February 8th, 2018

The Closest I Get to Football

I will be the first to acknowledge that I don’t follow football. I know very little about it, I feel even less interest in it, and I experience no desire for that to shift. However! I have, for some mysterious reason, been known to attend a Super Bowl party here and there over the years. Doing so had virtually nothing to do with football for me, of course, but I remember enjoying the food and company.

I also have known numerous people who are football fans and follow teams and the game as closely as I’ve been known to follow, for example, baseball. All of this is to say that I happen to have written a story that opens with a Super Bowl party—a party that ends up seeming fairly important to the interaction that happens subsequent to it. :) This story happens to be the title tale of my short story collection Safe.

As with many stories I’ve written, there is autobiography woven into “Safe”, though in subtle and interspersed ways that would be hard to explain. The one football-related autobiographical aspect of it is that it was inspired by someone I do know, and I have experienced him as a considerable football fan and someone who would be indeed thrilled were his team to play in, much less win, the Super Bowl.

So in the vague tradition I seem to have started for 2018 of posting story excerpts that correlate to holidays, dates, or events currently occurring :D, I’m sharing here an excerpt of this story. “Safe” was the final story I wrote for this collection, and perhaps appropriately, it closes the book out. Like “Hers to Keep” (from my New Year’s post), this story was one of the ones that was previously unpublished.

from “Safe”:

When the game resumed, Ericka was having trouble sitting still between the physical proximity to Sam and the awareness that he would go home to an empty apartment after he left there. The excitement of the game, even though she had no idea what was going on in it, kept her adrenaline on high, which, coupled with her immediate attraction, translated directly into arousal. With two minutes left on the play clock, she could feel the tension in Sam as he zeroed in on the TV. The heat emanating from his body made her want to jump on him. She tried to focus instead on the whistles and commentary and announcements coming from the surround-sound speakers.

After lots of stops and starts of the game clock that she didn’t understand, play resumed, and some of the people in the room rose to their feet as the seconds ticked down. Ericka wasn’t sure what was happening, but she had the impression it was favorable as the suspense in the room heightened. Abruptly the friends around her exploded into pandemonium, screaming and jumping and hugging as similar antics occurred on the screen among the coaches and players dressed in the same colors as most of the occupants of the room.

Ericka deduced their team had just won the Super Bowl.

Sam turned and pulled her to her feet, and she laughed as he swept her into a hug. As he set her down, his lips pressed against hers in a moment of giddy exuberance, and she caught her breath as he pulled away almost as quickly to continue celebrating. Her body tingled as she watched the glee around her, a newfound exhilaration of her own pulsing from her core.

Soon Sam turned back to her. “I’m sorry—I hope that was okay,” he said near her ear. His smile was a bit sheepish as he backed up to look her in the eye. “My excitement got the better of me for a second.”

Ericka met his eyes squarely. “Lucky for me.”

Sam’s expression shifted, and the noise around them seemed to dull as he looked at her for an extended moment. He appeared to hesitate, as though working to find words, and Ericka was just about to relieve him of the effort when he spoke.

“Would you like to come home with me?”

Ericka couldn’t hold back a breathless chuckle. She stepped closer to him, holding his gaze. “Are you happy your team just won?”

Sam’s grin was electrifying, and he took her hand as they turned to find their coats.

***

Ericka had never been in Sam’s apartment before, and her core buzzed with excitement at the prospect as he unlocked the door.

“It’s a little sparse right now,” he said as he led her inside, closing the door behind her. “Cody took his furniture with him, of course.”

Indeed the only things in the open, square room were the understated entertainment center in a corner below a flat screen-TV, the L-shaped burgundy couch opposite it, and a mahogany coffee table in between.

Ericka, however, felt little concern about the furniture or any lack of it.

“Do you want a tour, or do you want—?” Sam began, and Ericka turned to him. He broke off his own sentence as she stepped toward him, and his mouth landed on hers with an urgency this time, stealing her breath as her body plunged immediately into craving mode.

Though it’s not obvious in this excerpt, “Safe” has an underlying serious streak in it. It was an interesting story to write, and I knew from the beginning of doing so both the story’s title and that I wanted it to also be the title of the entire collection. Thank you for reading, and happy February!

Love,
Emerald

For a man to make her come, he could only barely touch her. Careful. Gentle. Delicate even.

Rarely did she allow it.
-from “Safe”

December 31st, 2017

New Year’s Eve with an Excerpt from Safe! #erotica

Ah, my negligent blogging continues! First, I lament that I missed blogging about the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17. I did not personally forget about it (and deliberately wore a red long-sleeved shirt in support under the layers I wore to the no-kill shelter where I volunteer to walk dogs that day), but I did not manage to draw attention to it here.

It is now New Year’s Eve, and I am blogging to offer an excerpt of one of my stories to celebrate the new year. “Hers to Keep” is in my short story collection Safe and is one of the four stories in that collection that was not previously published. As you’ll see if you read below, my posting this snippet right now is deliberate and timely!

Writing the main character in “Hers to Keep,” Leslie, was an interesting experience for me because I don’t particularly relate to her in a few ways. She has shy tendencies, feels self-conscious around initiating sex, and tends to experience a lot of mental concern about the “implications” of almost every sexual encounter she has. Yet her character came through clearly to me when I started writing the story, as did the setting, which I could then and can still picture clearly whenever I recall it.

Here is the beginning of the second story in Safe, “Hers to Keep”:

“Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!…”

It was the pause between each shout, the literal split second of anticipation before the next number, where Leslie felt like she was. Perpetually in that place of waiting, watching, wondering, the in-between of what was happening rather than actually living among it.

Of course, that was a bit of an exaggeration. The countdown to the annual climax mere seconds away just seemed to highlight the anticlimactic feeling of her current circumstances. Between jobs, between relationships, between any experience that seemed exciting or interesting in her life.

She watched the glittery ball on the oversized flat-screen TV as the frenzy around her grew until the shout of “One—Happy New Year!” reverberated in her ears and the ball dropped amid a flurry of camaraderie and confetti and chaos. The crowd in the room turned to the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the barrage of fireworks that shattered the frigid air amidst the pandemonium of kissing, drinking, and laughing that took over the large suite for the next several minutes.

Leslie watched the colored sparks reflect in the window. Since the fireworks were shot from the park right across the street from the hotel, their view was unparalleled—one of the reasons they’d chosen this location for their party. The presidential suite wasn’t cheap, to be sure, but with twelve of them pitching in for the multi-hosted party, it had been doable. As Leslie turned back to watch the merriment around her and join in to a somewhat subdued degree, she conceded that the plan had been successful. More than fifty people filled the spacious suite in paper tiaras, hats, and banners that read “Happy New Year!” in glittering letters, and they all appeared to be having a good time.

And she was too, she acknowledged as she took a sip from her champagne flute. She was glad her friends had suggested the suite rental, citing the view of the fireworks, central location, and lack of next-day cleanup duties as justification for the financial splurge. Particularly right now, Leslie had noticed, hotels appealed to her—the lack of commitment, responsibility, ownership. Just a space of indulgence, catering to a specified period of carefree luxury. The perfect setting for a party, and for her, the start of a new year.

She suddenly noticed that her eyes had landed on the man she’d seen enter the room only about ten minutes before midnight. She’d taken note of him then, no doubt, but she had no idea who he was or whom he knew there and felt no desire to approach him on her own.

Actually, that wasn’t true. The desire was there. She squirmed uncomfortably, taking another drink of champagne. Sometimes her own shyness frustrated her. It was more that she didn’t feel comfortable going up to him, especially since she was obviously not the only one who had noticed the particular presence he possessed, as he was now surrounded by a group of partygoers and appeared perfectly comfortable as the center of attention.

She stepped into the mob and made the rounds, placing chaste kisses on the cheeks of her closest friends and, with a bit of a blush, some of the new people she was just meeting tonight.

Without really trying, she eventually she found herself in the group surrounding the mysterious—albeit popular—stranger, and as her friend Ed kissed her cheek and turned to introduce him to her, she blushed harder.

“Leslie, this is Grant. He heads up the IT department at our branch in Colorado. Grant, this is Leslie, a good friend of mine.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Grant said, his eyes on hers as he offered a warm handshake. Leslie nodded and returned the sentiment even as his touch made her body tingle. He was even more magnetizing up close than he’d appeared from across the room, his smile glittering like the ball that had just dropped in Times Square. She was suddenly sorry that the kissing part of the evening had just passed. She thought wistfully for a moment about her less shy friends and what they might do in this situation before she looked down, flustered, and let go of his hand.

She shifted to face the rest of the group, standing somewhat awkwardly between Grant and Ed as the conversation picked up where it had presumably left off. She could feel the heat of Grant’s body next to her, and it made breathing more difficult.

“So where’s Alicia?” Ed asked, and Grant nodded acknowledgement of the question as he took a drink.

“She skipped this trip, not wanting to be stuck watching me work on New Year’s Eve,” he laughed. “We didn’t know about your party at the time.”

He was married. Leslie dropped her eyes to his left hand, which she’d forgotten to check. She stared dully at the silver band there. A lightness in her that she hadn’t even fully noticed yet plummeted, disappearing into the ether as Ed gave some response.

With a subtle sigh, Leslie excused herself a few moments later and returned to the bar in the corner of the suite’s main room. Abandoning her champagne flute, she grabbed the ice scoop and a glass and looked around for the bottle of Scotch.

Leaning against the bar, she took a sip and looked out the window at the black sky, void now of its pyrotechnic display and filled again with only the still, chilly-looking glow of orange streetlights and a cloud-shrouded moon. A few of her co-hosts came over, and she swallowed her frustration and made an effort to join the conversation.

“Do you know where you want to sleep tonight, Leslie?” her friend Kayla asked. There were two bedrooms included on either side of the suite. While many would probably crash on the floor of the main room, it was understood that the party hosts were privy to the bedroom accommodations.

Leslie pointed to one of the doors. “I put my stuff in that one. I brought a sleeping bag and don’t really mind sleeping on the floor if need be.”

Kayla nodded and started to say something, then stopped and smiled over Leslie’s shoulder.

Leslie turned and found Grant behind her holding the bottle of Scotch. He smiled at her, and she smiled back somewhat stiffly, doing her best to quell the attraction in her now that she knew he was married. He gestured toward her glass with the bottle, and she held it out to him with a shrug.

“I understand you’re one of the hosts of this shindig. Great party,” he said, raising his glass to her. “I’d suspected I’d be spending New Year’s alone on a computer somewhere.”

She nodded acknowledgement and couldn’t help smiling.

“I knew Ed lived here and had gotten in touch with him about getting together later in the week, and he told me about this party,” he continued. “As it turned out, I wrapped up what I needed to just in time to come ring in the new year. I’m glad, since it turns out I’ll be flying back home tomorrow. Holiday or not, information systems don’t take breaks.” He smiled and took another drink.

“Well, your wife will probably be glad to see you,” Leslie said lightly, reminding him that she knew he had one.

“Yes, she probably would have come with me if she’d known I’d be going to a party,” he responded, showing no sign of embarrassment or hesitation at the mention of his wife. He met her eyes. “It’s too bad. I’m sure she would have loved to meet you, too.” He trained that smile on her, and it seemed to emanate heat straight to her core. Leslie looked away and fumbled with her glass, finding the comment odd even as she tried fervently to ignore the tingling arousal Grant’s attention set off throughout her body.

“We’re in an open relationship,” he continued easily as he lifted his glass to his lips.

“An open relationship,” Leslie repeated. She tried not to display her ignorance. She’d heard the phrase, but she’d never personally known anyone who was in one.

“We have sex with other people,” he clarified.

Leslie stared at him.

“Not that I mean to be implying anything.” Grant’s demeanor suddenly shifted to slight embarrassment, and Leslie realized her response was probably making him think she wasn’t interested in such a thing regardless of what kind of relationship he and his wife had. The heat returned to her cheeks and, flustered, she realized she needed to say something.

“Do you mean—your wife knows you do that?” She blushed harder for having answered with something she immediately deemed one of the dumbest-sounding things she had said in some time. The truth was that at the words “other people,” her breath had caught, and the dizzying effect he seemed to be having on her had increased exponentially. Was he hitting on her?

“It’s not really something either of us ‘does’ that the other needs to ‘know’ about,” he said, the smile back on his face. All discomfort had evaporated from his countenance, returning him to the self-assured state she was already finding familiar in him. “It’s just the style of relationship we have. But in answer to your question, yes, we communicate openly about what we’re up to.”

Thank you so much for reading! Safe is available in print and e-book form at the list of retailers here.

In the meantime, I’m very preliminarily playing with the idea of creating another short story collection, and I have the rights back to a novella I have been considering expanding into a novel (which would be my first, assuming I don’t finish my long-in-progress novel first!).

Thank you for coming by, and wishing all a very happy New Year’s Eve and 2018!

Love,
Emerald

Closing the bathroom door behind her, Leslie stepped back into her dress and looked at herself in the mirror. Her cheeks were still flushed, and she smiled at her disheveled reflection. Something looked different, though she couldn’t quite place what.
-from later in “Hers to Keep”

October 10th, 2017

Interlude

Radar is the black cat at top center, Liam is the brown dog, Chloe is the black dog, and Lilac is the kitty at bottom left.

I’ve been largely absent from blogging, and more absent than I’d like to be from writing, for about the past year and a half. This post will, I hope, represent a segue back into both.

In early 2016, I bought my first house. A few weeks later (after the painting and wallpapering and carpet-cleaning were done), I added to my family of my two cats and me two sibling (and very fearful/shy) puppies from the no-kill shelter where I was volunteering. Everybody is pictured above. :)

Thus began what seemed like a year straight of furniture assembly, unpacking, and decorating, all amidst training, watching, and taking care of puppies—with the latter seeming to make the former almost unimaginably slower! (“The puppies” were actually nine months old when they arrived at the shelter, over a year when I adopted them, and just turned three last month, but I started referring to them as “the puppies” shortly after I first met them and have not felt inclined to stop yet.)

I had a six-foot privacy fence built around my awesome and sizable yard so the puppies could play together to their hearts’ content. Unplanned complication number one emerged when the puppies proved themselves (easily) able to jump/climb over the fence a few weeks later. What seems like a substantial part of the last year and a half has been focusing on, devising, and implementing reinforcements to add to the fence to keep them contained. (Town ordinance dictates six feet is the maximum height for fences.)

They haven’t worked yet. When people have asked me lately if I’ve “been writing,” I have felt a temptation (to which I’ve sometimes seceded) to say, “No, I’ve been too busy trying to keep my puppies contained in my yard.” This feels closer to accurate than to an offhand joke!

Anyway, I am hoping I finally have things on the way to being in order now, freeing me up to refocus on writing. My house is mostly the way I want it (even the seeming perpetual pile of stuff in the unfinished basement has finally been organized and put away into storage), and I hope my latest fence reinforcement plan will soon allow me to let the puppies outside unsupervised again (please, please, please…).

I should soon have writing news to share (for what seems like the first time in so long!!). In the meantime, over the last eighteen months or so, here are a few things I missed/was neglectful about announcing here:

1) Steve Cline, whom I have invariably experienced as lovely, interviewed me last year on his blog, The Dirty Scribe. I enjoyed the interview, which focused on my short story collections, If… Then and Safe, very much and found his questions flattering, perceptive, and stimulating to answer. Thank you, Steve!

2) I have a story in the anthology The One Who Got Away, published by Cleis Press and also released last year (ugh, I cannot believe how behind I am…). My story, “Sunshine,” was an interesting one as far as the writing experience for me. It started with a single image that entered my consciousness, followed quickly by the reason for the image (image: an intricate analog clock tattoo; reason: it indicates the time a significant event occurred in the character’s experience). It was one of those stories that simply seemed to come out as I wrote it; I largely had no idea what was imminent in it until I typed it. The One Who Got Away is edited by the awesome Kristina Wright, whom I have always found it a pleasure and honor to work with.

3) In case you missed it, I was delighted to be a guest on Kay Phoenix’s “Midweek Escapes” blog feature back in May. (I do love opportunities to talk about Niagara Falls!)

Thank you for reading, and be well!

Love,
Emerald

She nodded and casually hooked her fingers over the edge of the lavender fabric, pulling it to the side so he could see the tattoo fully. It was positioned high enough above her left breast that showing it was not inappropriate.

The design was a round clock face, intricate with its twelve Roman numerals and solid black hands positioned at just after seven o’clock. Sean studied the precise numerals and tiny black indicators between each one, struck by their meticulous resemblance to those of a genuine clock. Each hand blossomed from its respective black arm into an elaborate tangle of swirls and then back to a pristine point. The ink around the border gave the impression of a shiny casing, and the entire thing was about the size of a silver dollar.
-from “Sunshine”

May 3rd, 2017

Midweek Escapes with @KayPhoenix_!

I am truly delighted to be featured on Kay Phoenix‘s blog today for her weekly Midweek Escapes feature. I had the pleasure of meeting Kay at the inaugural Hot Mojave Knights (HMK) in 2013 and was so pleased to have the opportunity to see her at the next two as well! I always enjoyed her company, which is one reason I jumped at the chance to be a guest on her blog.

The other is because the topic is favorite travel spots! Some may know/recall that Niagara Falls holds a special place in my heart. Ever since my solo writing trip there in 2013, I have longed to go back. My Midweek Escapes post touches on that, a little philosophy the Falls has seemed to tend to draw out of me, and my Niagara Falls-set story in If… Then, “Shattered Angels.”

Many thanks to Kay for hosting me (and for the ridiculously kind introduction she offers me) on Midweek Escapes this week!

Love,
Emerald

“She said, ‘Where’d you want to go, how much you want to risk?’…”
-The Chainsmokers and Coldplay “Something Just Like This”

November 16th, 2016

On Politics and Feminism

Pantsuit Nation selfie, Election Day 2016

Pantsuit Nation selfie, Election Day 2016

As the title of this post may suggest, if you find yourself not interested in politics or feminism or expressions of my perspectives on them, you may want to skip this post.

A few days ago, I read an article from Glamour magazine that came out months ago and had been on my “to read” list ever since: “President Barak Obama Says, ‘This Is What a Feminist Looks Like.'”

By the time I finished reading it, I was openly crying. The juxtaposition of my reasons for such was breathtaking.

For context, I want to back up a moment and share a post I made to my personal Facebook profile on November 10:

“Yesterday I felt horrified that Trump won. Today I feel devastated that Clinton lost. She worked so hard (for decades), is so qualified, was so prepared. She lost to a man who by no stretch could be called any of those things. I see it as (among other things) wretchedly unfair. I also feel a considerable part of the populace of this country has either forgotten, doesn’t realize, or doesn’t take seriously that the presidency is in fact a job. Yes, the campaign cycle has been reduced to a sensational media show in this country, but being president is an actual job that requires attendant skill and expertise, and this country has elected someone who has demonstrated zero experience and qualifications to hold it, in addition to demonstrating no discernible interest in learning that I have observed.

All that is leaving aside for the moment the myriad reasons I feel profoundly appalled that Trump was elected in the face of what he did demonstrate. This post at the moment is not a call to action or an offering oriented toward uplift or helpfulness (those may come). It is simply an expression. An expression of sadness, of lamentation, of some things I feel right now amidst many other things I have felt, do feel, and will likely feel.

Love to all.”

That reflects how I feel now as precisely as it did then.

To return to the article, which was written by President Obama, I hardly know how to describe what an inspiring, insightful, incisive, beautiful offering I found it to be from a person I’m so grateful this country has had the honor of the leadership of for eight years. Perhaps my favorite line was, “And yes, it’s important that [his daughters’] dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”

As they absolutely should. I was, quite simply, moved to tears by the gratitude and resonance I felt in the face of such exquisite awareness, articulateness, groundedness, and respect for humanity. It was truly one of the most beautiful pieces on feminism I had ever read.

Simultaneously, I was crying because it was literally almost painful to read such a profound exposition against the backdrop of knowing we had just elected as the next president a man who has unambiguously asserted sexist, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, and indeed misanthropic (I have seen it said and understand myself that “all hatred is self-hatred”) views in both personal and political/social contexts. Throughout the election cycle, I had perceived it as disgraceful that such a candidate had made it as far in the electoral process as he had; that he was actually elected to the presidency indicates such profound ugliness to me about our country I’m not sure I know how to articulate it.

The contrast was staggering. And for me, there are two separate though obviously related issues at hand. One is the prospect of Donald Trump’s being president. Of course I find that horrifying given the things I interpreted him as saying and the astonishingly low capacity to self-regulate I observed in him throughout his campaign. The other is that, regardless of what he demonstrates or instigates or accomplishes as president, a considerable portion of the populace of this country voted for him to be the leader of it in the face of his unabashed expression of perspectives embracing sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia of all stripes. In a nod to rape culture, this country voluntarily put in a position of (tremendous) power a man who explicitly condoned sexual assault. Whether or not Trump governs the way he campaigned, he still campaigned as he did, and almost half the people voting in this country voted for him amidst the tremendous unconsciousness and service of fear he displayed. Yes, I am horrified by the idea of his being president. I am at least as horrified that he was elected as such.

I have seen a proposition that a large proportion of his voters were rural, white, poor people. I don’t necessarily doubt that. And I have not been in the situation those voters have, which I truly and deeply appreciate. In the case of those voters, it is wrenchingly sorrowful to me that there are people in this country who find themselves in a position so dire that they feel compelled to vote for someone who demonstrates intentions to harm entire populations based on race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion in order to feel their own situation will improve or even that they will survive. (Very sadly, I have not and do not for one second feel Trump intends or desires to do anything at all to help those people. I did not at any point during the campaign see any indication that he has or has ever really demonstrated any desire to help anyone but himself.)

For those who are not in that situation and who also voted for Trump, I have seen a number of posts in the relatively sparse perusal I have been doing of social media since the election that seem to want to offer assurance of the understanding that they themselves do not consider themselves racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc…. I acknowledge that I am not there at this time. However much those voters may not feel or want to identify with supporting racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia themselves, they voted for a ticket that did, making their vote complicit with allowing those perspectives to ascend to representation in the highest level of official authority in this country. I don’t know how we could not yet as a species, or at least as a country, have come to understand that passive support of violence and oppression represents a stark and potentially grave threat, but I fear we may be in for another lesson to assist us in doing so.

Right now, I take a deep breath and reaffirm the appreciation I feel that our current president, in the piece that inspired this blog post, understands and offers such an aware, humanitarian, enlightened perspective and understanding of feminism’s importance, along with a resting, even amidst the revulsion I feel, that there are others out there who understand…that humanity is aware in part of things like intrinsic human equality even as other factions have not yet caught up to that level of awareness. That there is shadow in all of us and our work to see and release our own helps release the collective shadow that has so grossly emerged at this moment in United States (and human) history. And that we are still, and always, all One.

In answer to the perspective I have been seeing expressed that Donald Trump must now be given the “chance to lead”—of course he’ll get a chance. There’s nothing I (or anyone else) can do about that now.

I regret that this nation saw fit to offer him one.

Love,
Emerald

“If anyone still doubts that the inexperienced man gets promoted ahead of the qualified woman, you can wake up now.”
-Barbara Kingsolver (“End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House”)