Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Writer's Cat

Cats are seemingly the "must have" accessory for a writer. Most every writer I know has one, or three.


I have cats. More accurately, they have me. Not once have these animals helped me in my writing. They distract me by being cute, they demand to be pet, and they walk over my keyboard and delete things. Accident? Hah!

They are remorseless critics.

Aptly named Loki thinks that my computer is his playground. He only climbs on it while I'm working.

Skitters likes my computer chair. (Excuse me, HER computer chair) Every time I leave to pick up the newspapers Loki and Skitters knock onto the floor, Skitters moves in.

(Hmmm. Do you think they conspired to get me out of the chair?)

Look at that face. Would you evict a cat who is so clearly thinking, "If you make me move, I'm going to come into your bedroom at night and suck the breath right out of you!"

(We titled this picture "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!")

So what is it about writers and cats?

Are other writers mind-linked to their feline familiars? Do those cats inspire? Is there something about them that helps with the writing process?

Maybe my cats are defective.

Of course, Loki and Skitters probably believe that there's something defective about me. "We've been trying to mind-link to her about tuna for years, and she simply doesn't understand!"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Writing Exercise

The question arose on ERWA writer's list about how
much detail is enough, or too much, because a writer
was criticized for not sketching his
characters fully enough for that reader.

In erotica, we're building fantasies, but the reader
has to bring something to the table - their
imagination. Words are simply words until the reader
invests something of themselves into the story. It's the
reader that makes a story hot. So does the reader need
to have the vital stats on the characters? You know - hair,
lips, eyes, height, weight, cup size....

Some readers seem to need that hand holding, but I hate writing
like that. I don't think that hair color tells anything about
the character. I'd rather flesh out the picture in other ways.

That got me thinking about an exercise in writing. I
wondered if I could paint a picture in a reader's mind
without resorting to the vitals.

What if I were to describe the character by his/her
body language? As a starting place, I was thinking
back (way, way back) to high school and my Mom when
she came into my bedroom and saw that I'd painted
large rainbows on my walls.

(And no, this isn't erotica. Ew. It's my Mom, fer chrissakes.)

The raw (read: no rewrite) version:

My bedroom door bounced against the wall as Mom shoved it
open. Every feature of her face pulled in tight, from her
incredible disappearing lips to the skin around her
hard eyes. Underneath the pads of her suit jacket, her
shoulders were back and her arms were folded over her
starched white blouse. The toe of her black pump
tapped beside the can of red paint. Both eyebrows rose and
then settled like a dark cloud on the horizon.

My question is: can you see her? Can you see her well
enough that hair color is irrelevant?

Would it help if I quoted the first words out of her

"This better not cost me money to fix."

Do you have a better picture now?

(Yeah, Mom is quite the cuddly type.)

Does it add anything to slip in the information that
at the time she was being a blonde, her eyes are
hazel, she's 5' 5'', and is medium build? Or are you
willing to go with the picture your imagination threw
together - which may resemble your Mother when she was
pissed off.

Let me know.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Where Stories Come From

The origin of stories is a topic that comes up a lot in writer's groups.

Some people call inspiration a muse. Not to knock them, but I think I've seen too many plays where a velvet and fringe draped diva in a turban emotes about her muse to take that seriously. But stories come from somewhere. Even though I've written many, I'll admit that it's still a bit of mystery to me.

I live in LA and spend a lot of time in my car. Not all of the work of writing is in the typing, so I can sit in traffic and still be writing. If I'm actively working on a novel or a story, that's my time to puzzle through plot points or develop characters. If I don't have a story, or if I need distance from a current one, I let my mind wander.

Since I write erotica, one of my favorite questions to pose is, "What's hot?" Almost always the scene that pops in my mind is, as Kate Dominic puts it in her great collection of short stories, "Any 2 People Kissing." Or three. Or more. I also like people holding hands, especially same sex couples, because I'm awed by fearless love.

Other sights that make my pulse race: The brush of a hand across a lover's shoulder. That special, knowing laugh between a couple. Glimpses into their private world that show tenderness. Not overt sex, but sexuality. If I can capture that in a story, I know it will be hot.

Sometimes I get flashes of an idea that are so sketchy that they can't stand alone. I mentally file those away. Many times, I see my characters in terms of colors or seasons. It's the impressions that matter with those quick flashes.

I think, "What am I seeing?"
The end of an affair? Blue and purple. Winter trees. Grass that crunches underfoot.
The beginning? Green and yellow. Summer skirts. Camellias. Water.
My personal favorite- rekindled attraction. Red. Cozy blankets. An Autumn snap in the air. The scent of bushels of winesap apples in a wood shed.

Later, while reading a call for submissions or just by accident, these flashes will fall back into my thoughts and expand. Maybe they won't be the way I initially saw them, but those will be the feelings that anchor the story.

But where does it come from? My imagination, I suppose. And from life around me. Or maybe there is a muse whispering in my ear. If she'd only make herself visible, I could drive in the carpool lane.

Friday, July 22, 2005

On Erotica and Porn

Erotica. Porn. Smut. My personal favorite: wank fiction.

There is a never-ending debate about the differences between these labels.

One person's smut is another person's porn.
Porn is in the groin of the beholder.
I read erotica, you read porn.
Women read erotica, men look at porn.

I HATE this conversation, which, of course, means I have an opinion, the short answer, and the long "soliloquy at a party" answer.

The short of it:

The word EROTICA has more letters in it.

The pretentious writer's witty comment at a party answer:

Using the word EROTICA is like putting pantaloons over the limbs of the furniture in your front parlor so as not to incite the unnatural lusts of your gentlemen callers. But no matter how many frills you throw over it, it doesn't change what lies beneath.

The word PORN is like a buttercream rose on a birthday cake. You know it's no good for you. You know that you shouldn't indulge. You feel wicked for even wanting it in your mouth. But, oh, doesn't it feel good on the tongue? Say it with me. Porn.

You may make distinctions between the two, but beware, some people don't. In their minds, all smut is bad, and you are evil for even wanting it. To save your soul, they want to deny your right to wank. These are the same people who thought that they were doing a witch a favor when they tied her to a stake and lit the kindling.

So if you like your mildly titillating romantic erotica, you need to cut some slack for the guy in the grungy raincoat buying his porn. Because if we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.

Support the separation of Church and State.
Support free speech.
Power isn't taken. It's ceded.

Suicidal Trout

This is one I wish I had a picture for.

Better yet, I wish I had a video clip.

No one believes me when I tell this story, but I swear it's true. Even if it is a fish story.

I was camping up in the redwoods with my long suffering traveling companion and his friends. Long suffering traveling companion's idea of roughing it is going without high speed internet connection, so you can imagine how well sleeping in a tent went over. But he gamely bid his laptop goodbye and helped pack the car. (Besides, it was his friends we went with, so technically I was the good sport that went along on this one, but bringing that up seems to be an ISSUE with him, so we'll only mention it as a whispered aside. Shh! He's coming. Say nothing. Act casual.)

Anyway... His friends are nice, funny, intelligent, and great in measured doses. About half way through the second day, I decided I needed a break from Nice, Funny, Great, and especially Intelligent, so I grabbed a fishing pole and told them that I was going to fish. No one stumbled out of his lawn chair to come with, thank god, so I didn't have to make any excuses to get away.

(Note to self- losing Nice, Funny, Great, or specifically Intelligent in the woods is an option I must explore.)

(Second note to self - be sure to swipe their mobiles, GPS devices, and cookie crumbs before leading them into the woods.)

I hiked about twenty minutes away from camp through saplings and tiny redwoods. It was a hot day. Dust motes swarmed through shafts of sunlight coming through the trees. The air smelled like dust and pine sap, and I could hear the gurgle of water from a nearby stream. There was a decently wide pool in the stream, created by fallen logs. I waded in shallow part of the water to A) cool off, and, more importantly B) to let the fish know I was there, scare the bejeezus out of them, and insure that they would not bite.

I found a shady spot on a log, dropped a hook without bait into the water, and opened my book.

You might notice something here. I was actively trying to NOT CATCH A FISH.

Several reasons for that. First off, I'm not a fan of trout. I like salmon, but I've never really liked trout. Having grown up in Colorado, I've had my share of fresh trout pan fry, thanks.

Second - there were so many people back at camp that I'd have to catch eight fish to make dinner out of them. I wasn't allowed that many on my fishing license.

Third - I was on vacation. I didn't want to gut and scale eight fish. We were planning to hop in the cars and go out to the nearest log cabin bar for beer, dancing, and vittles that evening. Why would I screw up a perfectly sound plan like that by catching a fish?

So I settled in for an hour of solid peace. I listened to the wind in the trees. I listened to the water. I slapped at the vortex of small winged things that kept swarming into my hair. I breathed deeply and thought, "Ah, nature. Nice place to visit, wouldn't want to live here."

The sun was drowsy warm. I was reading some good smut by Greg Wharton, and pretending to fish. All was right in my little world.


And then world's only suicidal trout decided that was a good day to die. Stupid fucker swallowed my hook. Remember, I didn't put bait on the thing. I was using the hook more as a weight than anything serious. I didn't jiggle it or in any other way try to make it look enticing. But that damn trout had other ideas.

Cursing, I set aside my book. (I was to the pay off, the come shot, you masochistic little fish. You couldn't have waited another page?) I reeled in Mr. Rainbow. Eleven inches, uncut. For a fish, that wasn't bad.

It took forever to get the hook out of him, because I seriously didn't want to hurt him. The trout wasn't flopping much, which was good, because by then I had fish slime hands.

Now the part people can't believe.

I bent over to gently return him to the water, and he jumped suddenly over my head and into a pine tree. I grabbed for him, and he twisted and jumped again higher in the tree. Every time I tried to catch the fish, he climbed up a branch until I couldn't reach him anymore. Then he made a spectacular leap onto the trail beside the stream. Picture me running, stooped over, after a demented, suicidal trout as he twitched, flipped, and squiggled his way up the trail. Every time I bent down to grab him, he took off again. He finally boinked his head against a rock.

We both panted. I grabbed him to take him back to the water. Little fucker fought me every step of the way. His fins sliced my hands. Great - fish slime, stream water (read: nature's urinal) dirt, and an open cut. Can you say tetanus booster shot?

I finally got him back in the water. I rinsed fish stink off my hands, grabbed my book, and headed back for camp and the antibacterial ointment therein.

What would Hamlet have said? "Get thee to a city." Where the fish are sane and the living is easy.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Random Weirdness

Is this a word?

Notice the subtle finger gesture. Those nutty college kids....

At least we know the vandals weren't English majors. They surely would have altered BLANG too.

Funky balloon hats: $8.50. Your dignity: worthless.

The new fast dry cement they use takes all the fun out of sidewalk art. There's only enough time to flop out the package, trace it, scratch in your initials, and the damn stuff is set.

Note to self: learn to draw to scale. No one cares about the nine inches if the circumference is five millimeters.

P.S. What's up with frankenhead?

P.P.S. Effective advertising would have inlcuded a phone number.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oh Them Shoes

It's late afternoon. It's Friday. And it's payday.

The triple witching hour for prostitutes.

A few of the more industrious party girls are out working the boulevard as I drive home. Okay - I assume that they're prostitutes. In fairness, they might simply be scantily-clad young ladies in six inch come-fuck-me gold spiked heels who know the whip-thin weasel in the blue Trans-Am, and bend down through the passenger window for a quick negotiation - er, chat with him - before climbing in.

I'm wedged in traffic between a used-to-be-blue gardener's truck and a white convertible BMW who seems to think if he can narrow the distance between our bumpers to a micron, all will be right in his little world.

My window is down, a double edged sword. I can smell L.A. Citrusy eucalyptus. The Sees Candy factory. Hillside chaparral. A pungent cloud of spices wafting from Los Camerones... I can hear the city too. Spanish radio - spoken mas rapido. Rap trapped inside a Honda pounds against the windows trying to escape. Somewhere, blocks away, a siren.

It's all too much for Mr. BMW. He leans out of his car, tries to see around traffic, slumps back behind his wheel, and presses his horn with both hands.

Oh yeah - that helps. Now that you've worked your magic, traffic will miraculously clear.

Go back to the Westside where you belong, moron.

We're not moving anytime soon, so I check out the storefronts. That's when I see her. She's already past me, so I can't see her face, but oh god, her back has to be her best side. She's tall and she moves with athletic grace. Skin teddy-bear brown. Hair clipped short to her skull.

Oh honey, if I had an ass like that, I'd wear gold lame boyshorts that show off the under-cleavage of my perfect, tight, track star butt too. Each step she takes forward, I can see her ass cheek, the smooth skin of her thighs, the sway of her hips. I am enchanted, struck dumb by the sheer joy of watching her walk - for free! "Sweetheart," I want to yell out, "you could sell just that strut. Bottle it and let me drink it down! Let me snort the line of your legs."

But, seeing as I'm such a girl, the next thing I notice is that she's wearing the most perfect, killer, pair of patent leather boots on the face of the earth, and I want them! The heels aren't too high, just enough to force her to walk with the magnificent ass of hers thrust out to counter-balance. The patent leather is so glossy that pure white light halos gleam on the curve of her calves.

I'm so jealous that I start hoping she's a CD. For some reason, if it's a guy, it makes it okay that he has better shoes than I do. I inch forward along with traffic, hoping to get far enough ahead to get a package check in front, and maybe ask where she found the boots. I almost cut into another lane to get closer, but Mr. BMW jerks forward into the spot. Cursing, I check for my streetwalker. She's almost to the corner.

And the weirdest thing - there's another party girl coming from the opposite direction and she has on the same boots! What are the odds? Will it cause a fashion singularity if they see the other one? What is prostitute etiquette? Does one of them have to go home and change shoes if they work the same corner? Do they stalk in opposite direcitons in a huff? Do they duke it out?

Ooh - girl fight!

I burn to know, but the light changes. I drive away before they come together. Now I'll never know.

Damn BMW driver. Next time, stay off the fucking horn.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Rebel Love

I'm so not an artist.

Reflecting on events in Spain and Canada this past week legalizing gay marriage, I've decided that I'm jealous of....

Their kindness?
Their grown-up behavior?
Their belief that everyone deserves to be loved?
All of the above.

Do you remember that one girl in your third grade class who ran to the teacher tattling on everyone simply because she couldn't stand the idea that you were having fun, and GETTING AWAY WITH IT? We've turned into a nation of that joyless, mean-spirited, spiteful, self-righteous bitch.

Of course, America hung into slavery as long as possible, so I'm not surprised that we're on the back end of the morality curve this time. Maybe the next generation will look at two men holding hands on the street and think... nothing. Absolutely nothing. It will be so commonplace that it doesn't even register in their minds. I can only hope.

People who are ultra-right wing must not trust God very much. They don't believe that matters will get handled on a spiritual plain. That must be why they feel they have to take judgment into their own hands. Maybe they don't really believe in God. Maybe they never advanced from third grade.

Since my life's work seems to be tweaking that tattletale girl every chance I get, I've come up with a radical idea. It's the 4th of July, we Americans are supposed to be celebrating freedom, so I was inspired.

Legalizing gay marriage is going to come down to a duke-fest between Federal and State's rights. People of my generation equate State's rights with the ugly side of Civil Rights, so we tend to support a strong Federal Government. But when the Federal government is in the hands of people who think the freedom of religion boils down to picking between being Baptist and being Methodist, we have to turn to our states to protect us from them. State governments are more receptive to real live humans anyway.

(In an aside, a moment of silence for my California State Assemblyman, Mike Gordon, who passed away from a brain tumor this week. Mike was for legalizing gay marriage. That stance and many others made him the first politician I ever voted for, instead of simply voting against his opposition.)

Traditionally, the symbol of the struggle for State's rights over Federal enforcement has been the rebel flag. I suggest co-opting the rebel flag and making it over as a symbol of the state-by-state struggle for legalized gay marriage. And for those of us who are a little bent, note that the Confederate symbol is a Saint Andrew's cross! What could be more fitting?

So proclaim your Rebel Love loud and proud.

I can't wait to see Johnny Reb's face when his symbol of Southern Manhood is the centerpiece of a Gay Pride parade.

Happy 4th to all you Canadians and Spaniards who get to celebrate true liberty.