Archive for Sex+ Art
I’m really delighted to be appearing as a guest today on the blog of Adriana Kraft, the husband-and-wife writing team with whom I’ve been acquainted online for years (Adriana and I both had stories in 2010’s The Cougar Book) but actually got to meet in person a few weeks ago at the inaugural Hot Mojave Knights! For my guest spot, entitled “What’s in a Label?: Subjectivity in Art and Life,” I wrote a bit about my experience at the event, as well as a not-so-new question we were asked on the erotica panel and an unexpected insight that resulted later.
I’d love it if you’d stop by, and big thanks to Adriana for hosting me!
To be sure, there are requirements that writing labeled romance must fulfill in order to take on that label. And my work sometimes doesn’t. For one thing, rather than the happily-ever-after ending imperative in romance, many of my stories do end up with happy characters, but it has much more to do with sex that just occurred than with any purported ongoing relationship between them. In some stories, the ending might even seem more ambiguous than happy. But I have also written stories that seem to fit the general erotic romance delineation, and perhaps my own wariness about whether I’m doing that “right” is less significant than how readers experience it.
-from “What’s in a Label?”
Regular visitors to my site may have noticed the button to the left that features quite lovely-looking knights and mentions the dates of October 18-20. If you follow me on social media, you probably saw the links to my post on the Hot Mojave Knights blog talking about the event a couple weeks ago.
I will admit I have been remiss in not specifically blogging here about this extraordinary event—until now! I could use the excuse that social media seems faster and easier (translation: laziness :) ) or that I’ve known about the event for so long that I was waiting until it got closer to do a big announcement about it; both of those are true, but since the event is now exactly five weeks away (five happens to be my favorite number, ha), the time has now come to give the forthcoming Hot Mojave Knights event its highly due attention here on my blog!
Hot Mojave Knights (HMK) is a romance reader weekend packed with interactive events and opportunities for readers to connect with writers they love, as well as meet new ones. Also (and very importantly)—it is going to be held in Las Vegas!! I was deeply, deeply honored when organizing committee member Siobhan Muir, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of being acquainted ever since the Erotic Authors Association conference in 2011, asked me some time back if I would like to be one of the Authors of the Court at the inaugural Hot Mojave Knights event (you can read more about my delighted but slightly nervous response here on the HMK blog). I am so delighted that Siobhan asked me and that I accepted, and I am becoming more excited about the weekend by the day!
First, a few months ago I found such a delightful item to include in my author raffle basket (which will be auctioned off to benefit the local-to-Las-Vegas Adopt A Rescue Pet, a cause I am very, very happy to support) that I was rather beside myself. Yes, sometimes it’s the little things that excite me. ;) I was going to have it be a surprise, but I’m just so delighted by it that I’m going to share it now. It was made by an artist who custom-designs and -engraves items such as keychains, money clips, etc. And guess what else she makes? Condom holders! I was so thrilled when I discovered this and wasted no time in placing an order that included a green background and a gemstone design (get it?). Here is the final result:
HMK also features intimate encounters with the Authors of the Court. How to fill the half hour I and anyone who would like to come see me are allotted is still in the planning stages for me…but I do hope to do the opportunity justice. :D In addition, there will be a masquerade ball on Saturday evening, for which we are all invited to dress up as our favorite book character. Authors are invited to dress as a character of their own creation, and while I know which of my characters I plan to emulate (in appearance anyway), my outfit has not been completely determined yet. I chalk that up to one of the many enjoyable tasks involved in preparing for my attendance at HMK. :) I do love planning outfits!
In addition, the HMK organizers have arranged for four charming, and, um, as far as I’m concerned, easy-on-the-eyes knights to mingle amongst us all weekend aiming to earn chivalry points and be awarded the coveted title of Mr. Mojave Knight during Saturday evening’s proceedings. :)
In short, the organizers have provided this list of what is included for those who choose to join us at this highly anticipated weekend:
- Hot Mojave Knights Swag Bag
- Access to the hospitality suite and bookstore all weekend
- Admission to Intimate Encounters with Court Authors and Sponsor Events
- Intimate Rendezvous event with Scribes of the Realm – “speed dating” event
- Catered Costume Ball/Banquet with two drink tickets on Saturday night
- Admission to the Hot Mojave Knight Crowning event on Saturday night
- Continental Breakfasts both Saturday and Sunday mornings
- Admission to the Featured Authors Book Signing on Sunday
As I hope would be obvious to anyone who has ever visited this blog, I would be utterly delighted and honored to see any of you who have read and/or enjoyed my work there. :) Please see this page for everything you need to sign up, and if you have any questions about the event, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and ask. Lastly, please follow Hot Mojave Knights on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all the news and info leading up to the event!
Five weeks from today…so the countdown begins!!
-Faith Hill “Let’s Go to Vegas”
Something new this time was that Susana Mayer, founder and curator of the Salon, has begun offering the features a chance to lead a discussion about a topic of their choice with attendees for a half hour before the Salon starts. Since I’d seen mentions of it lately and feel interested enough in the subject to have written about it myself, I asked if I could chat with the attendees about the depiction of condom use in erotic fiction.
I was really interested in what the attendees had to say on the subject, both as writers and readers, and I was delighted by the degree of participation in the discussion. I also loved that there seemed to be a diversity of perspectives, and I never sensed any disrespect on anyone’s part of any of them. Awesome! For me, it really turned out to be an interesting conversation, and I appreciate the opportunity to have initiated it and especially appreciate the offerings from all those who chose to share.
As usual, there was a remarkable array of presentations among the five-minute readings in which participants have the opportunity to partake. I truly am struck by what an extraordinary, unusual (not to mention popular!) environment Susana has managed to create with the Salon. Its specialness is unmistakable, and it’s been such a pleasure to be there every time I have.
I read just before intermission and prior to the other feature presenter, the featured musician of the evening, who opened the Salon again after the culmination of the break. I had chosen, for particular personal reasons, to read from my story “Then,” which was published a couple years ago in Rachel Kramer Bussel‘s anthology Obsessed. The story is too long to fit into the 10 minutes I was allotted, so I started in the middle. :) I don’t really have to describe it, as the video is right here if you are interested:
One of the things I’ve consistently found joyous about attending the Salon is seeing people there I know and love. Though there were a few “regulars” who weren’t there that I missed, this time was no exception. Of course seeing Susana is a delight, and Erobintica came down from Connecticut and read us two new poems during her turn at the mic. Her good friend whom I won’t name here (as I don’t know if he’s okay with that) was there, too, and I ended up staying overnight with them so I could have lunch the next day with my extraordinarily delightful new friend Ashley, whom I met at CatalystCon East and who was attending the Salon as a brand-new resident of Philadelphia. A wonderful couple I had the pleasure of meeting last year at a Monica Day-curated event was there, too, and it was a delight as usual to see them.
It was, as it has been in the past, a marvelous time. Enormous thanks to Susana for letting me feature, Erobintica’s friend for hosting me overnight and for doing my videotaping, and all who came out to physically be with us for the event. Already looking forward to next time!
-Ke$ha “Take It Off”
I’ll be honest—when I saw this call for submissions, I felt a slight twinge of apprehension. I personally feel deeply disturbed by war and by what seems to be humanity’s collective propensity to see it as inevitable. I feel no resonance with nationalism at all. I don’t know that I would necessarily label myself “patriotic,” though I appreciate where I live and a lot of things about where I live. In some part of my consciousness I felt a small degree of concern that I might see the final version of this anthology as filled with “us vs. them” bravado, anti-“enemy” sentiment, and/or lacking the considerable reverence I feel even a peripheral association with the topic of war calls for.
When I mentioned this to my partner, I interpreted him as pointing out that sex and romance could develop even in circumstances of military and war. I immediately agreed, elaborating that that wasn’t my concern and that I too felt and feel romance—and most definitely sex—may arise within virtually every circumstance. (It’s one of the reasons I love erotica: there is infinite opportunity to explore this.) I did realize when he said that, however, that this book wasn’t likely to be focusing or commenting on war much but rather on the universality to which he had just alluded—namely, that of erotic and personal connection.
I found that to be the case, and I further discovered my concerns to be entirely unfounded. Never in these stories did I feel that a reverence for this theme wavered in a way I found discomfiting. This I found not only a relief but also something that noticeably impressed me, and I appreciate the (unsurprising) sensitivity with which I feel Kristina compiled this anthology, as well as the depth and sincerity the authors brought to each of the contributions within it.
In fact, the stories here also made me feel more connected, reminded me that sexuality is a universal subject area, and like effective erotica, it brought me to that place regardless of the actual context or circumstances. Throughout them, I myself also detected a tone a bit more reverent, more serious, than most of the erotica or erotic romance anthologies I’ve read; a constant undercurrent of solemnity I found fitting given this volume’s theme.
It would be disingenuous of me to not also admit that frequently, I found the subject matter very hot. In the course of the inner Work I have been doing for several years, I have come to realize that protection and safety are trigger areas for me, both positively and negatively, and that means (in my experience anyway) that they seem to have an intense potential to stimulate. These stories happened to be filled with those themes, and I will admit there was a part of me that found the electric evocation of arousal in them difficult, if not impossible, to resist.
Each of these stories touched or affected me differently. I am aware of that, but I also feel aware of an unusual (in my experience) cohesiveness, of how this volume affected me as a whole, not even as a collection of stories but as a work encompassing a theme I approached with slight trepidation and emerged from with profound desire, even yearning, and gratitude for the universal oneness we share (whether we realize it or not). Whether I wanted it to affect me that way—and before I read it I might have questioned that—and whether I feel comfortable with what about it did so, it nonetheless did.
That, of course, means it is an opportunity for me to learn about myself. Which is one of the opportunities I appreciate most in life.
That kind of depth aside, I truly found this book beautiful. It may sound flippant, but I am not intending to be so when I say I feel these authors outdid themselves, offering stories of a world with which some of us are wholly unfamiliar and possibly can hardly imagine and illuminating what is both unique to that and what is universal—the expression of that universality being, again, something I see as a hallmark of successful erotica writing.
Incidentally, it’s unusual for me to have felt turned on by almost every story in an erotica anthology. I can easily enjoy or appreciate an erotica story without feeling turned on, and for me, that doesn’t lessen the story’s appeal. It happens that in the case of this anthology, that point was moot—story after story left my breathing faster, my heartbeat accelerated, and lower parts of my anatomy pulsing (I suppose I could say “pussy,” but it seems to interrupt the flow of a serious exposition on a literary work, don’t you think…?).
A couple asides: Being a considerable fan of references to safer sex in depictions of sexual interaction, I was delighted to see the condom mentions many of these stories exhibited. (“Snake Dance”‘s was actually a special treat given the protagonist’s inner narrative of, “That was good; she was on the pill, but that wouldn’t prevent anything else.” Exactly!) Additionally…did I mention this book has what I find a ridiculously hot cover??
The collection starts off with a bang with Delilah Devlin’s “The Long Ride Home.” This hot, fast tale sets the tone for the scorching heat that is to come. It’s followed by the flawlessly rendered “Night Witch,” (Connie Wilkins) which sets the tone for the profound emotion, sacrifice, and connection I experience as frequently depicted as a part of this anthology’s theme.
When I was considering the ambiguity of how I felt about the theme of this anthology before I read it, I did note Shanna Germain‘s name in the table of contents and felt an unquestionable confidence that the volume contained at least one story that held almost no chance of eliciting any kind of the discomfort I feared. That’s simply the level of respect the way I’ve experienced Shanna’s writing has imbued in me, and that assessment was indeed accurate in this case. Shanna did her usual, in my experience, extraordinary job of displaying humanity, arousal, connection, and challenge through the medium of words.
Sacchi Green‘s offering, “Sergeant Rae,” struck me similarly. Of course, I found Sacchi’s writing so exquisite it almost distracted me from the story’s actual content, but only almost—I certainly appreciated “Sergeant Rae” for the remarkable tale I found it to be.
As I see it, Craig J. Sorensen nailed everything beautiful about this anthology with his story that was one of my very favorites, “The Grunt and the Ditty Bop.” This story stayed in my consciousness for days after I read it, often coming back to me in visual form due to the clear view of the setting Craig’s evocative prose elicited in me. Lynn Townsend‘s “Snake Dance” (another favorite) had the same effect on me; I found myself recalling her main female character’s lushly described physical appearance numerous times after I’d finished the story.
“Against the Wall” (Catherine Paulssen) struck me as a story with both intense heat and literary beauty at the same time, rich with imagery and boasting an ending I found exceptionally captivating and well-done. I went back and read the last several paragraphs more than once as I finished the story. This story also held a special place in my reading appreciation for its depiction of soldiers on “enemy sides,” reminding us of the humanity in every soldier regardless of his/her/their military affiliation.
Numerous other stories, such as “Fighting for Fresno” (Ericka Hiatt) and “Passing out Passion” (Lucy Felthouse) struck me in various ways (with character description I found unusually sharp and humor and lightheartedness that made me smile or even laugh even as it turned me on, respectively), and overall, I experienced this volume as profound, beautiful, moving, and well worth both reading and owning. I am so very glad I did (and do!), and I extend true admiration and gratitude to editor Kristina Wright for conceiving and compiling such an extraordinary collection, as well as certainly to the authors for surprising and moving and arousing me with their resplendent offerings I didn’t even know how to expect.
“Would you cry if you saw me crying, would you save my soul tonight…”
-Enrique Eglesias “Hero”
And there it is, really—one of the most salient considerations about sexuality I have observed in the aura of our culture. It has often seemed to me that sex is viewed not only as a “separate” part of life, disconnected from the rest of it, but that also this “separate” part is not nearly as important as “real” life considerations and may easily and reasonably be one of the first things to be dismissed or dropped by the wayside on the quest of, as they say, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How absurd. As befits its title, lust could be a motivator, even an overwhelming one, in the pages of Women in Lust. But this book was not simply filled with indulgent, un-contextualized references to this intriguingly powerful urge. There were additonal emotions, contexts, and considerations amidst any sense of lust—even if lust ended up overpowering them. Sometimes, though, it did not—and there was nothing less hot about those times. On the contrary, these were complex characters, so the story was often not just about unconsidered obedience to a sexual drive—Women in Lust included discerning, aware choosing where lust was concerned. To me this was epitomized in Brandy Fox’s “Unbidden.” I was fascinated by the considerable journey that unfolded in “Bite Me” and the engaging turn(s) of events in “Ode to a Masturbator” (Lucy Hughes and Aimee Herman, respectively). And the book closed with “Comfort Food” (Donna George Storey), one of my favorite stories by one of my favorite writers—I’ll be honest and say I looked forward the whole book to reading it! As with a luscious dessert, the anticipation was justly rewarded. :) I myself experienced a kind of climactic trifecta toward the end of reading this anthology. It began with “Orchid” (Jacqueline Applebee), which I found not only scorchingly hot and quite delightful but also hilarious, which was of course a treat. (Truly, I laughed out loud more than once while reading it.) “Orchid” was followed by “Cherry Blossom” (Kayar Silkenvoice), which continued the extraordinary momentum I was experiencing with its gorgeous imagery and intricate depictions of the narrator and her lust interest. After “Rain,” by Olivia Archer, which was next, I took a break. I’ve been known to do that while reading a collection of stories after I’ve found a story so beautiful, so striking and affecting in a breathtaking mosaic of ways that I don’t want to continue yet (even if the next story is by one of my favorite authors, Justine Elyot!) because what I just read has possessed my consciousness such that I know it needs time to process, to settle, to land—to have that space to occupy unencumbered the notice it has just seamlessly commanded. I was still remembering “Rain” hours after I put the book down. I was reminded while reading Women in Lust that for me, erotica really isn’t just about fantasy, and the truth is, how I feel about it is not even determined by whether it turns me on or not. I find sex such a compelling subject that I simply don’t require arousal to appreciate it artistically—sometimes very deeply. I realize I may be in the minority about that, and of course that is fine—I’m not suggesting everyone’s perspective should mirror mine! It simply occurred to me as I was reading that erotica, to me, is not necessarily writing that turns me on. Rather I see erotica as writing that approaches sex/sexuality not with gaze averted and posture defensive or salacious but rather with the same curiosity and truth with which it approaches any other aspect of humanity/experience/life. It lets sex do what it does, whatever feelings, acts, contexts may be involved. If it does that with ease, curiosity, and not with any professed—implicitly or explicitly—”literary,” “moral,” or other formulated standard that intrudes upon the place sexuality takes in life, it seems, to me, erotic writing.* Often, this does turn me on not by virtue of what specific sex acts are described or included but from the core of the connection, the desire, that emerges from the words on the page. I have historically felt no sexual desire for women, for example, but the imagery and pull I experienced reading “Cherry Blossom” altered my breathing and indeed aroused me in a way different from the way I seek when I’m simply looking to get off—arousing my being, my senses, my awareness, not just my genitals and a base urge I have historically easily reached orgasm via the stimulation of. It’s not that one is better than the other. I just find them different. And erotica is usually something I seek to (and have) appreciate(d) beyond simple sexual stimulation (for the pursuit of which I have usually used video porn). Historically I have not postulated an inherent difference between “pornography” and “erotica.” I still don’t. This has mainly been because the concept has almost always seemed to contain judgment—arbitrary and unhelpful judgment, as far as I’m concerned—with the “pornography” label frequently postulated to be at least inferior and at most inherently unfavorable. (I’ll add that it’s seemed to me that most of the time, if it has occurred to someone to ask, this is likely the case.) I subscribe to no such perspective, so I have not found making a distinction between the two words a compelling endeavor. If, for me, there personally is one, this is it—pornography is what I use (and love) solely to get off on; while erotica is the unabashed exploration of sex I find fascinating and affecting. It doesn’t mean the sex itself has to be or is unabashed—it is the exploration of it, the sharing the author is offering, that I wish to be unencumbered by virtue of its subject. The subject being sex, sexuality, and its incumbent, myriad, contexts. Sometimes, of course, it happens that there is overlap: I find a story simulating on numerous levels and discover the pleasant effect that it has turned me on as well. When I returned to Women in Lust, it happened that I experienced this with a vengeance. Following “Rain” in the table of contents is Justine Elyot’s “The Hard Way.” I’ve loved Justine’s work, so I wasn’t surprised that I loved her story, but I will say I think this was one of my favorites of hers that I’ve read. And right after “The Hard Way” was K D Grace’s mind-blowingly hot “Strapped,” which really almost took my breath away. It was clever, beautiful, and held the considerable appeal for me of depicting a scenario I wouldn’t have predicted would turn me on or perhaps even interest me—and unequivocally doing both. I am sincerely glad I took the time to read Women in Lust, which contained stories I found delightful, intriguing, compelling, and breathtaking. In places, in fact, this anthology included some of the most impressive work I have experienced in the erotica genre. It has been my pleasure to share this ode to what I loved about it. On that note, once again the schedule and attendant links for the rest of the blog tour may be found here, and the book is of course for sale on Amazon as well as at this list of retailers found on the book’s website. Thanks so much for joining me at my stop on the Women in Lust virtual book tour! Love,
“Either way, their lust is a valued part of their lives, not a pesky afterthought or a to-do list item on ‘date night.'”
*If it describes actual act(s) of harm that happen to involve sexual contact, that to me is not an act of sex but something different, encapsulating other aspects of experience that do not to me seem focused on sexuality; thus, such for me would not fall into the category I described.
“I wonder if you feel the same way I do, I can see it in your eyes, I entice you…”
-Toya “I Do”