Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Rage

by Annabeth Leong

I don't like exercise that focuses me on my appearance. In all too many classes I've attended, I've heard the instructor yell, "Think about that bikini body," or, "Work off that pizza you ate on Saturday night." This bothers me for feminist reasons, but mostly it bothers me because it's not what I'm there for. Exercise has sometimes made me look good as a side effect, but wanting to look good has never kept me coming back.

Striking drills are my favorite physical thing to do. I like to let go on a punching bag or strike shield, gloved or ungloved, with fists, with elbows, with the heels of my hands, with feet, with shins, with knees. When I do this, I get to a place I can't access any other way. My mind is blank and focused and I lose all sense of time. It is pure and perfect and I am never looking at the clock or wondering when it will be over. I can go until I won't be able to move the next day, but I don't give a fuck what it does for my bikini body.

Here's what I'm looking for:
the cessation of mental noise
relief from all my words, words, words
the flex of flesh
the joy of bunching and releasing muscle
feeling strong
feeling fucking deadly
the thud of impact
the crisp sensation of a quick, precise strike
the noise
the rage

More than anything else, it's the rage. I doubt you would think it to look at me. I actually have a lot of trouble expressing anger, or even feeling it except for when it's just me and the strike shield. I just know that there's a lot of it blocked up inside me, and this is the only thing that gets it out.

I don't picture the face of an enemy. I don't think of anything specific. I actually don't think of anything at all. It's just something that takes me over after a few hits. It's there in my chest, and it is one of the coldest, cleanest things I know.

Sometimes, I think about the stories of berserkers, and I think that I would be one if the time and place were right. Knowing what fills my body when I'm striking, I can see myself in a battle frenzy.

I have trouble explaining this to people, and I'm frustrated by the way a lot of exercise classes pull me out of this feeling. I often get the idea that women are supposed to exercise to look pretty, and that people are taken aback if I try to say that I'm there to give this rage somewhere to go (I think this gets accepted for men as a way to turn negative feelings into something positive).

I like the white sensation behind my eyes strike after strike, sweat pouring off the end of my nose, muscles burning along the sides of my ribcage, but I also don't want this stuff to stay inside me. I need to sweat it out because I'm pretty sure it poisons if it congeals.

For my bachelorette party, I took the girls for a private lesson at a boxing gym. I always notice how most girls need to be taught that it's okay to hit something without holding back. They start out tentative. They need to be encouraged. My response has always been deep gratitude that this, finally, is something that's okay for me to hit without holding back. I think some of the most thrilling words I've ever heard are Brad Pitt's, from Fight Club: "I want you to hit me as hard as you can."

I liked watching the other girls get it, but mostly I was too caught up to look out for anybody else. At that party, the instructor made a comment. "Who is it?" he asked. "Mother-in-law?"

I didn't know how to answer his question. He was thinking way too small. It was a continent. It was, as the Violent Femmes would say, "Everything, everything, everything, everything."

I often think of the hulk's line from the recent Avengers movie, when he explains his secret, the reason the transformation to the beast is always available to him. "I'm always angry," he says, looking mild-mannered as he does.

As a writer, it's strange to think of how I need this blank space to express the rage. I've written a few things out of anger ("Risk Rider and Dare Take the Con" in Coming Together: For Equality), but mostly the emotion makes my hands shake too much to type. The rage seems too intense, too unfeminine, too scary, and too far beyond words.

People are constantly being exhorted to exercise these days. For their health. For their appearance. Because it's one of the things we're supposed to do. As with many other things, I think it only works if you find your own reason. And this is mine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


By Daddy X

It’s the view. The ladies using that stairmaster in front of me are quite concerned with their posteriors.

So am I.  

I’m already pumped up to the equivalent of a quarter mile when a thin, pasty looking woman mounts the machine. I usually prefer a plumper, rounder body but that tall and svelte in red leotard tights proves a surprising delight on an otherwise doggy day. I was twice her age over a decade ago.

She steps up on the machine. Shapely treasures undulate beneath bright O my god red silky skin tights. Long leotard legs lift and fall. In and out the machine’s heavy pistons slide. She must motivate the mechanism metered at the max for her mass I’d imagine, requiring rigorous personal prowess on those muscular pontoons activating the platforms. The effort resulting of course in a fine, rhythmic flow of reciprocal torque between individual strokes, exposing sides of her character defined by flexing aspects tightening up those two contained halves of her teeny tiny ass. All the while tactile fabric caresses the flawless epidermal surfaces lying just Jesus I’ll bet underneath.

The limp, the fine, the lovely lady plateaus. Leans her fab figure forward. Finds her frequent strider stroke. That’s tremendous for me ‘cause there’s that tighter tempo to it.  Rather than badda boomba, she’s more of a chooka chooka. In the tooka. The spinal arc now lies horizontal, parallel to the floor. Beads of sweat moisten the concave curve. That ass so skinny, now acquiring definition, style. So round, so tempting, the way she got it tipped up and out like that. Really firm in the fundament.

The lover for whom she lavishes such attention on her assets is a lucky, lucky soul and I’m thinking they must fool around back there every now and then.

Or maybe she has no lover at this time. And maybe this is her way of seeking one.


Each and every tiny shift in position provides major changes in shape and textural relationship betwixt the two satin ensconced rounds, rubbing friction heated together not twenty feet from my face. To make that clear: When she’s standing straight upright, those twin tight globes morph to rounded grinding squared off bricks, gobbling and chewing the thin red fabric pinched in between. Which, when bent back down and pushed back out freeees it’s sweat dampened Rorschach dark in the shape of an elongated V pussy, absorbing wet spread crimson from the shadowy depths of the divide. That is, until she stands back up again. Then the inverted triangle across her upper ass gets ground once more between those masticating cheeks. Buttocks again squeeze flat. Her back arches, elbows out, backside chugging like it does, tugging tight at the slit red translucent jello hot fabric. Exacting twitches elicit teases of tushes, satin whispers, ether specters, holy hints of epidermal touching on the very complexity of her dynamic layers. Then back to the short, quick, fuck-steps, alternating feet on springing high ersatz step-stairs.

On the other hand, the basic fact that just a tiny tilt flips her tookas to a different tangent, from upright and uptight, to teeny-tiny tipped up … rotundo … seemed to me- To bump up against a universal fandango.

Observing the force in those long legs, I now get the laws of physics pertaining to the nut cracker fulcrum effect up there between those thighs, powered by those hard gluteus maximi at the apex clenching intensity of the grasping she could rip my dick off benefits of the machine while her skinny gams continue pumping up and down. Up and down. 

I’m thinking how my wife gave me these silk boxers for Christmas. How sensual it is wearing them. It’s like getting a pretty good hand job just walking along.  

So, for me, at least- Stepping out and on the streets with floppy silk junk is a really juicy leg lob bouncing jerk job. But that’s me. While for now, on this recliner bike, it more resembles a sloppy blowjob. So I’m hoping I don’t embarrass myself in these light gray sweats like I would at the school hops when I’d find myself in a slow dance grinding with some chick to the point where throes of teenage fluid stress governed by unseen hormonal agents overtook my testicular capacity to hold on to my action and whoops! I’d splooge down the front of my khakis. Then the girl would break away and say something like: “Can’t you just dance? They’d sneer at me, look at my stained crotch, maybe slap me right there on the dance floor. They’d leave me alone with my jumpy hard-on and a trickle down my pants when I coughed. And I’d think to myself: “Something may be frottage with me.” But then I looked up “frottage” and if it sounded pretty okay on the subway or in a crowded elevator car up to the upper floors. Because they never say anything in such tight quarters. So I dream about frottage with this girl on the stairmaster.

Now she pumps the pedals harder. The strain is taking a toll on her and on those upper thighs. Still the high steps. Sweat has darkened her hair and it’s sticking to her neck. She bends over again, alerting me to the fact that the tight crimson crotch of the tight red tights have turned a dark wet. And damn if her leotard hasn’t crept down in back, so by now, her fucking ass dimples have puddled up around her exposed black thong. I’m getting wetter and wetter as well. In fact, I’m pedaling faster and faster. The leg with my cock sliding alongside is bouncing up and down in time with her pumping. It’s getting better and better along with the wetter and wetter. And the juicier and juicier I get. Now my dick’s flopping around in there more and more in the slippery slick bunched up silk- And the better and better it gets.

Then fuckin’ A she’s changed her stride again. Standing up straight once more, it’s back to the short, quick, tip-toe steps. Pip-pip-pip. Faster and faster she pumps those pads. Now crossing her forearms, she leans forward, elbows laid along a horizontal shaft, which tips her churn out at yet another cantilevered cant.

And does she allow a lover’s finger free access back there? And what would a finger be subjected to, say … a knuckle deep? Or so. And then what would the tip of a long finger experience with the stairs going up and down activated by the way her powerful ass pumps up like it does? Or then again- What it would feel like, maybe with two knuckles in.  Or what would it look like with my entire index finger curling its way up and into that puckered opening? I’m thinking the rest of my fist would obviously twist. It’d twist and moosh that fucking crack wider, for chrisssakes wider, spreading those malleable buns apart, misshaping her cheeks from in between as I twist a fucking fist full of knuckles back and forth one hundred eighty degrees.

And if her butt would just stay stuck out there at that one level. And if a guy could just stand there held there behind her there like on a rig there, or a platform there of some sort on the stairmaster there with the end of a dick stuck in there? What ministrations would be felt on my glans when that grippy anus snapped behind it? Or, say then, what if I maybe pushed in more or less half way?  Again, how that would differ from all the way in? Think all the way in to the sudsy open rectal void beyond but still tightly constricted at the ah so rubber band tight private entrance to the fundamental passageway to her heart. And ahhh, what carnal knowledge of which internal organs would my dick be privy to?  And what would the hippity hoppity thing experience slapping around her insides? If I had anything to say about it, it would likely be waving side to side, sloshing round and round, slipping back and forth between the lemon squeezers, firm on both sides of the in and out of it all. With those strong muscles so velvety clenching just inside the opening. Were they as tough and tumble inside as those on the surface?

And its O so powerful grinding in there, with her pumping her ass up and into that singular shape it is now, and what fucking shape it was back then. And O if she would just let me put it in for research purposes. And if she would Onnnnnly tell me if it felt better? Or different? ? To either of us? If, we, say, angled ourselves a little bit to the left side.  Or if she would only wiggle it?  Or not? Or then what if I waved it around using the funky fulcrum of her rigid sphincter to arc it around the damp, dark, uncharted areas of her insides? But then again, how it would feel to me if only- If only I angled myself to the right?

It’s sure getting better and better if I can only keep up the pedaling and pedaling. And my dick is Jesus flopping around in there in the viscous suds with the silky slickety and the milky wet. And I’m pumping. She’s pumping and sweating. I’m sweating, pumping now crazy for thirty minutes. I’m sprinting at forty miles an hour godammit, and I can’t stand it, she points the damp part right at me. Her tush keeps chugging and morphing. She’s forming that O so shape shifting rear end with the dark crack so translucent deep and isn’t she round, those shallow dimples so firm back there with the stretched thong? And if only on that  in that… “Awwww WWWWAG IT, BABY!”


Aw shit- the management.

The phone rang in the neat little suburban home. A prim, white haired lady answered:


“Yes it is.”

“Oh no. What is it this time?”

“Oh my. The poor girl.”

“Yes, yes. Umm … did he touch anyone?”

“Thank God.”

A pause. She listens, eyes closed, head shaking. 

“I’m so sorry. Thank you for not calling the police.”

Another, shorter pause.

“Of course.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll be right down to get him. I’ll cancel the membership then.”


Monday, April 21, 2014

An Exercise in Discussing Exercise

I have so little to say about exercise that I’m going to cheat and include a comment I made on Lisabet’s post last week on this topic. But first, to distract the reader, I’m stealing an amusing bit that’s had a workout on Facebook and elsewhere lately.

(My first thought on seeing this was that I’m glad the calories don’t scream when you eat them.)  

Maybe I was born too long ago for the concept of “working out” as such to take hold in my formative years. I think the only time I've used a gym-type machine was having my heart checked on a treadmill a few years ago (it was just fine--turned out I was having muscle spasms in my back.) I think I'd be more likely to use work-out equipment if my efforts were powering something, like, I don't know, charging batteries or turning the roast on a spit in a medieval kitchen. I do exercises at home for my back, though, and take brisk walks (a mile or more) daily, weather permitting. And before I sold my retail business, I was on my feet much of the day, with plenty of stretching and bending and lifting when shipments came in (a likely cause of those muscle spasms.) I'm sure I should be doing more, but my stats are all okay, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.

It’s not that I don’t value exercise for its own sake. My brisk mile walks are exhilarating even when they’re along the same stretch of rural road I’ve traveled hundreds of times, but when I can manage it I go farther along trails through the woods with more to see. I’d rather have exercise accomplish something beyond conditioning, like get me to the top of a mountain and down again, but I have to admit that my knees aren’t what they were in my youth, especially when it comes to the down again part, so I stick to less ambitious hikes.

When it comes to my fictional characters, though, I’m free to imagine feats that I’ve never come close to mastering. I’ve written about champion figure skaters, rodeo riders, skiers (I did ski in my relative youth, but never very well,) and rock climbers, possibly my favorites. I’ve done some scrambling up rocks, but never the technical kind of thing with ropes and pitons, although I’ve done as much research as one can by watching climbers and studying their accounts.  It may seem strange to think of an activity as generally slow as rock climbing as being exercise, but the conditioning requirements are rigorous, and muscles can work as hard maintaining balance and challenging gravity as they can running. It’s just a different dynamic. At least that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

All of which is leading up to, you guessed it, a space-filling story excerpt, since really, I don’t have all that much to say about exercise. And you can probably guess the title of the story, too.

Climbing The Wall

Sacchi Green

Nothing focuses the mind in the body like a vertical rockface. On one side, an infinity of air and light; on the other, the uncompromising rigidity of stone. I clung between these absolutes, toes edged into a slanting crevice, fingers jammed into a narrow crack, weight poised in utter compliance with gravity.

I had forgotten the intensity, the controlled rush; forgotten, too, the exultant surge of horniness. When I could pause on the insubstantial security of a narrow belay ledge I savored the moment. The view of the green valley with the river winding through was all well enough, but Sigri Hakkala's fine, broad, muscular butt in canary-yellow stretch fabric twenty feet above commanded all my attention.

Why Sigri? Proximity? We'd been casual friends for years, members of a fluctuating group of dykes sharing a rundown ski lodge in the valley. If she'd ever figured in my fantasies, it'd been as a mead-companion, a Viking warrior ravaging villages by my side as we bore off not-unwilling maidens. Now I found myself recalling rumors that she'd done some porn films in her starving-student days, and wondered whether her big breasts made it harder to maneuver close to the rock on overhangs. When she splayed her legs wide to reach a new foothold, I ached to slip a hand between her round, powerful buttocks and feel their strength as they clamped together again.

All fantasy fueled by adrenaline. People had been trying to throw us together all week, on the theory that the recently bereaved must want to compare notes. We'd been trying just as hard to avoid each other.

So why choose to climb together? The simple answer was trust in each other's competence. This route was only moderately difficult, iron bolts not more than twenty-five feet apart, but when you take the lead with the belaying rope and call, "Watch me," you damned sure need to know that when your partner on the other end answers, "Go for it, I've got you," she has, absolutely, got you, and will hold you if your grip fails or a rock edge breaks away and you plummet down the unforgiving cliff face.

Somewhat less simple to understand was my willingness to let Sigri lead most of the way. She'd raised a quizzical eyebrow each time as I waved her ahead. I couldn't explain to myself, much less to her, my sudden obsession with looking up at her muscular, well-padded body.

Whatever the trigger, this surge of pure lust was both agony and exhilaration, like the awakening of an anaesthetized limb.

[This story, originally published in Best Women’s Erotica 2001, deals with physical and mental exertion as a means to recovery from bereavement, as when the main character muses that “Each precise, careful shift along the cliff from hold to hold said, ‘Yes!’ to life. The rough scrape of granite against hands, knees, chest, drove home the stark reality of the flesh, and its capacity for extremes.”

And, incidentally, the characters do go on to indulge in some vigorous calisthenics of a sexual nature, though not while still on the rock face.]


Friday, April 18, 2014


Post by Lily Harlem

I guess like most people I've tried all sorts of exercise over the years, some I've stuck with for a long time, others not so much. A few things have hurt like hell (spinning), other times they've been quite pleasant (yoga). But I've settled into a routine now - so as not to let the dreaded writers bum take hold - of walking the dogs, swimming and sex.

Sex, yes, sex is great exercise and here's why I'm into 'horizontal jogging'…

People who have regular sex have fewer sick days, which must mean fewer illnesses in fact, researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that college students who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of antibodies compared to students who had sex less often, meaning a better immune system.

The more sex you have the more you want, which, unlike getting on a treadmill (for me at least) is a great motivation for exercise.

I enjoy pilates and yoga, but if you engage your core while having sex and isolate the muscles around your pelvic floor, it will give you the same benefits. It will not only strengthen your six-pack, it'll make your tummy look flatter and heighten the orgasm - or rather coregasm!

Calorie burning - Men on average burn 120 calories during lovemaking while women lose around 90, the equivalent of a brisk uphill walk, a game of doubles tennis or a 15 minute jog. Of course it depends if you're going for porn-star exercise or muffled under the duvet late a night exercise! If you want to see what positions burn the most calories check out this Fitness Magazine Article.

Flexi-sex. In the average yoga class, you can burn anywhere between 100 and 300 calories per half hour. Incorporating some of your favorite yoga poses into your sex life can definitely up the caloric ante and stretch your hip flexors at the same time. (I'll let you take creative liberty with this one.) 

So, there you have it, no more excuses, have more sex right now and get in shape :-)

Lily x

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Cold and Lonely Winter

by Giselle Renarde

It's been a sedentary winter. The cold! The cold!  Who would go out in those frigid temperatures if they didn't have to? And I didn't have to, so I didn't. I sat on this couch or in that chair and I wrote stories. Or I slept. Slept a lot. Slept until noon, until one, until two...

Have I mentioned I'm a writer?

Is it really Vitamin D deficiency that triggers the dreaded SAD?  I've been taking my D-drops and I've still been D-pressed.  I have a theory, although it could be unique to me. Or not.  It's all the walking I don't do when it's cold out.

I actually love the winter, but this year was hellishly frigid, if that's a thing. I love snow. I don't mind trekking through it at all--I even went snowshoeing with my sister in January, and that was the happiest day of my winter.  It was sunny and the trees (the ones that survived December's ice storm) blocked the wind, so the air actually felt warm enough that I took off my hat and mitts. 

My sister tells me that, in Japan, doctors recommend "forest time" when people are stressed. I could really get behind that. Walking is one of my favourite activities.  I live in the middle of a city, so I walk in the middle of the city, but Toronto's full of forest.  Wherever you are, you can find one.  We've got plenty of trees.

I once knew a guy who started walking and didn't stop until he got to Vancouver.  Some days I think I could do that, except I'd miss the cats.  I'd miss some people, too, but none of those people rely on me to feed them or sanitize their bathrooms.  Actually, I could blame the cats most days for my inability to get out of bed. When I wake up, they're still sleeping. On me. My cats sleep on me.  And if you've got a cat sleeping on you, how can you get up? It's physically impossible.

My cats are depressed, too, according to my vet. He kind of blames me, which is exactly what I need to hear. Thanks.

There's a gym in my building. I've lived here ten years. Want to guess how many times I've used it? (Did you guess zero? Because the answer is zero.)

I can walk for hours, easily, but not on a treadmill.  Outside, in the fresh air--in the forest, ideally.  Once I start walking, I never want to stop.  I never want to come home.  I just want to walk and walk and walk forever.  It's hard to turn around.

(By the way, I've got big plans to write a book about depression. Maybe you can help me: )

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Three Workouts for Erotic Writers: The Could You Would You, The Tarot Spread and the Jazz Riff

You learn the most from writers who are considerably better than you are and you learn a lot from writers who are worse than you are. But if I were able to go back in time and meet someone I'd probably choose William Shakespeare, not the least because he spoke pretty good English so you can have a beer with him, but also I'd want to pepper him with questions about craft. Among other things I'd want him to show me how to cut a feather quill and write with it and ask him - considering how expensive paper is, do you revise, Will? Do you write drafts? Do you rewrite? Yes? How many times? Do you write asymmetrically like I do, or front to back with an outline? I don't have to ask him where he got his ideas, because the fact is I already know the answer to that. 

 He used the Tarot Spread and The Jazz Riff.

One of the finest craft books I've studied, and I've studied quite a few, is a book specifically about erotic writing by the venerable Susie Bright of "Best American Erotica" fame, called "How to Write a Dirty Story". If you've never read a book on erotica craft and want to try just one, try this one. Its full of scholarly analysis, feminism, business wisdom and nuts and bolts exercises that truly work. I'm going to explain a couple of her exercises plus one of my own invention based on something I read in Stephen King's book on craft "On Writing".

Could You Would You?
When men are sitting around in public places as I am at this moment pecking away in the back of my favorite coffee shop we play a game in our heads which I'm very sure women play too. You see a hot looking woman walk by in summer clothes, tiny shorts and flips flops, brasserie optional and your eyes follow her and imagine her naked. You ask yourself - If you could fuck her would you do it? The key word being "Could". Meaning if you could fuck her without totally destroying your marriage, breaking the heart of a good spouse who loves you, causing your kid to hate you with contempt and losing your job and good name just so you can stick your selfish little dick in there and hammer her a good one for a couple of minutes until you get off - yeah, meaning something like that maybe - would you? You survey the room, imagine a perfect world of no consequences and - that woman? No. That woman there? Boy Howdy. And twice on Sunday. How about that one? The interesting question is to explore what kind of woman turns you on and why they do.

Suzie Bright takes this game a little further and asks you to play with your fantasies and write them down in a series of three scenarios. You should stop reading this, get some paper and a pen and work this out.because if you take this craft exercise seriously this is definitely worth your time.
You still sitting there, bub?
G'wan, find a pen, get out of here. Scat.
Okay now -
Ms Bright writes:

"Give yourself two minutes to answer each question. When your time is up, stop, even
if you haven't finished your sentence:

  1. Write down an erotic fantasy about a sexual experience you would have in a minute if it were offered to you, no questions asked. It should be about something you would have no reservations or conditions about doing in real life.
  2. Write down an erotic fantasy about a sexual experience you would have only under certain conditions.  You could give yourself up whole heartedly under these conditions, but otherwise not at all.
  3. Write down an erotic fantasy that is completely satisfying to you in your imagination but that you could not do either because it is physically impossible or something you could never bring yourself to do in real life. But in your imagination it is completely fulfilling.
I actually got a decent story from number 2 - would maybe do if you could. My fantasy was that I would like to experience sex and orgasm as a woman in a woman's body to see how it differs from the male experience of excitement and release, but only if I could magically be a man again afterward. That became "The Happy Resurrection of Gregor Samsa", Franz Kafka's character from "The Metamorphosis" who awoke to find himself changed into " a monstrous vermin", usually depicted as a huge cockroach. I imagined the Samsa-cockroach awakening now incarnated as a woman and then looking for sex. Lisabet helped me get the female sensations right with that one.

The Character Splits (Tarot Card Spread) Exercise
Another exercise that Susie Bright explains in detail, though I will not, is "The Character Splits Exercise". I've also written about this on the ERWA blog as the "Found Story".
Natural evolution has preserved life for 3 billion years in this world by incorporating random elements into the genetic mix, using sex to combine random genetics into constantly changing and adapting life forms. If God wants one thing for you in this world - it's to get laid. Then you die. This is how organic life responds to contingency, say, mega-volcanoes and big ass asteroids. You can write stories this way too.
Susie Bright describes the Character Splits exercise:

Take five scraps of paper and write one name on each, the name of a family member or a close friend:
  1. Lisabet
  2. Renee
  3. Jack
  4. Maria
  5. Uncle Tony
Take five scraps of paper in a separate pile and name five famous people:
  1. Yoko Ono
  2. Brad Pitt
  3. Justin Bieber
  4. Ernest Hemingway
  5. Count Dracula
Finally in a third pile take five scraps of paper naming simple events of the day:
  1. Showering
  2. Eating Breakfast
  3. Walking the dog
  4. Waiting in a line
  5. Paying bills
Pick an element at random from each pile and combine them. Say, Lisabet and Brad Pitt and Showering. (In my way of thinking this is like drawing card images from a Tarot deck and combining them and then listening to your intuition to see what story they suggest)
Take this scrap pile of elements and compose it into an erotic fantasy, Say Lisabet getting it on with Brad Pitt in the shower, that's an easy one, or Yoko Ono running into Count Dracula one evening while walking the dog and having a tryst in the bushes. What would Yoko Ono and Count Dracula talk about in the afterglow? Do you really prefer virgins? Did you really split up the Beatles?

Your people. Your mundane activities. Your tarot cards. The key is to draw on random elements you normally wouldn't be thinking of and combining them into something that would not have occurred to you. You can do this with stories too. Take down a book of fairy tales, a book of war stories and maybe a book of poetry, things that have nothing to do with each other, rip random paragraphs from each and shuffle them and challenge yourself to turn them into something. The key is challenge.

The Jazz Riff
Modern jazz bands often have a front man who noodles off some kind of a spontaneous melody for a few measures and tosses it to the next player who noodles around off it, then tosses it to the next player and the next. So you have a central melody interpreted on different instruments by different styles.
Stephen King wrote a wonderful craft book and autobiography called "On Writing" in which he offers encouragement to us wanna-bes and some very practical tricks of the trade. One of the things he explains in detail that I absolutely took to heart is the lost art of "pastiche", the literary version of a jazz riff. When he was starting out he would take a paragraph from a favorite writer, some paragraph he especially loved and would copy it out it out with a pencil - not a keyboard - with a pencil slowly, so he could mouth the sounds of those words. So he could FEEL those words. So he could think in his head with that sound and that feeling. To BE that writer for a little while. Word for word I've patiently copied paragraphs on stacks of yellow legal pads from Ray Bradbury, Angela Carter and Vladimir Nabokov, verbal high wire walkers who can knock you on your ass with a single phrase. Trying to hear them in my head, trying to get that sound and keep it for myself. Trying to love words the way they do. I don;t understand writer's who don;t love language. If you want to improve yourself as a writer, don;t worry about style, learn to love words. Read poetry. Listen for the music. Pastiche the music. Play the notes along with poets you love. When writing an action scene I take down my Robert E Howard and his punchy fast moving descriptions of skulls being "split to the teeth" with battle axes. I want that sound. When writing a sex scene I fill my head with Anais Nin. Dialogue, I consult my Ernest Hemingway and Elmore Leonard. Not for their words which belong to them - for their music.
When I get stuck I have a copy of John Updike or Angela Carter in easy reach, crack it open at random with my thumbs and riff off of the first thing I see:
"She sits in a chair covered in moth-ravaged burgundy, at the low round table and distributes the cards; sometimes the lark sings but often remains a sullen mound of drab feathers." "The Lady of the House of Love" Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories)
And I might go: "Nixie sat sullenly in the moth chewed chair, humped like a storm bedraggled raven, a sulking, sullen mound of feathers." Once I get that first sentence going the rest often follows. But you only get to do that if you love words and sentences. Love is the thing, always.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Exercise for Success by J P Bowie

Exercise - not something I'm particularly keen on . Oh, it's nice to fantasize about having a beauteous, bodacious body like so many men and women who grace the covers of fitness magazines...but the reality of getting to that place is not one that fills me with ambition.

Years ago I attended a gym or two, signed up for 2 years to get the 'special low price' then never went back after approximately two weeks. I read somewhere that the fitness centre franchises count on that happening. Imagine if all the people who signed up actually showed up on the same day. Talk about a mass of heaving, sweaty bodies!

Of course all my heroic characters have bodies to die for - but not the overly muscular monstrosities with veins popping out all over and a facial expression like they're about to take a giant dump. No, my guys have  lithe, limber hard bodies and go in more for the cardio workouts, maintaining lean muscle. Like Nick Fallon, my ace PI. He's a runner, pounding along the shoreline of Laguna Beach and finishing up with a hard climb up the steps from beach to cliff top. There he stands, manly chest heaving from his exertions, smooth skin glistening under the California sun...

And pause for effect.

Anyway, I've written a couple of stories involving exercise, hoping that my less than 'hands on' research isn't too obvious:

Personal Trainers

I have never been a gym bunny—actually I’m too old to be any kind of bunny really. Thirty-one last birthday. Middle aged, over-the-hill, and all those other cruel and nasty things people like to put on your birthday card when you pass the thirty mark.
Fortunately, I’d been blessed with a fairly trim and athletic body, but standing in front of the mirror one day after stepping out of the shower, I noticed bulges where there ought to be none—namely around my waist. handles! Double yikes as I stood sideways...the beginnings of a potbelly! Oh no, this would not do, I thought, slapping at the bulges as though I could beat them into oblivion. I frowned at my reflection as I combed my dark brown hair. Nothing for it, Robin, I thought. Gotta sign up at a health club, before you start to look like Jabba the Hutt!
All the way to work on the subway I fretted. Every time a guy looked my way I’d think he was staring at my thickening middle and mentally crossing me off his list of potential boyfriends. Man, talk about paranoid! At the coffee shop outside the building where I work, I ordered coffee, black, no sugar—and definitely no cheese Danish!
My office is on the third floor, but that morning I ignored the line at the elevator, and took the stairs two at a time, arriving at my desk thoroughly winded and even more determined to start some kind of exercise regimen. I sighed as I read over a memo from the boss stating that the company’s figures were way down for the year, and although he didn’t actually say it, he more or less blamed the employees for this regrettable state of affairs. I looked around the office and almost felt the blanket of gloom that had settled over my fellow workers.
The depressing start to the day became even worse as I watched Dan Waters, the office jock, preening in front of the water cooler. Dan was hot, and boy, did he know it. Twenty-six years old, and already the office supervisor, he was tall, built, hunky—and a total asshole, always ready with the put-down, and smart-aleck remark. Seeing him put the make on the office girls was enough to turn my stomach. The guy had never mastered the art of the cool approach. He was all swagger and pretension, with no subtlety whatsoever.
I hated him. I’d have jumped his bones, but I hated him, and there was definitely no love lost between us. He smirked, catching my eye, as he scanned his domain and we lesser mortals arranged therein.
“Hey, Carter...” He sauntered to my desk, giving me the fish-eye. “You get the memo?”
“We all got the memo, Dan.”
“So, you going to do better this week? Your figures are way down, you know.”
“I know,” I mumbled. “It’s the time of year.”
“You mean it’s your time of the month, doncha?” he sniggered. “Well, let’s see some improvement...”
Or you’re outta here was the implication, left unsaid.
I flushed crimson with anger and embarrassment. I had been with Barclays Financial for seven years and had been their top producer since day one. I should have been Dan’s boss, not the other way round, but his Daddy being the CEO had definitely swung the odds in his favour. As far as Dan was concerned, the memo I’d just read hadn’t been enough of a warning for me. He just had to rub it as a special treat for me. It galled me when I thought about the times I’d brought clients to Barclays after cold-calling on my own time and on my own dime.
A couple of the other guys sent me looks of sympathy after Dan had strutted back to his office, but I was already over it. The money at Barclays was good—too good to let an oaf like Dan Waters goad me into quitting. An oaf with a great butt—but one that I would have gladly kicked at that moment.
So Robin sees an ad for a personal trainer in a fitness magazine and decides to give him a call...exciting isn't it?

 * * * *
During my coffee break I picked up a Men of Iron magazine someone had left lying around, and started flipping through the pages. Muscle magazines generally bored me. I’ve never been into steroidal-looking guys, flexing massive muscles and looking like they needed to take a good dump. I was about to throw it down, when a smiling face caught my eye.
What a cutie, I thought, studying the image of an attractive blond young man, his open, friendly expression an instant turn-on. A great smile will do it for me every time, and this guy had one of the best. “Jack Kelly, personal trainer,” I murmured, reading the blurb under this photograph.
“He your type?”
I looked up, flustered, to see Dan sneering down at me.
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me, Carter. The blond himbo there with the muscles. That what you go for?”
“What I go for is none of your business, Dan,” I snapped, bristling. “And your question is a little inappropriate, wouldn’t you say?”
He rolled his eyes and snickered. “So, you gonna sue for sexual harassment? You need witnesses for that, in case you didn’t know.”
He strutted out of the break room, leaving me seething with pent-up rage. Man, but I would have loved to plant my fist on that smug face. I had a wild vision of me doing just that and watching with a deal of satisfaction while his nose flattened under my punch, forever spoiling his cover boy looks.
That would certainly be the end of my days at Barclay Financial, as well. My downcast eyes fell upon the personal trainer’s ad again.
Let Jack Kelly give you back the physique of your youth. No matter what your age or present physical condition, I can coach and encourage you to good health and high self-esteem. Call today for an appointment…
I made a note of the phone number, not really knowing what I’d do with it. A personal trainer? Please… I’d never even dreamed of such a thing. Yet, maybe he could help me get rid of those extra inches round my waist…pump up my arms a little.
Couldn’t hurt.
Being thirty-one and single, I needed all the help I could get. High self-esteem, huh? Maybe I would get the nerve to plug Dan one!
Flipping through the pages, my interest turned to a rather pretty girl advertising an ab machine. I’m gay and haven’t been into women—excuse the bad pun—since high school, but there was just something about her smile that got me. Plus, she had a cute boyish figure, and I found myself smiling back.
At lunchtime, I called Jack Kelly’s number and got his voice mail. His voice was just like you’d expect him to sound. Warm, deep and sexy.
“This is Jack Kelly. Sorry I can’t take your call right now. Leave a message and I’ll get right back with you, soon as I can.”
“Oh hi,” I mumbled. “I saw your ad in a magazine and…uh…wondered if you could let me know your fees and…uh…stuff…uh…my name is Robin Carter.” I left my cell phone number and hung up with a sense of excited anticipation.
About mid-afternoon, he returned my call.
“Mr. Carter? This is Jack Kelly. You called earlier…”
“Oh yeah, hi. Just a moment.”
I rose from my desk and headed for the break room. We weren’t supposed to take personal calls at our desks unless it was an emergency, and I knew good ole Dan would be ready with an admonishment if he heard me making an appointment with a personal trainer. He’d probably have something ass-holey to say as well. I could just about hear his sneering voice. “Oh, Carter’s gonna come back all pumped up and muscley—yeah, fat chance!”
“Yeah, I’m here,” I whispered into the mouthpiece.
“You sound very far away, Mr. Carter. Do we have a bad connection?”
“No,” I said, raising my voice and feeling dumb. “Um, I saw your advertisement and was wondering if I could make an appointment with you. I’m a bit out of shape and could use some professional advice.”
“I’d be happy to help.” His voice was deep and relaxed, with a hint of that smile I’d seen in the magazine.
“What do you charge?” I asked, without much grace.
“Fifty dollars per session, plus one hundred dollars for your first visit. I’d like to sit with you, give you an evaluation, and an approximation of the kind of results you can expect. I would also like to schedule at least three sessions per week to get you off to a good start.”
I gulped. This guy was not cheap! But, what the hey? “Um…okay. Can I see you later today?”“Let’s see… My last appointment today is at three-thirty, so yeah, I can see you at five, if that’s convenient?”
“That’s good. Where are you?”
He gave me the name of the gym and directions on how to get there.
“Better make it five-thirty,” I said, after he’d finished.
“Fine. I’ll see you then, Mr. Carter. Thanks for answering my ad.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.”
For the rest of the afternoon, I found myself in a state of quiet excitement. I made several calls to clients asking if they’d like to upgrade their portfolios. Maybe the new dynamic in my voice made my usual sales pitch more interesting, as three of the four people I called increased their investments, thanking me profusely for my time and help. I turned in my reports at the end of the day, watching rather smugly, as Dan’s eyes widened on seeing the new figures.
“Looks like my little pep-talk netted results, eh, Carter?” He threw me a shit-eating grin that made me want to pop him one. And there was that vision again of Dan holding his broken and bloody nose…
I smiled benignly and headed for my appointment with Jack Kelly, personal trainer.
And of course the moral of this story is exercise for success!