Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Challenger Deep

My story Challenger Deep is in the features section of ERWA this month.

Read here and enjoy.

I've had private e-mails suggesting I could get more traffic if I posted my stories in my blog. That's probably true. However, Blogger.Com's refusal to protect writers from theft makes that impossible. There is a blog here on Blogger.Com that outright stole stories off blogs and websites of friends of mine. Blogger.Com has been notified by many people that the blog violates their copyright. Blogger's answer? Come here physically to our offices and show us proof that you own the copyright, and maybe we'll think of shutting him down. That blogger also stole from the BBC. I bet they get better treatment when and if they complain.

So that's why I don't post stories in my blog, just in case you wondered.

Besides, there are a lot of other very cool stories on ERWA. Read. Enjoy.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

City of Angeles

The SO and I took the nieces to see the musical City of Angels at UCLA last night. We first saw it years ago and loved the clever dialog and lyrics. The story about a writer being screwed over by Hollywood doesn't play so well here, since most of the audience was probably in the movie business, but no one seemed to mind. It's not exactly a fresh or original concept, and even as a writer I have a hard time feeling much sympathy for writers who whine about book adaptations, but the music makes up for that.

Niece #1 is a theater arts major, so we knew she'd appreciate the incredible staging that switches between "color" and "black and white" as the scenes switch between the story of the writer and the movie of his book. It was all about lighting, which is her big area of interest. Afterwards, I was intrigued by her take on the production, which focused on the technical details. It shows how people can see the same thing and yet have a completely different experience.

Niece #2 was the wild card.

While driving in to work Friday morning, I remembered something about the production - it had a nude scene. The nieces have a sophisticated acceptance of nudity. While in the Ufizzi, they decided to have a scavenger hunt for the biggest penis on a statute. I stood in awe of The Birth of Venus; they debated whether bigger meant overall size, or in proportion to the rest of the body. Mom was shocked when one of them, after staring at a very famous piece of art, commented that "it must have been really cold in the artist's studio."

I debated warning the niece that there would be nudity, but cringed at the vision of her poking me in the ribs through the whole thing going, "Is she the one who gets naked?" "When will she take her clothes off?" Etc.

The other choice was to let her find out when it happened, risking her standing up in her seat and saying, "Holy smokes, that lady is naked!" and bringing the entire production to a screeching halt.

Both scenarios were possible. To make it clear, I wasn't worried about her seeing a naked woman. I was worried about her mouth.

We had a chat with her about proper theater behavior beforehand. And we warned her that nudity happened. As it turned out, in the production last night, the actress wore a white sheet and only flashed the actor while her back was turned to us. As far as the niece was concerned, it was a non-event. I did hear her mutter, "ugh, pasty white man flesh," when another character was getting a massage. She kept it to herself, pretty much, and I honestly had to agree.

It was a great night. Except for having to trek to the Westside (shudder) it was one of those nights when I was glad I live in LA.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I don't read many horror novels. Not because I'm a literary snob. I'm no genre elitist. The reason I don't read horror is because I am a huge wuss. Anything I read takes on sinister dimensions after sundown, and then there I am, two o'clock in the morning, eyes WIDE open, pulse cranking, wondering why I do that to myself.

Ages ago, my sister and I would crawl under my grandmother's dining table and pretend to fall asleep while the adults talked. We listened to the family stories the adults would never repeat in front of us - the much debated murder/self-defense/justifiable homicide, the prisoners in the insane asylum, the reluctant bride who was forced to give up table-top dancing in the local tavern.... You know, the good stuff.

My sister would remind me to keep quiet by putting her finger to her lips. As the night wore on, the adults would tell creepy stories of the frovoliki (you would call them vampires), in a classic game of storytelling one-upsmanship. I'd want to leave, but crawling out from under the table would have been an admission of our guilt. Besides, after hearing a few of those stories, closing my eyes in our dark bedroom in the attic of my grandparents' ancient farmhouse was out of the question. My sister must have felt the same way, because she'd clutch my hands, and we'd stare into each other's wide eyes. If someone would have lifted up the long lace tablecloth and said "Boo!" we would have jumped out of our skins.

Those stories, no matter how fantasic, were related as personal histories. If it didn't happen directly to the storyteller, then it was about his mother, cousin, or brother. Every hair on my arms would rise and I would listen carefully to the house beyond the dining room, half expecting to hear the voice of a recently deceased relative calling for me. By the time I got carried upstairs, I was a wreck. If I got lucky, my parents would let me sleep with them, or my sister would slip into the bed with me after the adults closed the door. If not, I'd spend the night with my back pressed so tight to the mattress that it was amazing my skin didn't bond to it. I'd keep the covers tight around my neck, my feet away from the edge of the bed, and I'd hold my breath until the last chime of midnight faded.

As frightened as I was, the next night I'd crawl under the table again to listen. Sometimes, the adults lapsed into Romanian and I really would fall asleep, lulled by the musical language I didn't understand as it was spoken in the deep, rumbling voices of the old world men.

Even though the tales terrified me, there was something comforting about them too, because they always ended with a mere human doing something simple with tools close at hand to thwart the seemingly unstoppable monster. Besides, all those vampires were back in Galsa, not in the US. In the US, the way I understood it, the dead stayed buried. Bubskah once said about a relative, "Well, she's gone, and she isn't coming back." Imagine my relief.

The frovoliki weren't like Dracula. (Don't get me started on the special place Judzja reserved in hell for Braham Stoker.) They were always family or close friends who had gone feral. Sometimes they had died (or were considered "dead" to the family), but most of the time they simply mysteriously vanished (and were presumed dead) and then turned up again in a wild state. Those prodigal sons of the dammed tried then to entice family members into leaving the safety of the home- not a good idea if the family stories were to be believed, or into allowing the frovoliki into the house - a worse idea.

That makes sense, if you think of vampirism as an allegory for disease, and the threshold of the house as a symbolic (and literal) barrier against illness. One member of your family, who had been away and probably in contact with strangers, could infect everyone under your roof. The real monster was carried in the blood, the lungs, or in the bite of fleas, but the monster people saw was the returned-from-the-dead family member.

I think the reason why the frovoliki stayed in Galsa and didn't travel with my family to the US was because the frovoliki would have been so out of place here. Modern life wouldn't have tolerated them. Science, medicine, and electric lighting have taken the micky out of most monsters. Now in books and movies they're heroes or misunderstood defenders of mankind. They had to change. But they aren't monstrous anymore.

If I were to write a horror story, I think I would first take a good look at the world I built as a setting. I'd need to figure out the reasonable fears of the society. By reasonable fears, I mean that it was reasonable for my great grandfather to worry about being buried alive, but I'm comfortable with the idea that medical science will pronounce me truly dead before my body is ashed. It is reasonable for me to fear being hit by a car or being electrocuted by a downed powerline. In the 1800s, anyone who worried about that would have been considered mad. When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, a body cobbled together from parts of other bodies was horrific. Now implants and donated organs are considered a miracle of modern science and a boon to mankind. For something to be horror, it has to horrify the characters and their society.

Monsters reflect the psychological needs of the society that "creates" them. They are a release valve, a way to talk about forbidden desires and taboo subjects. The words coded into the stories of some monsters is lost to us because we don't understand the society that spawned them, or over time the tale was poorly translated and sanitized so that the monster is no longer what it once was. A monster has to fill a need in the society it terrifies. They have to fit together. Otherwise, the story won't work.

My last step would be to expose the underbelly of my society. I'd find out what agents of change would rock my society to its core. I'd have to know what government or religion repressed so harshly that it seethed under the surface. The best possible horror for my society would probably be found in its darkest reflection. "Here, There Be Monsters." Indeed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Another weekend, Pissed Away

Not really. I got a lot of writing done.

I received rejection notices from two editors, but I'm not upset about either one.

In the first case, I realized after I submitted that the editor was looking for M/M erotica geared towards a female audience. Guess I shouldn't have dwelt on the money shot in all it's sticky white gloppy glory. That, when you really get down to it, is the difference between writing for a male reader or a female one. Most women (this is a gross generalization) aren't all that fascinated by men's cum. Men (more sweeping generalization) are damn proud of it. There's no right or wrong about that, there's only difference.

In the second case, the editor said my story didn't fit the anthology I submitted it to, but she liked it, and asked if she could keep it mind for another anthology. My answer? "Yes!" I was hugely flattered that she liked it. Like Mr. Wilde said, I can live off a good compliment for days. So I'm floating was if my story were accepted.

I should have been busting my butt this weekend to work on some short stories, but I couldn't get motivated. So I slaved away on my novel instead. The nice thing about writing this one is that I have such a clear sense of how much story I can tell, and how it will flow together, that I'm not sensing any backtracking issues. Sure, I'll have to tweak little things at the end, but on the whole it's working well.

The only chapters I have left to do in the novel are the bad ones. Bad emotionally. If there's no conflict, there's no story. Unfortunately, conflict means putting your characters through hell. Those are the hard chapters to write. Sometimes, when I'm done writing for the night, I'm so depressed that I feel like someone beat me. So you can see why I'm putting that off. But I'm out of happy scenes, so bring on the angst!

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Thoughtful Piece on Gay Marriage

I was very pleased to see this letter to the Denver Post by former Broncos player, Reggie Rivers. It's nice to see someone who isn't afraid to speak his mind. I think I'll send him an e-mail thanking him for his words, because I know he's probably getting plenty of hate mail from people who disagree.

And in other good news, Maryland's Supreme Court also recognized that discrimination against gays is wrong.

Its a good day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Little Dissent

I know that the SO reads my blog, but he rarely comments on it. I heard about the soccer one though.

SO: "Look at you, pretending that you can watch a soccer game in silence."

ME: *adopting wide-eyed innocent look* "But I can."

SO: "No you can't."

ME: *Getting a little pissy* "Yes. I. Can."

SO: "Dissent!" *triumphantly whips out yellow caution card he's obviously prepared in advance*

After laughing far to long, and way too hard, at his feeble joke, he slid the card back into his shirt pocket.

SO: "You don't know how long I've been wanting to do that. You should know better than to argue with a ref."

I rolled my eyes. Geek wit. Worse- referee geek wit.

SO: "Oh, more dissent. Watch it." *laughs more at his wit as he pretends to reach for his yellow card.* "But seriously, unlike those idiot parents, you do understand the rules of the game. Have you ever thought of reffing?"

Oh good god. Never trust a man with 40 volunteer referee spots to fill.

ME: "You know I'd red card (eject from the game) the first spectator that questioned one of my calls."

SO: *sobering up* "Yeah, you would."

ME: "Although.... Power.... Excellent."

I wonder how I'd look in one of those uniforms.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Who Do You Write For?

I don't mean as a matter of self-fulfillment.

I'm talking about audience.

Through my writer's lists, but mostly in erotica, debates crop up over the differences in writing for a male reader versus female. There are writers who swear that there should be no difference. The story's the thing, so to speak. I can see that, and I agree to a point, but those writers tend to write hetero stories from the POV of their physical gender. That makes me wonder how much thought they put into gender differences.

Sex isn't the dividing line between the audiences. I've written well received stories targeted for female readers that have been pure raunch from word one, and I've written deeply romantic pieces for male readers that got more fan mail than sexually explicit ones.

While I strongly believe that every person is an individual, there are some generalizations I make when targeting an audience. If I'm writing for women, I don't worry as much about a slower pace in the beginning of a story. I still fret over it, but I recognize that women have more patience with slower pacing if the story is compelling on an emotional level. That makes sense when you think about the way women use fantasy to shut out the real world from their minds before they can lose themselves in sex.

For women, I use lush words. Sound is important, from music to tone of voice. Temperature and weather get mentioned too. Body language matters as much as dialog. I lavish attention on emotional reaction or "feel" rather than a tactile description.

When I envision a man, gay or straight, as my reader, I play up different senses. Men and women seem to believe that men are more visual than women, but I can show a woman silk to get a reaction from her, whereas I have to let a man touch it. Scent plays a big role, as does color. For men, I try to keep the pace tight from the beginning.

None of this changes the core of the story I'm telling, just the way I describe things, the senses I try to engage, and the pace. The story is the thing, but there's more than one way to tell it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


This weekend, despite the rain, soccer season continued across LA.

The SO is a referee, and sometimes I go along to be his tiny cheering section. How many times have you heard "Good Call Ref!" unless it was delivered in an incredibly sarcastic tone?

With rare exceptions, the kids don't question calls. They simply play the game. The problem is the parents.

There have been games where the SO has had to sprint for his car after the final whistle, or get an escort off the pitch. I've seen a player's mother grab and shake a teenage referee after a game. We occasionally sit down to dinner with the referee staff, and the stories passed around the table are discouraging. And yet, those men, women, and teenagers still give up their weekends from September until March to be out there for the kids.

I read several years ago about a girl's team in Ohio that was so disgusted by their parents' behavior that they demanded a game in silence. No adult was allowed to speak during play. They could clap, but that was it. Those girls were brilliant. I'd like to see silent weekends more often.

Unfortunately, it doesn't happen.

So I stand on the sidelines and have to hear not only the horrible things parents say to their children, but the crap they spew at the SO. It takes every ounce of willpower not to point out that being in an offsides position does not mean that the player is offsides. (Not that the parent could see if the player was offsides from their position near the center circle. That's why the assistant ref on the sideline is lined up with the second to the last defender, so that they can see when a player is truly offsides. But that major point seems to escape most parents.) I have patiently reminded enraged spectators that the referee clearly signaled advantage, meaning that he saw and acknowledged a foul, but to stop play would mean taking a developing play, and a possible scoring opportunity, from the team that was fouled. But since those parents wouldn't know the hand signal for advantage if they saw it, and they have no idea what advantage means, they keep trash-talking the referee. What a wonderful example they set for their kids.

This weekend really tested my ability to stay silent. One father questioned every call the SO made or yelled "It's about time you called that, Ref." And their team was four goals ahead! By the third quarter, the teeth marks in my tongue were probably permanent. So I turned to the idiot and said, "Gosh, they're always looking for more volunteer referees. Why don't you sign up to be a referee next year?"

He looked shocked, and then shook his head. "Naw, it wouldn't work out."

Because you obviously don't even know the basic rules of the game, asshole?

No, I didn't say it, but I thought it. I wouldn't want to be one of those mouthy spectators.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Step Away From Your Computer

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Even if you have a writing partner, you sit down alone to work. One of the cures for the isolation is an internet group and writer's list. I belong to several - for erotica, for speculative fiction, for queer writers, etc. and they are fantastic resources. I've raved any times in this blog about the best writer's community in the world, the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. My other lists are good and useful in their own ways, but none comes close to ERWA.

Even in LA, it's difficult to find other writers to meet face to face. For someone who lives in a small town, it can be almost impossible. That's why the internet is so wonderful. Somewhere out there is a group for a writer who has a hard time finding other writers.

But sometimes you just have to step away from your computer and talk to another human face to face.

This past Saturday, I was blessed to have a small gathering of writers over at my place. This is the second time I've hosted, and I plan to try to do at least two a year from now on. There is no substitute for sitting down over a meal and discussing writing. Not that we limited our far-ranging discussion to stories, writing styles, or the business of writing. We talked about everything and had a great time doing it. One thing about writers - they tend to be very curious, intelligent people. If they don't know something, they want to find out. Never a dull moment of conversation with a group like that. Although the party went very late into the night, and I drank more wine than I usually do, my mind was so full of ideas and conversation that it was hard to get to sleep.

I can't imagine having writer's block after a night like that. I woke early and wanted to dive into a million projects. I learned, I helped explain, I gossiped. It was lovely. Try it some time. If nothing else, you'll give your keyboard a rest.

I Must Write a Story About This

I've written that I'm not sure where inspiration comes from, but when someone posted this picture on one of the forums I read, and asked for a caption, not only did I think of a great caption, but I'm inspired to write a story.

And yes, that is a urinal.

My caption: FTD announces their new Golden Showers bouquet.

To see the rest of this artist's work, click here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Orbiting In Retrograde

My story Orbiting In Retrograde has been added to the Erotica Readers and Writer's Association's Treasure Chest, a real honor.

Just me in one of my quirky moods. I was thinking, at the time I wrote this, about the importance of touch, and how it can be so much more sensual than "the act." Donno if I got there, but I tried.

Speculative fiction erotica is hard for me to write, because you're building worlds while delving into libido and balancing the two is difficult unless you're going to limit your speculative fiction to setting, which doesn't make it true speculative fiction, or throw in a casual mention of a space ship, or your character fucks an alien. (Which happens in Helen Madden's Alienated, but her story is about so much more than fucking an alien that seems insulting to talk about it on that level.)

My other story, Kells, was also added, so I'm on a roll.


I watched the Rose Bowl last night the same way I watch any TV show – in ten to twelve minute segments separated by half hour breaks.

I’ve always preferred college football over professional, but I can’t claim to be much of a football fan at all. Football was something to sit down and watch with Pops and pretend that counted as having some sort of relationship with him. You could never go to a live game with him. A former football player, he sometimes forgot himself, stood up, and acted out the hits, grunting a bit as if he were feeling each one. It was bad enough to live through it at home. Being with him while strangers could see him was too humiliating to bear. It wasn’t as if he ever acknowledged that we watched with him, nor did he try to explain the game, help us appreciate it, or even share his admiration for plays. Football was his own little world. The most we were allowed into it was sit on the sidelines and watch him watching the game.

I am a big fan of soccer, maybe because I played the sport (poorly) and can appreciate footwork I tried to copy but tripped over and set plays coming together in ways I could never envision while my team was on the pitch. If anything, I enjoy the differences between American football and the sport the rest of the world more correctly calls football, considering that they are derived from the same game.

In soccer, a great tackle is all ball, no player. In American football, the ball is the least of the concerns. It’s all player. American football is nothing but a series of set plays. Soccer is a perpetual motion that develops (hopefully) into set plays.

And, of course, there are the players. With the exception of Lacrosse, no sport offers as much eye candy as soccer.

What I did see of the Rose Bowl last night was my favorite kind of football. Even someone with my limited appreciation of the sport could see that there was so much more to the game than simply brute strength pushing against raw muscle. (Hmmm, may have to rethink that eye candy comment.) Even I could see the strategy of going without a huddle and managing the clock and for god’s sake, USC, didn’t you have someone upstairs alerting you through your headphones to take a time out and get that touchdown reviewed? Lord knows every USC fan watching the game was screaming it loud enough from the bars in Santa Monica that you should have been able to hear it in Pasadena.


Anyway, from what I saw of it, it was a good game. Every time I wandered back into the TV room, the lead changed. Kicks were good, kicks were bad. Rugby type lateral passes were sometimes a horrible idea, and sometimes quite brilliant. (A little late maybe, but hey, the officials let it go, so I should too.) I wondered if Pops were watching. I knew he was probably on his feet, channeling the defensive line. I even wondered if he was rooting for Texas or USC, or if, like me, he was simply enjoying the game for the beauty of sports.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Gotta Love It

The SO called this morning and told me to open the trunk of his car.

Inside: THIS!

"Happy Birthday!" he told me. "A little something extra, since you never got one from your parents."

My eyes got that certain manic gleam that he fears, er, knows so well. But, since he wasn't there to see it, I chortled with fiendish delight.

I bet I can make something innocent go horribly wrong, I told myself. I could imagine the manufacturer insisting, "It simply isn't possible to melt steel with the chemicals that were in that set, I tell you. A baby could eat that stuff and not even burp!"

My inner Wednesday Aadams is about to be unleashed.

Then, in the voice of a person who's had a couple days to regret an impulse buy, and to reflect on the fact that my parents aren't stupid, the SO asked, "You're not going to catch the house on fire, are you?"

I could have assured him, but where's the fun in that?

"Well.... I'll may try not to."

Now when he gets back from his trip and finds out I haven't gone to the market or done laundry or clean, he'll just be grateful that there are no char marks on our walls. Diminished expectations. They make it that much easier to enjoy life.

It's so nice to be with someone who totally gets me. And yet hasn't learned not to leave home alone with stuff like this.