Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Here's The Thing

I spend 2 and a half to 3 hours a day in my car. That's life in L.A.

I'm telling you this so that January 2nd, when you watch the Rose Parade on TV and notice that it's 75 degrees in L.A, and the only snow to be seen is on the distant peak of Mt. Baldy, you aren't tempted to pack up and move here. As if I need another car in the lane in front of me.

But if you do, please remember that we do not suffer novice drivers here. The only unforgiveable sin in L.A. is fucking up traffic, but there are a few other bad habits you must break before you venture onto the mean streets here.

First off - don't use your horn. Only Westsiders use their horns, and that's because they're not from L.A. and don't belong here.

Second - merge means every other car goes in turn. Every other car. One from your lane, one from the lane next to you, then another from your lane. Got it? It ain't rocket science.

Third - learn appropriate Space Proxemics. One and a half car lengths is enough at any speed up to 45. Any faster, and you can give yourself several car lengths of cushion. No more. Here's a hint - if five cars jump in front of you every block, you're missing every light, and the driver behind you is getting increasingly aggressive, close up the damn gap! And BTW, the sensors for the traffic lights are embedded in the asphalt right near the crosswalk, (those are what those big circles on the ground are) so pull your damn car all the way up to the line. You do not need two car lengths between you and the intersection. If the lights have cycled three times, but you have not gotten a green, and the line of cars behind you stretches a mile, roll up over the sensor. Thank you.

Fourth - if you're Physics-ly challenged, here's a clue - I can not drive faster than the car in front of me. If I accelerate, traffic in front of me will not magically speed up too. So sitting on my rear bumper and throwing your hands in the air as we miss every light isn't going to do you any good. I'm stuck behind the person driving too slow, or we're all stuck in heavy traffic and no one is going anywhere fast. Grow up and live with it. Either that, or use the potty before you leave home.

Fifth - leave your Puritan morality behind. Oh I know - you're going to to teach us all a lesson. 55 is the upper limit of speed. You can go less than that speed if you want to, and to prove it, you're going to sit in the fast lane doing 50. Hah! King of the World! Those of us stuck in the lane behind you took a vote. You're the Grand Marshall of the next Prig Parade. Remember, when you wave, it's sweeping elbow, elbow, and then turn wrist, wrist, wrist. Go home and practice it right now.

Sixth - don't be Passer-Agressive. These are almost always men. Even though there is a mile of empty lane behind me, this guy always has to shoe-horn his way into the tiny space between me and the car ahead. Congratulations Sir, you are now one car-length closer to your goal of becoming a total dick.
The second type drives along at varying speeds. You can almost hear him singing "la-la-la" as he searches like the Flying Dutchman for some elusive address. After following behind him for five blocks, as his speed steadily decreases to 15mph, I give up and try to pass. This is evidently the final straw in his life. It's personal now. Passing him is a direct challenge to his ED manhood. So he hits the gas. Fine, if he'll drive that speed, I'll be happy behind him. I slow down. So does he. I speed up. So does he. Because I betrayed him, he will never, ever, allow me back into "his lane." Sir, this isn't personal. I just want to get to work. Sometime today would be nice.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

If Only I Had Some Vacation Left...

If you're in New York, and I know that I have several readers who are, please stop by the Independent and Small Press Book Fair and say hello to Greg Wharton from Suspect Thoughts Press. (info below)

If you go, I promise to be insanely jealous of you for at least three months. And here's an offer you can hardly resist: write me back and tell me how incredibly nice Greg is, and how many great books you bought, and I'll add on another two months of pure green-eyed sulking.

With Ian Philip's permission, I cut this from the Suspect Thoughts newsletter:

Greg is going to New York City for the first weekend in December for the Independent and Small Press Book Fair. So if you'’re there, please stop by. No, I didn'’t say "“buy."” Honest, he'’d love for any and all to hang out at the booth. Create a crowd. A scene. Make those hordes of usually queer-uncurious wonder what all the fuss is and stop by to buy. He'll be upstairs on the second floor, in one of the back rooms. I know, the publisher of Suspect Thoughts in a back room in New York--how shockingly pre-Giuliani of him!

Okay, here's 411 from Greg himself:

"San Francisco'’s fearless queer publisher Suspect Thoughts Press ("“Best Brand-New, Badass, Superqueer Press" -- SF Bay Guardian) is coming to New York for The Eighteenth Independent and Small Press Book Fair. Along with piles of magnificent books specially priced for the Book Fair, Suspect Thoughts Press."’ New York authors Jennifer Natalya Fink, Thomas Woolley, and Emanuel Xavier will be appearing for meet and greet book signings.

Saturday, December 3, 3:00: Emanuel Xavier (Americano, Bullets & Butterflies)
Sunday, December 4, 2:00: Jennifer Natalya Fink (Burn)
Sunday, December 4, 2:00: Thomas Wooley (Toilet)

Since its inception in 1988, The Independent and Small Press Book Fair has served as a lively exploration into the world of independent publishing. Over the years, it has grown in size and ambition, but the core purpose remains the same: to draw greater attention to an essential sector of the publishing industry. The Book Fair will take place on Saturday, December 3 (10am to 6pm) and Sunday, December 4 (11am to 5pm) at the Small Press Center, The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, at 20 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) in Manhattan. Admission to the Book Fair is free and open to the public.

Saturday, December 3 (10am to 6pm)
Sunday, December 4 (11am to 5pm)

The Independent and Small Press Book Fair
Small Press Center
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen
20 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Manhattan
Phone: 212.764.7021

So go, have fun, support small presses!

Erotica Readers and Writers Association

I may be a few days late on this, but why limit thankfulness to one day?

As a writer, I am very thankful for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. It is, hands down, the finest writer's community on the internet. I belong to several lists for speculative fiction writers and queer writers, but they don't begin to offer what ERWA does.

The ERWA website alone is worth a visit, but the lists are its true strength. The writers list is an excellent source of information on everything from grammar questions to publishers. Storytime offers writers a chance to have their work critiqued. It is a workshop unlike any other I've been to. Writing can be isolating, so having access to the ERWA community is fantastic for me. There's nothing I like more than chatting with other writers.

There are many other things I'm thankful for that sound trite but aren't. I have a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food, and clean water. That puts me at a standard of living far above 90% of the other humans on this planet.

And I have love.

Everything else is simply icing on the cake. I'm thankful that I understand that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Small Mea Culpa

I know, me apologizing. Shocking.

Fresh green beans sauteed in olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a little sprinkle of salt is my contribution to the T-Day festivities tomorrow. Some years I make mushroom pie too, but I have diminishing expectations for the holidays this year, so the family will have to be content with the 500 other dishes on the buffet.

I went to Whole Foods early this AM, but it was already packed with power Moms and d-girls, which partially explains why, in the crush at the counter, things got weird.

After I got my three pounds of fresh green beans, I picked up a few other things that smelled good, including a bagette that was fresh from the oven. Steam rose in rosemary scented curls off the crunchy crust. How could I resist?

I didn't expect to buy so much, so I didn't have a basket. Everything was balanced precariously in my hands.

This is where the apology comes in.

Dear Sir in line in front of me at Whole Foods - I did not mean to sexually assault you with my bagette. It was an honest mistake. Of course, when I looked down and realized that it was pressing against your muy papi ass, which was plated up so nicely in those tight, faded jeans, I immediately pulled it away. As my face reached approximately the temperature of the sun, I mumbled an apology that probably sounded more like a really bad pick up line than a heartfelt mea culpa. So I'm sorry. Truly, deeply sorry.

Signed - the women wearing the black t-shirt and red face, who was holding an impressively long, thick, hot bagette.

BTW - how long was that thing rubbing your prostate before I noticed? I'm wondering, because you didn't say a word. Nor did you move. Nor did you glance back at me. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Yay for me!

I sold two short stories in the past two weeks, both to editors I really admire. I'm on a roll.

Now, if only the editor I sent my novel to would contact me....

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Dear Proselytizers Who Knocked on My Door This Morning:

Ladies, even at the best of times, I do not extend warm fuzzies to people who interrupt my writing time. I am less kind when I was in the middle of an incredible zone, typing out a scene that was clicking so good that I got out of bed early to get it into the computer, and you pulled me out of it. What’s more, you came by so frickin’ early that your caught me B.C. – before caffeine. The SO is smart enough to lay low until the espresso IV drip is flowing, and you should be too.

It’s a beautiful Southern California day today, and you decided to ruin it by forcing your religion on unsuspecting folk. The early morning hours were probably a tactical choice on your part – catch people while they’re still befuddled. But you came to my door.

Can anyone say Open Season?


Your local curmudgeon.

Normally, I pretend to be polite because it’s a great game I play with my heavily tainted karma. Not today, ladies.

There you were, dressed in gawd-awful floral print dresses, and the ugliest sensible shoes ever produced. I almost puked on you just for making my eyes bleed. Then you said Good Morning in a chirpy voice that shot through my brain like a brad from a nail gun. Your Bibles were clutched tight in your little talons, your fake pearl necklaces (are you even AWARE of what a pearl necklace means in my world?) tight around your throats.

I simply stared at you. No encouragement.

You quaked a little.

A touch of a smile quirked on the corner of my mouth. Maybe this was going to be fun after all.

Like any cheesy door-to-door salesman, you launched into your memorized spiel.

MISSIONARY: “I’m sure that the recent events here in the United States have saddened you – the hurricanes, and other tragedies. And maybe you’re feeling confused over what these events mean.”

ME: “I know exactly what they mean. God is punishing red states for perverting his word of love. God is punishing red states, especially Florida, for letting a Bush into office. And he’s going to keep doing it until you all repent for your hate sins.”

MISSIONARY: *sputtering*

ME: *slamming door closed with no small amount of satisfaction.*

Sometimes you get random rewards in life for no apparent reason. I don’t need to look into it deeper than that. Life is good. Now, where was I in my story....

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sighing for Texas

Texas codified hate in the latest election, but they're hardly unique. Many states are racing to prove that they, too, long for the days when it was okay to simply hate someone, and make sure "those people" know it by writing that hate into law.

Churches and other hatemongers have done a great job of making this an issue of "extra rights" for gays, but anyone who thought about this for a moment would see that this is not extra rights. I have the right to marry my SO. Why shouldn't my theoretical next door neighbor be able to marry hers? That would be equal, correct?

The argument is always that homosexuality is a sin. Says so right there in the Bible. But that makes it a religious argument, doesn't it? Why should my next door neighbor be forced to practice your religion? This is America. Freedom of religion, correct?

Don't even start on that sanctity of marriage sham argument. The only threat to any marriage comes from inside. Abuse, infidelity, and emotional neglect are internal problems. If your hetero married neighbors don't affect your marriage, either will homosexual married neighbors. And if marriage is so key to a healthy society, shouldn't we be encouraging everyone to take part?

The problem here is that this is a logical approach, and most people don't want logic. They want gut level reaction. They want retribution.

So where does all this frenzy of hate come from? I think we can look back to the last big civil rights question America faced for the answer.

When schools were forced to integrate, some whites fled public schools to spare their child the trauma of sitting in class next to a child of color. The private schools available at that time were generally religious based, usually run by very conservative religions. They got their hooks into those young minds, and boy, did they plant some nasty seeds.

Of course, it's no longer fashionable to be publicly racist, even in many small towns, but being homophobic? Well, that's perfectly fine. The lower you feel your lot in life, the greater the need to hold someone lower. Think of the power. You can stop a person you don't know who lives miles away from you from getting married. Wow. What a rush. It's also petty and small minded, but it's government sanctioned pettiness, so that makes it perfectly okay.

So much fear is behind this. People who are strongly homophobic are either closeted, self-loathing, and fearful, or they were raised to think of homosexuality as a learned perversion.

Those who are afraid that their children will "turn" homosexual believe that if they make the castle walls strong enough, their kids will be protected. But even the most ignorant person out there has a creeping suspicion now that homosexuality is in the fundamental wiring of the brain. A God level trait. Something passed on in the genes. In the panic to comfort themselves, and deny any DNA level responsibility, people are lashing out at the homosexual community. If they drive homosexuality back underground, so the thinking seems to go, even if their child is homosexual, they will never act on it, because they will have learned to hide it.

This is like asking your blue-eyed child to wear contacts to make their eyes brown. It may hide those blue eyes from the world, but the child will know. And every morning as they face the mirror, they will know that their parent hates them for those blue eyes, even though the child can do nothing to change them and didn't choose to be blue eyed.

Parental rejection like that kills a human soul.

I can be optimistic and pray that these kinds of segregationist polices, based on sex rather than race, will never stand the ultimate test of the courts, and thus will force national acceptance of gay marriage in law (not at a societal level). I'd rather people abandon their hate, but I don't see that happening any time soon. Too bad. There's a kind of internal peace that comes with acceptance and love. Who taught that? A lot of religious leaders. Buddha comes to mind. But so does Jesus. I wonder if any of these Christians have heard of him?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


At night, as I sneak out into the backyard for a smoke (yeah yeah, bad for me, blah, blah blah.) I find myself contemplating gender.

What kicked off this navel-gazing was a box on a form. I stared at the damn thing and tried, with all the powers of my rather wild imagination, to figure out why my gender mattered for a computer service. After a moment or two of furrowed brow, I blithely skipped the question. Unlike paper forms, computers can make sure you Xd every damn box though, so there was no moving forward without declaring the contents of my panties.

I checked Male just for the hell of it and hit enter.

Back not so long ago in the US, gender was an important category, because you had different rights depending on your sex. Females were an underclass, and they had to make sure that no women were sneaking through and getting male privileges (like decent pay, credit, voting, the right to own or sell land, etc.). Theoretically nowadays we’ve worked out that inequality issue, but the boxes remain. Why?

And why are there only two boxes? This country is obsessed with a Boolean model of the universe where everything is black or white, on or off, male or female, right or wrong. We have no tolerance for gray. We’re so obsessed with the idea that there are only two distinct genders that we manipulate the genitals of children who don’t fit the mold and force them in to category A or B. We never let them grow up as they are and leave the decision to them. Heaven forbid we let them exist in the zone of betweeness, even if it pleases them. And we make life miserable for adults brave enough to reclaim their personal gender identity if it exists outside those boxes.

Why isn’t there a box for “None of your damn business, Nosy Parker,” and another for “I’m too complex to fit into your narrow world view.” Hell, I’d settle for a box labeled “Other.”

I was at a writer’s conference where a published author stated that when she was done with her novel, she went through and arbitrarily changed the gender of her characters. I had two reactions to that – at opposite ends of the scale. At first I thought, “Wow, so she believes that people are people are people, and gender is irrelevant. Cool.” My next thought was, “Are her characters so one-dimensional that their gender has no bearing on their basic personal identity? Not cool.”

Regardless of sexual preferences, my characters are influenced down to their cores by their mental gender. Physical gender is also incredibly important to the definition of who those characters are. Maybe it’s because I write sex, and sex and gender are tangled together, but I can’t imagine arbitrarily changing the gender without it completely changing that character. We’ll see. After all, I checked the M box on that computer form. Somewhere, somehow, that must have deep consequences – the ramifications only becoming clear at the peak of some world-changing calamity.

Either that, or gender truly doesn't matter.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day

A simple note of thanks to veterans of the US Armed Forces. I do appreciate what you do, what you represent, and your service to this country.

And a personal note to E.L.F in Iraq - We don't always see eye to eye politically, but you're still on top of my prayer list.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thank You Kansas!

Dear members of the Kansas Board of Education:

Thank you so very much for forcing, er, offering intelligent design instead of science to your students.

See, I have a niece who wants to be a doctor. She isn't world'’s greatest student. Normally, she wouldn't have a shot at medical school. Math and science aren'’t her best subjects. (Either is empathy. She laughs when her sister gets hurt.) Yet, thanks to your foresight and wisdom, at least she won't have to compete with anyone from Kansas for those coveted medical school slots.

No smart, kind-hearted, empathetic Kansas kid is going to get in my niece'’s way. Forget the cure for cancer coming out of Wichita. In fact, since critical thinking and science are the basis for most high paying jobs, even if my niece decides on another lucrative, challenging career, no Kansas child will be able to compete with her.

Don't feel bad. There are meat processing plants and mega stores that offer part time, no medical benefits, no retirement benefits, minimum wage careers for Kanasas kids to look forward to. They didn'’t really want to go to college, did they?

So thank you again, members of the Kansas Board of Education, for taking away the future of every child in Kansas. We salute you. Now go help Pat Robertson threaten those people in Pennsylvania who dared vote out their school board for bringing intelligent design into their schools. Our little niece is going to need all the head start she can get.

Monday, November 07, 2005

My Glamorous Writer's Life

I know that the mental picture everyone has of a writer's life is the basic wood paneled library in a hunting lodge in the woods. Erotica writers get more of the Cleopatra fantasy. Cleopatra of Liz Taylor ilk though, not the grittier ROME version. Muscled, nearly naked men fanning me with ostrich plumes, lunches of oysters and caviar, scantily clad women performing lusty tribal dances for my amusement, a bed draped like a sheikh's tent... The hard part is finding enough river water in LA to float my royal barge.

It's all true. Absolutely. No, really....

Okay, maybe not.

Writing erotica is no different from other writing - despite common perception that it takes no talent. Anyone who thinks erotica isn't quality isn't reading Mike Kimera, M. Christian, Alison Taylor, Lizabet Sarai, Gwen Masters, Kate Dominic, Ian Phillips, or any of the other incredible writers working in this genre today. Some of the best short stories being written now are erotic.

(Putting together a list is always painful. I could have twenty more names. Not all of Ian Phillips stories are erotic, and if I include him, how can I possibly leave off Greg Wharton, who wrote one of my all time favorite short stories? This isn't a definitive list by any means. The talent pool in erotica is deep.)

One aspect of erotica may be a little different from other writing though. The fan email. I haven't polled mystery, horror, and romance writers, so I don't know if they get this type of thing, but I do get some odd fan letters.

Most people who write to me are nice and generous with praise. I'm touched when they take time to tell me that they liked my work. Then there are the two who stand out in my mind....

The message I got two weeks ago was basically "I really liked your story Kells. Kobi was a great character, and I liked the scene up on the bridge with the two vampires. It was hot."

So far, so good.

Except that embedded was a picture of his (I presume) dick. I think I jumped back two feet from the computer when I scrolled down to that. Not that I needed the extra space to get it in focus. Whoa! I called the SO over.

ME: "What the fuck?"

SO: *laughing hysterically* "Maybe it's like a thumbs up."

ME: "But the note is so rational. No 'I'd like to meet you,' 'What are you wearing,' 'I'm stalking you.' Just a nice, normal note, and then this."

SO: "Is this the same guy who sent you the dick picture a year ago? At least the other one gave you the full frontal so that you knew what he looked like."

ME: "I didn't keep that, so no chance for comparisons." *peering closer at the screen* "Hey, he's not completely hard! What the hell? Is that some kind of editorial comment? *typing furiously*

SO: *stops laughing and looks concerned* "Um, what are you doing?"

ME: "Demanding to know why I didn't rate a full stiffy. He said he liked the story, but obviously, it didn't quite do it for him. I want to know why. I mean, if you're going to send someone a picture of your dick, have the courtesy to show it at it's best."

Everyone is a damn critic.