Monday, January 28, 2008

Can We Talk About Sex?

Rather, can we talk about writing about sex?

Sex is so tricky, so complicated, especially if you're not writing romance or erotica. I'm writing literary fiction, so there's a difficult balance to navigate between being too graphic (the ooh-la-la) and being too sentimental (the corn factor).

A writing friend, John T from my Nudge-Nudge Collective, brought this dilemma to my attention while critting my sex scene. "Too cliche", he said. While graphic, it has that "been there, done that" feel to it. Besides, he said, what is "ultimately important here are the characters, their attitude toward each other, and their feelings" rather than the sex itself.

As I read his review, it rang true; deep down, I was feeling uncomfortable with the scene myself, felt it didn't get at the essence of my two characters.

So, without further ado, here's an excerpt from the most recent version of my nookie scene. First encounter between Ben and the elusive Phoebe, the object of hs desire. She (obviously) capitulates to his advances.

Tell me what you think...


“What?” My gasp slices the dark. A pale apparition sits by my side. “What is it?”

The angel traces a finger down my arm, slides a warm hand into mine. “Shhhhh… nothing.” She rises, tugs at me.

I stumble up, and the cold air slaps me awake. She leads me to the bedroom. The streetlights fling gnarled, ashen shadows on the walls and bed. A dull orange glow tints the horizon.

“Phoebe, are you sure?”

She turns to me, cups her hands on either side of my face, and brings me close and kisses me, a soulful kiss of promise.

I wrap my arms around her waist. We huddle into each other, my cheek resting on top of hair smelling of orange blossom or jasmine, some exotic flower. All I hear is our breathing, cadenced, soft.

She tilts her head to me, her mouth parts, and we kiss slow, lingering kisses that thaw my body from its sleepiness. My fingers tug on the band holding her braid, comb through her silvery hair. I shiver; the silkiness against my hands feels ethereal, the way I imagined.

We fall back onto the mattress. Expanses of her soft, warm skin glow like alabaster between cotton layers, welcoming me, my lips, my hands, my tongue. She watches me, letting me do what I wish, smiling her enigmatic smile as I move over her. I lose myself in the dark warm room, the folds of the cool, crinkled sheets, the terrain of her body.

The tips of my fingers skim eyebrows, cheeks, and lips; she takes my pinkie into her mouth and sucks it, gentle at first, then harder. I bury my mouth in her breasts, the small hollow below her neck, leaving trails of kisses as I explore the gentle swell of her abdomen, the dulcet softness of her inner thighs. Her salty sweetness fills my mouth. Moaning, she pulls me back up to her.

I fumble in the bedside drawer for a Trojan while her hungry hands travel my chest and shoulders, shooting electric riffs down my spine. I keep shuddering. Sweet, sweet God. We kiss, again and again, consuming the other, it seems like forever, then I am on top of her, her thighs part. She gasps a faint ‘oh’, and her eyes flicker open, afraid.

I hover above her, kiss her forehead. “I can stop, Phoebe.”

She stares at me. “No, no…I want… this.” The fear leaves, her eyes close.

I kiss each perfect, trembling eyelid, slowly, like a sacrament, and slide into her warm, velvet goodness.

She looks at me, smiles, and her legs grip me tight. Slowly, we rock together, finding our measure, our breaths keeping time, and I get lost again, rapt in the cacophony of sensation: silky strands tousled between my fingers, the gentle slapping noise of slicked skin rubbing together, her faint peach smell. Brilliant white heat erupts in my head, my body, streaks into hers, and she convulses under me in small tsunamis, her cry ragged in my ear. I collapse in her, and we lay still, legs and arms tangled, hearts pulsing together. An unfamiliar calm engulfs me.

We separate, still holding hands but not talking. Her fingers soften in mine, her breath slows. Exhausted with joy, I curl myself around her and pull up the quilt, feeling whole. Normal. Like I’m home.


Thanks John.

I'm off to write a, sedate scene... Peace, Linda

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday Tidbits

Between a dead laptop that's put me into extreme writing withdrawal and a hacking cough that makes me sound - and feel - like a three-pack-a-dayer, I've been downright miserable. Here's what's been getting me through the past week...

1/ "God, who is the author of this world, put foreshadowing in the clouds." From Will, my 8.5 year old son who's learning how to read and write stories in his language arts class. Brilliant, huh?

2/ Drambuie. A hefty jiggerful (or three) at night to 'help the cough'.

3/ Mucinex. My favorite Over-the-Counter drug these days. Of course, the damn stuff doesn't really work; it's all in my head. But the twelve dollar price tag makes me think the cough syrup's better than placebo. (I'd prefer terpin hydrate with codeine but, hey, then I'd have to see the doc).

4/ American Idol. It's baaaack!!!!!

5/ Radiohead. Their new album IN RAINBOWS is effing fabulous. Check out the live version of 15 STEPS, a percussive, driving tune in 5/4 that I can't keep out of my head (Radiohead - 15 Steps (Live at 93 Feet East))

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pain and How to "Kill" It

One of our nation's dirty little secrets is that drugs are destroying a chunk of Appalachia. Not heroin, not coke or crank or inhalants, but prescription pain-killers. OxyContin has the baddest rap, but Vicodin and methadone are heavy-hitters. Ironically, methadone is used to treat heroin addiction, but when a rash of fatal Oxy overdoses flared five years ago, the law clamped down on OxyContin prescribing and methadone became the favored opioid.

You can reduce the supply of a substance, but if you don't dwindle demand, addicts will always find another close substitute. One reason for the rise in OxyContin abuse was the reduction in opium supply when we waged war on terrorism in poppyland - Afghanistan.

Prescription drug abuse is not just a problem in Appalachia - statistics released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Monitoring the Future survey found 9.2% of 12th graders used prescription painkillers in the past year.

My suggestion? Let's get down to the REAL causes of prescription drug abuse - a societal inability to accept, confront, and work through our collective pain. And, damn, isn't treatment a dirty word? Right up there with prevention...

On the writing front... Karl Iagnemma, one of my favorite scientist/writers released his first, critically-acclaimed novel The Expeditions, published by the Dial Press. I just ordered it from Amazon.

And speaking of Amazon... yesterday also was the separating of the wheat from the chaff in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Guess I was the chaff, as my submission failed to make it to the semi-finalist round. Not that I thought it would - my manuscript is far better now then it was three months ago. It's been fun peeking in on the mayhem over there - check out the forums, then check out the submissions and review your favorites. I can't decide what's more entertaining - ABNA or American Idol.

My personal pain continued with a decidely dead laptop. The intensity of my discomfort increased when the mailbox yielded an agent rejection - my first. As such letters go, it was a 'great' rejection - three paragraphs, personalized, even a few notes about the writing and 'well-developed' voices. But a rejection nonetheless...

But as I skulked into the dark to self-medicate with a hefty dram of Glenlivet, at last... an acceptance. Three micro-flashes accepted into print. Yahoo!

Back to revising, back to writing, slow and steady - cuz you can't rush art.

Believe. Peace, Linda

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

6S Kind of Week

Take a look at the Six Sentences site and check out the micro-flash of some of my writing buddies:

First, my (wonderful) husband Henry expounds on how a seemingly bad life may actually be a relative blessing. Deborah, one of my Nudge-Nudge Collective buddies, writes lyrically of painting and yearning. Kim, also a Nudge-Nudger, compelling relates why it's not good to leave leave guns hanging around where kids can 'play' with them. Finally, fellow Baltimorean Brian pens a beautiful piece on Crazy Horse.

Good work, guys! Peace, Linda

In memorium... Today my trusty Dell Inspiron flashed her brilliant blue screen... and died. All weekend she had acted strangely, burping and bumping and freezing. I lost much sleep last night worrying about her impending demise. And, yes (thank Goddess), EVERYTHING was backed up on my external.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A smattering of celebrations: birthdays and fleeting fame

Two years ago I began birthing my third child: BRiGHTER THAN BRIGHT. The book came about because this pesky character (Benjamin) decided to squat in my wee noggin a few months earlier and never left. Writing a novel was not on my 2006 to-do list; indeed, I was going to focus on my silver and glass jewelry. But Ben is a persistent fellow, felt he had an important story that needed telling. The only way to exorcise him was to write him out of my mind and onto the page. So on January 2, 2006, this is exactly what I did - started writing...

“For as long as I can remember, I have always felt different, been different."

Here's the first line now:

The world stops; a whorl of white surrounds us, hoots and gossamer wisps suspend in air, kicked up to the shocking blue--

Over time, more than just the first line has changed; now, two protagonists tell their stories, 61k words are carved, forever, from the flubbery original (!!!!!), the result of nine full revisions and countless mini-revisions.

I celebrated the day by working on my second novel under construction. PURE explores the ethical dilemmas facing academic scientists in their quests to ascend to the heap of their respective ivory towers. Here's the first line of PURE:

Later, much later, when the shock wore off, people always asked, "Where were you?"

I am sure, of course, that this will NOT be the first line in two years, but you might as well start writing something somewhere...

It's been an amazing journey, and a fulfilling one. Thank you my dear friends for reading draft after draft without groaning, applying your red pens and track changes to my pristine pages, for giving me the tough love I need, for reading to the end, again and again: Deborah, Kim, John, Steve, Marg, Chrys, Jimmy, Mark S. Here, my gratitude and a cupcake. No worries - fat- and calorie- free, I'd never destroy your resolutions this early in the game.

The fleeting fame... Woke up this morning to find myself cited in the Associated Press exclaiming on a study describing racial disparities in access to pain medication in emergency departments. I'd forgotten about the interview with the reporter; usually, nothing comes of it. 'Twas exciting to see my name in the AP and the local rag. If only the reporter was able to add to my credits: aspiring writer seeking representation...

Back to work. Peace, Linda