Reaching Out from a Mind as Dirty as All Outdoors

If you get lucky enough, I might post adult-only material from time to time, so be 18 or over, or please be elsewhere.

I'll be discussing erotica here, the writing of it and the people who write it, as well as what we've written. I find all these aspects stimulating, but if any of them bore you, feel free to skim. You never know what you might miss, though.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pointing Out Variety

I suppose I should be posting teasers from my collection occasionally, rather than complete stories like the previous one. And possibly I should demonstrate some of the variety, as a fair warning that there is edgy content, here, too. Even that aspect is always, I hope, a vital part of the story I'm telling; even the kink has, well, a point. A sharp one.

So here's the relatively innocuous beginning to my story "The Outside Edge." Things get much more edgy later, for good reasons, and there's a romantic element as well, enough that it was reprinted in Best Lesbian Romance 2010.

The Outside Edge

Suli was fire and wine, gold and scarlet, lighting up the dim passageway where we waited.
I leaned closer to adjust her Spanish tortoiseshell comb. A cascade of dark curls brushed my face, shooting sparks all the way down to my toes, but even a swift, tender kiss on her neck would be too risky. I might not be able to resist pressing hard enough to leave a dramatic visual effect the TV cameras couldn’t miss.

Tenderness wasn’t what she needed right now, and neither was passion. An edgy outlet for nervous energy would be more like it. “Skate a clean program,” I murmured in her ear, “and maybe I’ll let you get dirty tonight.” My arm across her shoulders might have looked locker-room casual, but the look she shot me had nothing to do with team spirit.
“Maybe, Jude? You think maybe you’ll let me?” She tossed her head. Smoldering eyes, made even brighter and larger by theatrical makeup, told me that I’d need to eat my words later before my mouth could move on to anything more appealing.
The other pairs were already warming up. Suli followed Tim into the arena, her short scarlet skirt flipping up oh-so-accidentally to reveal her firm, sweet ass. She wriggled, daring me to give it an encouraging slap, knowing all too well what the rear view of a scantily clad girl does for me.
I followed into the stadium and watched the action from just outside the barrier. As Suli and Tim moved onto the ice, the general uproar intensified. Their groupies had staked a claim near one end, and a small cadre of my own fans were camped out nearby, having figured out over the competition season that something was up between us. Either they’d done some discreet stalking, or relied on the same gaydar that had told them so much about me even before I’d fully understood it myself. Probably both.

Being gay wasn’t, in itself, a career-buster these days. Sure, the rumormongers were eternally speculating about the men in their sequined outfits, but the skating community was united in a compact never to tell, and the media agreed tacitly never to ask. A rumor of girl-on-girl sex would probably do nothing more than inspire some fan fiction in certain blogging communities. That didn’t mean there weren’t still lines you couldn’t cross in public, especially in performance—lines I was determined, with increasing urgency, to cross once and for all.

But I didn’t want to bring Suli down if I fell. That discussion was something we kept avoiding, and whenever I tried to edge toward it she’d distract me in ways I couldn’t resist.
Suli’s the best, I thought now in the stadium, watching her practice faultless jumps with Tim. You’d never guess what she’d been doing last night with me, while the other skaters were preparing for the performance of their lives with more restful rituals. She’d already set records in pairs skating, and next year, at my urging, she was going to go solo. It was a good thing I wouldn’t be competing against her.

I won’t be competing against anybody, I thought, my mind wandering as the warm-up period dragged on.

It had taken me long enough to work it out, focusing on my skating for so many years, but the more I appreciated the female curves inside those scanty, seductive costumes, the less comfortable I was wearing them. Cute girls in skimpy outfits were just fine with me—bodies arched in laybacks, or racing backward, glutes tensed and pumping, filmy fabric fluttering in the breeze like flower petals waving to the hungry bees—but I’d rather see than be one.
I’d have quit mainstream competition if they hadn’t changed the rules to allow long-legged “unitards” instead of dresses. That concession wasn’t enough to make me feel really comfortable, though, and I knew my coach was right that some judges would hold it against me if I didn’t wear a skirt at least once in a while. This year I’d alternated animal-striped unitards with a Scottish outfit just long enough to preserve the mystery of what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, assuming that he isn’t doing much in the way of spins or jumps or spirals. I knew this for certain, having experimented in solitary practice with my own sturdy six inches of silicon pride.
So why not just switch to the Gay Games? Or follow Rudy Galindo and Surya Bonaly to guest appearances on SkateOut’s Cabaret on Ice?
If you have a shot at the Olympics, the Olympics are where you go, that’s why. Or so I’d thought. But I was only in fifth place after the short program—maybe one or two of the judges weren’t that keen on bagpipe music—and a medal was too long a shot now.
I knew, deep down, what the problem was. Johanna, the coach we shared, had urged me to study Suli’s style in hopes that some notion of elegance and grace might sink into my thick head. Suli had generously agreed to try to give me at least a trace of an artistic clue. But the closer we became, the more I’d rebelled against faking a feminine grace and elegance that were so naturally hers, and so unnatural for me.
This would be my last competition, no matter what. Maybe I’d get a pro gig with a major ice show, maybe I wouldn’t. If I did, it would be on my own terms. “As God is my witness, I’ll never be girlie again!” I’d proclaimed melodramatically to Suli last night.
“Works just fine for me,” she’d said, kneeling with serene poise to take my experimental six inches between her glossy, carmined lips and deep into her velvet throat.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Story: To Remember You By

As promised, I'm posting (temporarily) the lead-off story from my collection. The final story continues the lives of the central characters 35 years later. Anyone commenting on this post gets a chance at a free copy of the book, once I get my hands on the hardcopies.

To Remember You By

"A movie!" she crowed from three thousand miles away. "They're making a movie of our book!"
"Our book" was Healing Their Wings, a bittersweet, often funny novel about American nurses in England during World War II. My grandson's wife had based it on oral histories she'd recorded from several of us who had kept in contact over the past half-century.
I rejoiced with her at the news, but then came a warning she was clearly embarrassed to have to make. "The screenwriters are bound to change some things, though. There's a good chance they'll want it to be quite a bit, well, racier."
"Racier?" I said. "Honey, all you had to do was ask the right questions!" How had she missed the passionate undertones to my story? When I spoke, all too briefly, of Cleo, had she thought the catch in my voice was merely old age taking its toll at last? The young assume that they alone have explored the wilder shores of sex; or, if not, that the flesh must inevitably forget.
I had to admit that I was being unfair to her. Knowing what she did of my long, happy life with Jack, how could she even have guessed the right questions to ask? But it hardly matters now. The time is right. I'm going to share those memories, whether the movie people are ready for the truth or not. Because my flesh has never forgotten--will never forget--Cleo Remington.

In the summer of 1943 the air was sometimes so thick with sex you could have spread it like butter and it would have melted, even on cold English toast.
The intensity of youth, the urgency of wartime, drove us. Nurses, WAC's, young men hurled into the deadly air war against Germany, gathered between one crisis and another in improvised dance halls. Anything from barns to airfield hangars to tents rigged from parachute silk would do. To the syncopated jive of trumpets and clarinets, to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Accentuate the Positive," we swayed and jitterbugged and twitched our butts defiantly at past and future. To the muted throb of drums and the yearning moan of saxophones, to "As Time Goes By" and "I'll Be Seeing You," our bodies clung and throbbed and yearned together.
I danced with men facing up to mortality, and with brash young kids in denial. Either way, life pounded through their veins and bulged in their trousers and sometimes my body responded with such force I felt as though my own skirt should have bulged with it.
But I wasn't careless. And I wasn't in love. As a nurse, I'd tried to mend too many broken boys, known too many who never made it back at all, to let my mind be clouded by love. Sometimes, though, in dark hallways or tangles of shrubbery or the shadow of a bomber's wings, I would comfort some nice young flier with my body and drive him on until his hot release geysered over my hand. Practical Application of Anatomical Theory, we nurses called it, "PAT" for short. Humor is a frail enough defense against the chaos of war, but you take what you can get.
Superstition was the other universal defense. Mine, I suppose, was a sort of vestal virgin complex, an unexamined belief that opening my flesh to men would destroy my ability to heal theirs.
My very defenses (and repressions) might have opened me to Cleo. Would my senses have snapped so suddenly to attention in peacetime? They say war brings out things you didn't know were in you. But I think back to my first sight of her, the intense gray eyes, the thick, dark hair too short and straight for fashion, the forthright movements of her lean body--and a shiver of delight ripples through me, even now. No matter where or when we met, she would have stirred me.
The uniform sure didn't hurt, dark blue, tailored, with slacks instead of skirt. I couldn't identify the service, but "USA" stood out clearly on each shoulder, so it made sense for her to be at the Red Cross club on Charles Street in London, set up by the United States Ambassador's wife for American servicewomen.
There was a real dance floor, and a good band was playing that night, but Cleo lingered near the entrance as though undecided whether to continue down the wide, curving staircase. I don't know how long I stared at her. When I looked up from puzzling over the silver pin on her breast she was watching me quizzically. My date, a former patient whose half-healed wounds made sitting out most of the dances advisable, gripped my shoulder to get my attention.
"A friend of yours?" he asked. He'd been getting a bit maudlin as they played "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," and I'd already decided he wasn't going to get the kind of comfort he'd been angling for. I shook off his hand.
"No," I said, "I was just trying to place the uniform. Are those really wings on her tunic?" I felt a thrill of something between envy and admiration. The high, compact breasts under the tunic had caught my attention, too, but that wasn’t something I was ready to admit to myself. I watched her movements with more than casual interest as she descended the stairs and took a table in a dim corner.

Pride…and Prejudice

This is another column I've just written for Women and Words. It's a bit on the political side, but I do eventually get into connections with writing LGBT erotica. As a reward for making your way through this (or even if you don't,) tonight I'll post a considerable excerpt of an erotic story that involves writing about lesbians in an historical context, one of the points I discuss below. (The story just happens to be the lead-off piece in my new collection, A Ride to Remember.)

Onward to the column:

The Pride Match was this past Saturday in Northampton, MA. It was the 30th anniversary of the first such event, with billows of rainbow balloons, marching bands, Dykes on Bikes, little kids on tricycles or in strollers, puppies, politicians, groups from just about every school and civic organization and church in the region, and floats with fine and fancy drag queens. I was really happy to see the drag queens, because in recent years the whole thing had been tending too far toward the sedately wholesome (with the exception, of course of the Raging Grannies, who always liven things up.)

Don’t worry, I’m definitely going to tie all this in with writing. But before I get there, let me indulge in a few ruminations on where we are and where we’re going.

In the first few years of this Pride March (and others all over the country,) many marchers wore paper bags over their heads. Anonymity was a matter of personal safety, or at least of keeping one’s job. There were vicious hecklers, too, and misguided religious objectors. No hecklers show up these days (there’s plenty of security, and those Dykes on Bikes, and local police who are often “family” themselves, as is the Mayor.) There were some wearers of paper bags, though, carrying signs reminding us of former days, and of how much is still to be accomplished to reach true equality. An article in the local paper featured activists who argued that the March has become just a parade, not a protest, and that the party atmosphere obscures the problems that still exist, especially for transgender people. One speaker at the rally afterward told the crowd that we have Amherst/Northampton in western MA, and Cambridge/Boston on the east coast (and I’ll add Provincetown to the list,) but even in mostly-liberal Massachusetts there’s no place transgender people can feel safe to stop in between.

I’m inclined to think that that was a slight exaggeration, for rhetorical effect, but it’s close enough to the truth to be food for thought. And I don’t think we have to wait until all possible problems are solved before we celebrate how far we’ve come, and party because we feel like it, and because we can. But we still have far to go, and anyone who pays attention to national news can see that in some ways and in too many places we’re actually losing ground.

Enough with the politics. Onward to our writing, and reading. How do we handle the all-too-real world around us in our fiction? There’s nothing wrong with ignoring the problems some of the time; we all want to read lesbian fiction that shows us participating fully in society, without barriers, and, in fact, many of us do that. Most of the time. We want the world in our fiction to be the world as it should be. But sometimes there are stories that do confront inequalities and injustice and prejudice, and we need those, too. Stories need conflict; often that’s supplied by fighting crime or solving mysteries or battling the elements or even just misunderstandings, but we do have a built-in source of conflict in our current culture, and even if that’s not the focus of our stories, it can add an edge and a sense of risk that intensifies the rest.

In historical fiction this is especially true. If you’re trying to be accurate about an historical period, as opposed to writing fantasy, you can’t pretend that everything is hunky dory and being lesbian or gay doesn’t matter (unless, of course, your story is set in, say, the artistic circles of Paris in the early twentieth century, or possibly Greenwich Village, and even then you had to be either rich or a protégée of the rich to be accepted.) That gives you a source of fictional conflict right there. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about using the misfortunes of those who went before us as grist for the writing mill; on the other hand, those stories need to be told, and not forgotten, along with the protest marchers with bags over their heads.

That was my original intended link between the Pride March and writing--but today I was handed a better one. You’ve probably heard about the Eppie Awards for e-published books; this year’s winners have just been announced, and I’ve been seeing mentions all over Facebook. My friend Catherine Lundoff recently volunteered to be a “category screener” for EPIC (the Eppie awarding organization,) which involves a complicated system of deciding which judges read which books, and sending the books to them. Judges get to have books screened for content that they’d rather not read; that is, they can ask not to be sent certain types of books that might distress or offend them. Catherine posted to the Outer Alliance mail list, “The number one screen for content to determine which judges get what books is the following: ‘Content issues: GLBT content, excessive violence, etc.’” There’s another side to this, which is that we’d probably rather not have our work being judged by anyone who finds GLBT content offensive, but still—grouping GLBT content with excessive violence?

I don’t want to rain on our parade, but…well, food for thought.