you could wave a magic wand or brew yourself a potion to turn things around? Would there be unintended consequences, or unforeseen troubles to overcome? How far would you go to bring love into your own life? Would you climb an enchanted mountain for that all-important ingredient? Or perhaps you’re not the caster of the spell… you’re the target. From singing sirens of the sea to faerie enchantresses, the storybooks are full of mortals being lured by lust, love, and magic. A love spell is cast… you show us what happens next.

I wanted my story to feel soft--my love spell would come as a gentle epiphany, revealing feelings already present but buried beneath the surface. Violets quickly became my guide.

According to Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses:
Violets contain ionone, which short-circuits our sense of smell. The flower continues to exude its fragrance, but we lose the ability to smell it. Wait a minute or two, and its smell will blare again. Then it will fade again, and so on. How like [Napoleon's] Josephine, a woman of full-bodied if occasionally recondite sensuality, to choose as her trademark a scent that assaults the nose with a dam-burst of odor one second, and the next leaves the nose virginal, only to rampage yet again. No scent is more flirtatious. Appearing, disappearing, appearing, disappearing, it plays hide and seek with our senses, and there's no way to get too much of it.

The image of the violet's elusive scent stuck with me. When I found that violets traditionally have a connection to the Virgin Mary, I had my story. The connection provided a tradition in which the magic could take place.

I'm excited to see the entire book, and I'll post more about "Violets"--including an excerpt--when it's closer to the anthology's release date.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Music Mondays: "Tongue Tied" by Grouplove

"Take me to your best friend's house. Marmalade, we're making out--oh, yeah."

The lyrics are simple, and they don't make a whole lot of sense. But the song is an awesome teenage house party in recorded form, the bass is satisfying, and this is the most infectious song I've heard in a long time. Seriously, it's been stuck in my head for days. You're welcome.

What's sexy about it? The idea of making out at your best friend's house is evocative, innocent, and sexy. Lines like "slumber party pillow fight" epitomize the sense of awakening that comes with being a teenager--you're just realizing how hot it can be to roll around with pillows, but you can still get away with doing it.

Bonus things to notice:

--In the spoken-word part, she says, "Let's bump the beats till beddie-bye."

--One of the singers is totally trying to look and sound like The Cure's Robert Smith. It's especially apparent immediately after the spoken-word part.

--The luchadores remind me of the rabbit in Donnie Darko.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lesbian Cops: Lambda Literary Award Finalist!

Sacchi Green's excellent collection, Lesbian Cops, of which I am proud to be a part, is a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award's lesbian erotica category.

Competition in that category looks quite stiff. There's also a collection written by Green, A Ride to Remember, and Story of L, written by one of my favorite authors, Debra Hyde. I haven't read the fourth finalist, Lesley Gowan's The Collectors, but considering how awesome the others are, I will have to remedy that situation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Beyond Romance

Lisabet Sarai has generously invited me to Beyond Romance today, where I discuss Less Than a Day and write about how I'm always in bed with a stranger:

When I started writing erotica, I got fascinated by how I could characterize people by how they have sex. Well-meaning people often say you should "be friends first" before jumping into bed with someone, but you don't have to talk to learn about someone. Sex uncovers plenty.

Does she refuse to receive pleasure, clinging to the power of a long blow job with no oral reciprocation? Does he make noise when he comes? Does she like to stroke his ass between hits with the flogger? Does he kiss or bite or both?

These are the sorts of clues that bring me closer to a lover, the little secrets that make me feel intimate with someone. They're also mysteries. Who the hell is this person anyway, and why does he or she do that?

Read the rest here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Music Mondays: "A Woman's Worth" by Alicia Keys

"A real woman knows a real man ain't afraid to please her."
--Alicia Keys

This song is more than 10 years old now, but I recently listened to it again. It's got such a sexy sound and I'll confess that sometimes it brings tears to my eyes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If You Want More On the Year's Best Sex Writing...

Yesterday, I posted my piece of the virtual book tour for Best Sex Writing 2012. There are a bunch of interesting blogs participating, so I'd recommend checking out the book tour link if you'd like to travel with the book.

Some quick highlights so far:

Giselle Renarde posted about "Sluts, Walking" on Donuts and Desires.

The Erotic Literary Salon posted an interview with editor Rachel Kramer Bussel that's well worth checking out.

Author Tim Elhajj, whose piece "An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career" was one of my favorites in the book, posted some more details about what he wrote.

There's plenty more awesome on the tour, so take a look.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Music Mondays: "Kitty" by The Presidents Of The United States of America

"Pussy purrin' and lookin' so satisfied."
--The Presidents of the United States of America

You might remember The Presidents Of The United States of America from the 90s -- they were the ones with the incomprehensible lyrics and the irresistible riffs. She was lump, she was lump, and in his head. They were going to the country to eat a lot of peaches. I didn't know what the hell they were talking about, but I always turned up the radio when they came on.

I recently heard "Kitty" on the radio and was blown away by its sexual energy. On the surface, it's just about a cat. The cat wants to be petted. The narrator wants to pet the cat. Then the cat scratches him. He sends it to spend the night outside, but he still wants to touch it. So you could argue it's not about sex.

But you can't sing lines like "pussy purrin' and lookin' so satisfied" without being aware of the double entendre. I'd suggest that the simple narrative above has a sly double meaning--a story of a sexy woman who, despite the pain she causes the narrator, keeps him wanting to touch it.

Best Sex Writing 2012

I've written in the past about how I think erotica is a sacred calling, but I should expand the statement. Writing about sex is a sacred calling. I spent so long walking around wounded or confused about sex, afraid to say anything. I spent more time not knowing how to share my sexual joys. I love one-handed reading, for sure. But over the past few years, I've also become a huge fan of the Best Sex Writing series, published by Cleis Press.

I'm participating in this year's blog tour for Best Sex Writing 2012, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. The writing is honest, challenging, and exciting. There was a piece that really pissed me off and plenty of pieces that got me thinking.

Cleis was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to check it out, so I'm going to do a quick rundown of the pieces that made the biggest impression on me and why.

"Sluts, Walking" by Amanda Marcotte:

"I expect that when a man thinks a woman being sexy means that she isn't smart or deserving of basic respect, you know everything you need to know about him, and he is the one who has forfeited his right to be treated with respect, not the woman he claims provoked him."
Thank you, Amanda Marcotte, for giving a clear, cogent rundown of this issue. I need to hear it to relieve my own twists of thought and my sense of shame. I think we all need to hear it, over and over, until it really sinks in.

"Atheists Do It Better: Why Leaving Religion Leads to Better Sex" by Greta Christina:

"In debates with atheists, many believers argue for religion on the basis of how good it makes them feel. They argue that religion is emotionally useful, psychologically useful, socially useful: that religion gives people a sense of meaning, moral guidance, comfort in hard times, etc. ... But if this argument is to be believed, this usefulness argument is conclusively shown to be bogus--even on its own terms. At least when it comes to sex."
Greta Christina wrote on of my favorite pieces of erotica ever ("Bending," published in Three Kinds of Asking For It), so I was sorry to be so irritated by this piece. While I found the study data Christina cited (about sexual guilt and religion) very interesting, I disliked the essay's evangelical tone. I am a believer, and I've used the utility argument she describes when talking to atheists. But I'll tell you why: because I don't want to get into trying to prove the existence of God to someone. I actually don't want to argue at all (my personal approach to religion). I do believe, however, that God is real. Christina's essay convinced me that I need to be more upfront about that, to avoid disingenuous discussions and irritating treatises that won't convince anyone who isn't already convinced. I probably need to write a whole post on this one, but my brief response is that God and religion are like family to me. They come with a bunch of baggage and guilt, true, but I personally can't escape them. Being raised by my parents left me with a huge need for therapy, but they're still my parents. Religion's in the same category for me.

"I Want You to Want Me" by Hugo Schwyzer:

"So many straight men have no experience of sensing a gaze of outright longing."
One of my favorite pieces in the book. As a woman who has often felt ashamed of my "slutty" desire for the male body, which I've never been able to conceal, it's really interesting to read about the male experience of the female gaze. My partner loves reducing me to speechlessness by revealing his body and this essay gave me a better sense of what's going on with that. As I've written before, I realized at some point that a lot of erotica doesn't really describe the male body. I think it's why a lot of women are drawn to gay porn and m/m writing--we really do like the male body. I would love to live in a world where women felt free to express their true desires.

"Grief, Resilience, and My 66th Birthday Gift" by Joan Price:

"Robert would never touch me again, and I had to find my own way to reclaim the sensual and sexual life within me."
This piece made me cry. It's lovely and brave and I've since been recommending Joan Price's work right and left. I am a young woman, but I find writing by mature women about their sexuality very empowering and comforting, perhaps because it makes it clear that my sexuality isn't something that will just go away once I pass menopause. The wisdom, compassion, and sense of self that were so clear in this essay will all serve me well someday.

"An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career" by Tim Elhajj:
"I was about to be forced to tear off the mask I had worn throughout high school. About to stand revealed before the adult world and acknowledge who I really was: a heterosexual male who struggled with authority, an indiscriminate rebel who had a weakness for a little good head."
I love the complexity of sexual identity that Elhajj lays out in his essay. Military officers repeat to him, "You are a homosexual," and his writing makes it clear what an outrage it is for someone else to define your sexual identity for you.

"The Careless Language of Sexual Violence" by Roxane Gay:
"It was an 11-year-old girl whose body was ripped apart, not a town. It was an 11-year-old girl whose life was ripped apart, not the lives of the men who raped her. It is difficult for me to make sense of how anyone could lose sight of that, and yet it isn't."
Another topic, unfortunately, that really needs to be discussed. And thank you to Roxane Gay for a brutally clarifying discussion of rape and what it is and means.

"Penis Gagging, BDSM, and Rape Fantasy: The Truth About Kinky Sexting" by Rachel Kramer Bussel:
"Without the motivation of the person sending and receiving [bits of erotic conversation], you really don't know anything, and yet a default anti-BDSM reaction seems to be acceptable. Our public squeamishness over the fact that some people can eroticize pain, degradation, and being ordered around, safely, consensually, and pleasurably, is nothing more than a prejudice that needs to be eradicated."
I have reams of chat logs that would make a lot of people seriously wonder about me. I like the solidarity of sex writing. When one person speaks up, it lets other people know that what they're doing can't be so terribly weird. I admire the bravery it takes to single yourself out and reveal what's in your bed, your closet, or saved on your computer.

"Adrian's Penis: Care and Handling" by Adrian Colesberry:
"Adrian holds no delusions about women wanting a man to last forever. In his experience, they resoundingly haven't. It's great for those first few times when you just can't get enough of each other, but after that, if you are anything like every woman he's ever been with, you'll be over it."
This piece is hilarious, real, and refreshingly honest. Written in a style that reminds me of David Foster Wallace (complete with footnotes) it is wry, self-deprecating, and friendly, while also cutting to the core of what's so damn uncomfortable about having sex with people who aren't you.

"Love Grenade" by Lidia Yuknavitch:

"We ate each other we ate pickled herring we ate Gruyere cheese. We ate the animal out of each other's bodies we ate steak we ate chocolate two women my chocolate. We drank each other we drank all the beer we drank all the wine we peed outside. We got high on skin and cum and sweat we got high on pot. We came in waves we ran out and into the waves."
Poetic and cutting. I had a hard time picking a quote for this one because you just have to read the whole thing. Quite different from the rest of the pieces in the book because it's much less intellectual. I was glad for it.


Looking back, I've written a blurb for more than a third of the pieces in the book and I could easily do more. Every page is well worth reading. I highly recommend it.

For more information about the book, you can visit this page. Here's the book trailer:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On The Red Hills of Georgia

I got into writing erotica partly because I found myself telling more of the truth when I wrote in the genre--not just about sex, but about life. Topics I avoided in other writing (addiction, hopelessness, hopefulness, politics, abuse, gender issues, and many more) suddenly carried irresistible attraction. In the realm of the forbidden, nothing is sacred and everything is worth discussing. My pseudonym became a rallying cry for my psyche, braver than me, bolder, sexier, and smarter.

One of the biggest tests of this to date came with my story, "On the Red Hills of Georgia," which posted last week at Every Night Erotica. I've written about all kinds of things, but race always seemed too delicate, too dangerous, too easy to get wrong.

But like sex itself, if you're not willing to get it wrong, you're going to be boring for the rest of your life. And while this story has a serious subject and message, it's got lots of sex, too. Here's an excerpt:
Maureen shifted uncomfortably. She had hoped for a huge cock the night she’d met Kareem at a club. But she still wouldn’t have given her number to just anyone–or, at least, she didn’t think so.

Kareem pursed his lips and lay back down. “Baby, people like what they like. I don’t know if we can control that. Maybe when I see you’re an Asian girl, there’s a bunch of stuff I expect with that. Maybe you’re doing the same thing to me. But it’s been a year, and I think I see the person you are, too. You know?”

His words made sense, but what he’d made her discover inside herself had her burning with shame. She tried to find a comfortable position. She couldn’t bring herself to face him right now, or to hold him.

He sighed. “You think too much, Maureen.” He turned her toward him, running his hands up and down her spine, parting her legs, wrapping them around his waist.

The best part of Kareem’s body was actually his tongue, not his cock. On their first date, he’d put a cherry stem from her drink into his mouth. A moment later, he showed it to her on his tongue, tied in a perfect knot.

He slid down her body. Her cunt had already gotten wet at some point, and her juices trailed up his chest until he sank his face into her folds. He handled her easily, one hand gripping her ass and the other feeding fingers into her cunt–one, then two, then three. She clenched around his fingers while he traced his tongue in patterns over her clit with exquisite, teasing patience.

Eventually, she came hard enough to forget her worries.

Read the rest here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Music Mondays: "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye (featuring Kimbra)

"Told myself that you were right for me, but felt so lonely in your company. But that was love, and it's an ache I still remember."

The video is really what makes me clasify this song as "sexy." The loving journey of the camera up and down the singers' naked bodies totally works for me. Gotye's a normal-looking dude (not cut like a model or anything), but I found myself really enjoying the sight of him. Leg, chest, stomach, happy trail... We don't have enough images of naked men--there's this mistaken belief that people only want to look at women. (For more on that, see Hugo Schwyzer's excellent essay in Best Sex Writing 2012.)

And, um, Kimbra... I seem to have a bit of a crush.

Also, the song is awesome. Check out the harmonies between the two singers, the neat plucking effect of the background music, and the addictive chorus.