Sunday, February 26, 2006

Best Gay Erotica 2006 and Wild Creatures

Last Friday I went to a reading at Skylight Books that featured two books: The Wild Creatures Collected Stories of Sam D'Allesandro and Best Gay Erotica 2006 from Cleis Press.

If you're in LA, Skylight, is your local independent bookstore. Stop by and pet the bookshop cat, or shop online and help support them. They have the most amazing people doing readings. If you've never been to a reading, my god, what are you waiting for? Best date night ever.

Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore was an experience. That's the only way I can describe watching him. I was leaning forward, waiting for the next word to come out of his mouth. I only wish I'd gotten the full length picture of him so that you could have the full visual effect. I'm currently reading his collection of stories, Pulling Taffy, one of my great selections from a recent spending spree at Suspect Thoughts.

By stroke of luck, I sat behind D. Travers Scott and got to chat with him a bit. We've been swapping sporadic emails (more like leaving comments on blog entries once every six months) but since we're both in LA, I figured that we were fated to never meet. I found out about the reading from his blog but had no idea if he'd be there, so it was a nice bonus to the evening.

And I was sitting next to Blake Nemec, but had no idea until he got up to read his story Half-Eaten Lollipop. He was lovely sweet.

Trebor Healey only read part of his story, The Pancake Circus, but I have the book so I can finish the rest on my own. Trebor was very gracious while signing my copy. I got to tell him how much I enjoyed his novel Through it Came Bright Colors. Although I'm sure I muffed the title, he didn't even grimace. *sigh* What a nice guy. He has a poetry collection coming out soon.

Kevin Killian and others read several stories from The Wild Creatures. Although my reading pile teeters precariously with my best literary intentions, I will add this to it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Writing Naked by Mike Kimera

The first time I read one of Mike Kimera's stories, my mouth dropped open and I uttered a completely appropriate, "Fuck."

But his stories aren't just about fucking. They are the dark side of the emotional moon. We know it's there, but don't see it. Mike makes you look at it, then makes you look again. And you'll want to see. Long after the hot sex has melted down into my subconscious, the characters and their raw, exposed, horrible or wonderful souls remain. I said fuck out of jealousy. I would love to write like that.

These are unnerving stories. You may use them as one-handed reads, but even after you've set down the book you're not going to be able to walk away from them. You're going to be in a meeting at work, and your mind is going to wander, and you're going to find one of these tales sitting quietly in the back of your mind waiting for you to notice it. Then you're going to understand what Mike's stories have been telling you.

Need-Leash is probably my favorite of this collection. It's the one that stays with me most. A discarded lover leaves a voicemail where everything is between the lines, but she knows he'll get the message.

The American Holidays stories are told by different characters, but they all intertwine. A dominating wife; her husband, who is a little in love with her best friend; the best friend, trapped in a loveless marriage; her alcoholic cheater husband who isn't fooling anyone, even himself; and an Amazon boss who finds peace with a pianist. Each story stands separately, but together, you have more context for the secondary characters. Of these, Thanksgiving was my favorite, but I'm hopelessly American in that I like a happy ending (in both senses).

Happy Anniversary and Fucking Money are not what I'd call sex positive stories, but those glimpses of the worst self are fascinating. In Fucking Money, a man who is as ugly on the inside as out pays women a large sum to degrade themselves. It only makes him angrier, but the power gets him off. Happy Anniversary is about a man coming to terms with the fact that he is a total shit.

Mike does male guilt probably better than anyone I've ever read. Deserving Ruth shows a man paying and paying and paying for an affair, and maybe finding that what his wife truly wants is for him to forgive himself.

So buy your copy, and enjoy. Erotica can be more, and this is the proof.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


It turns out that I have two print anthologies coming out in March, not just one. They can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

In Amazons, writers such as Maxim Jakubowski, Patrick Califia, Alison Tyler, Marcy Sheiner, and Mitzi Szereto "play" with the erotic theme of the Amazon, expounding upon and deconstructing the image of strong women in a variety of wide-ranging stories. These and many more acclaimed authors of erotica explore the cliche of the powerful woman using it, so to speak, till it breaks down. These are not simply stories of the classical myth (though some may play tribute to it). These stories dismantle the legend and break the myth apart, exploding it as it relates to gender, power, femininity vs. masculinity, and women's roles in history.

I'm in some amazing company here. When I first read this call for submissions, my thoughts went to Xena fantasies and lingered there for an indulgent amount of time, but I couldn't find a story in it. The women who impress me with strength have great personal integrity, not physical power. My story, Blue Girl, is about that kind of strength.

We all grew up with weird tales from the Brothers Grimm, the charming Disney stories, and the other childhood rhymes and verses. But even when we first heard them, we questioned the obscure motivations of the principal characters. Our curious minds wondered why a smart girl with a red hood would wander into the forest alone or what circumstances would force a woman to live in a shoe.

Now that we're all grown, we know that sex often explains the seemingly inexplicable and that's what writers show us in this delightfully twisted volume of alternative fables and fairy tales.

Rather than play with existing tales, Garden of the Perverse is a showcase for the delightfully wicked imaginations of erotica's top authors as they create new and wholly original myths and fables. Though reminiscent in flavor and style to traditional fairy tales, these stories wander into new and unique lands of surreal eroticism, exploring sensual and fetish dynamics in a diverse scope of fantastic places, bizarre creatures and adventures.

Lisabet Sarai has a story in this anthology. I look forward, as always, to reading what she offers. I don't know the other contributors yet, but I'm sure we'll be in outstanding company. She Comes Stars is one of my favorite stories. I hope you enjoy it too.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Jury Duty

Once again, the Superior Court tracked me down and drafted me for service. My initial reaction was the usual - "How can I get out of this?" But my secondary reaction was - "If I'm upset about the state of justice in this country, I should do it."

Back when I worked for a boss I refer to as The Hideous Troll, I was glad that I made the final cut for a jury. It gave me a week away from the office. It also gave me a glimpse into the thought processes of my fellow citizens. That trial ended in a hung jury - 3 to 9 - 3 of us dedicated to upholding a minimal standard for civilization, the rest willing to let it go. Scary. On the other hand - if I'm ever stupid enough to get caught at a crime, I want those people sitting in judgment of me. I know exactly what they'd let me get away with.

The last time I received a summons I had to serve in downtown LA. Now we're only supposed to do one day of service instead of a week. However, following the letter of that law, but not the spirit, at the end of that day, the court impaneled all two hundred people in the room and forced us to come back for two more days of jury selection. If the court itself bends the laws to its own whims, why should it expect me to value the law? It wasn't just me. Every person dragged back the second and third days was pissed off. If I was the defendant, I would have been worried that the jury would take that out on me.

I got lucky that time. I was one of the first twelve pulled into the jury box, so the lawyers had plenty of "without cause" dismissals at hand. I admit that I used every trick I knew to get dismissed, and when I was, I almost did a grand jete on my way out of the court room. Gang related murder trial? No thanks.

This time I vow to be a responsible citizen. If I'm dismissed, it won't be due to my negative body language. My job as an analyst pretty much disqualifies me anyway. No lawyer wants a juror who makes a living looking at evidence, digging under the hyperbole for the truth, and coming to an independent conclusion. If I really wanted to serve, I could tell them that I'm a business manager. I do run the operational side of the company I work for in addition to my analyst duties. But that would be a partial omission and deliberate shading on my part, and sometimes I'm starry-eyed enough to believe that in court truth counts for something.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ugh, Valentines Day

Maybe it's the way we've been brainwashed into celebrating it, but Valentines Day seems designed to make people miserable.

Like crabby children at Disneyland, we get so into the hype and promise that we're let down by the reality. And the reality is that no bottle of champagne, candle-lit dinner, sparkly gift or flowers can make a moment romantic. Most truly romantic moments between lovers have their roots in the mundane, not the spectacular. They are spontaneous, quiet, and personal. They can last for a few moments, or a whole day. Under the pressure to deliver on a certain day, who can be relaxed enough to enjoy it?

I quit buying into that years ago, and I'm much happier for it.

I don't need any more things, jewelry is wasted on me, a bottle of perfume lasts me years, I'm not into stuffed animals, I don't care for flower arrangements, and I don't drink much. That either makes shopping for Valentines hell or simple for the SO. He's far too diplomatic to say which one it is.

This year, I had my act together enough to buy him a card. Usually I don't even manage that. And I give him the same gift every year, but he has yet to complain. He gets a contented smile on his face, skips the cuddling, rolls on his side, and falls asleep in seconds. Now that's my idea of perfect romance.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Whatever you do, don't move here

LA isn't as bad as you've heard, it's worse.

You'd hate it. Traffic, sprawl, pretentious people, it's all true.

That being said - while my eastern friends are covered by the latest blizzard, this was outside my front door this morning.

I sat outside in shorts and a t-shirt while I edited a story. Across the street, a men's soccer league is playing a game. Must be 80 degrees out. Oh well. Someone has to live here, I suppose. Giver that I am, I'm willing to take one for the team.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Saints and Sinners

May 12-14, 2006 is the fourth Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. If you write, or are a fan of queer lit, I urge you to go.

Writer Kate Dominic's enthusiastic reports from the 2nd SNS convinced me to go last year. I can't thank her enough for turning me on to it, and this is my chance to pass the favor on to you.

SNS was the best writer's conference I'd been to in ages.

The notes I took at every panel are still relevant. My list of "must read" books grew by pages, especially after the speculative fiction panel. Even though it meant buying a second backpack to carry it all home in, if a writer was at SNS, I bought a book and had him/her sign it. Those copies are never, ever going to a library.

One of the highlights for me was being able to tell writers how much I enjoyed their work. I was a bit shy about approaching some people, but everyone was gracious, and I met almost everyone I wanted to.

While at the conference last year, I hooked up with writers that I only knew through email. Putting faces together with names was a daunting game, but I met a lot of new people when I asked to see their name badges. (Note to self - this can be a very flirty thing to do, so don't get the SO involved next year. He was a little too flattered by the invitation to the foam party. Oh sure, he denied it, but he wore a damn smug smile the rest of the evening.)

The best thing I brought back with me was renewed energy and enthusiasm about my writing. Well, that, and the enduring image of a go-go boy under black lights at Oz wearing a white cowboy hat, white boots, tighty whities, and nothing else, dancing slow, his hands sliding down his bare chest. Sheer poetry.

So, are you in? Write me and let me know if you are. I'd love to meet you there.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Good Writing Week

My story Rekindle was accepted by Clean Sheets yesterday. I don't know yet when it will be on their site, but I'll add a link when it's up.

I also received the edited version of a story I placed in a print anthology. The editor included a nice note that pushed all the right ego buttons.

Writing, like any art, is subject to criticism. There are people who make scathing remarks, usually for an audience, without investing any time or thought into the piece or their critique. Yet, those are the comments that seem to get under my skin. I'm trying to learn to weigh the impact of critique by the amount of thought that went into it, not by my reaction to it. I have my good days with that philosophy, and my horrible days where I still let every barb strike my heart.

I've never taken praise well, but I'm working on that too. Instead of dismissing the editor's kind words, I'm going to believe that he truly meant it. So this weekend I'll be a contented writer and bask in my victories.

Queuing up my happy dance music. Something blue. I like my happiness served bittersweet.