A guest post for the drollerie blog tour!  Enjoy- EGD

Dangerous Words

What is the most dangerous thing I’ve written? That’s always a moving target. I often write stories that deal with politics and religion. Some people say you shouldn’t, but that strikes me as absurd. Politics and religion are a part of life, so leaving them out seems insincere. Shakespeare wrote about politics, as did Mark Twain. C.S. Lewis hardly wrote anything that didn’t deal with religion. I try not to let my own views get in the way of an honest character portrayal.

But the most dangerous stories I write are about sex.

In college I wrote a short-short story called “WELCOME (a fairy tale)” that begins, “You know the story where a frog turns into a prince? Well, once upon a time I kissed a girl and she turned into a doormat.”

A week after it came out in the student literary magazine, a columnist for the campus newspaper excoriated the magazine for publishing a story that “condones rape.” And for 2 weeks I was the hot topic on campus. Much was made of the sentence “Sometimes I’d knock first, sometimes I wouldn’t.” And much should have been. I agonized about whether to keep that sentence in but ultimately made the call (rightly, I think) to skim the surface of the darkness it hinted at.

The only beef I have with the article is its use of the word “condone.” Perhaps I should not have expected college students to grasp an unreliable narrator. Or to read 3 layers deep instead of just 2.

Now I’m at it again.

Like religion and politics, sex is a part of life (essential to the continuation of the species and all), and often associated with conflict and emotional distress. But, of course, distress and conflict make a good story, whereas contentment rarely does. So I do tend to pay more attention to detail when the details are relevant to the character or the story. So healthy, fulfilling sex is portrayed off scene, or through the eyes of the jealous, slighted lover. But when consent is not quite clear, or when a struggle for power depends on the nuance of every touch–that is when the details are important to the story and must be told. The consequence ends up being that the more disturbing the sex is, the more graphically I describe it.

In Shadow of the Antlered Bird, I wrote a birth-of-monster scene about which one reviewer  wrote “if you’re contemplating becoming a mother, skip that page. Trust me on this.”

In the short story “Wood,” which will appear in the upcoming anthology Like a Sacred Desire from Circlet Press, I applied the same guidelines to my first, um, officially erotic story.  This is a hard one to discuss, because I feel like some readers need a justification for writing erotica, but others will feel I sell out if I give one. Personally, I believe erotica can have literary value, but I also know that erotic writing can get published without literary merit. But Circlet has higher standards than that, and of course my name would be on the finished work, so I decided from the outset that I would only do this if I could make it a good story, and one in which the sex was integral to the telling of the story and not just tacked on. The result was a tale in which an old witch uses illusion and sexual domination to exact revenge for something that needs avenging. You don’t find out what until almost the end, and whether she goes too far… well, you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

“Behind the Tower,” which recently appeared in the Drollerie e-book Straying from the Path, deals with a male-to-female transsexual’s first sexual act as a woman. Because of other circumstances it is an unhealthy, arguably abusive sexual encounter, but it serves a ritual function that helps her to become the person she was meant to be. A friend who read that story said it was hard to critique honestly, because the sex made her uncomfortable. I responded that it made me uncomfortable too.

Ultimately, if I ever write a story that opens old wounds for a reader, or leads to an angry mob coming after me with torches, then it won’t be because I questioned their leaders or their idea of God or gods, but because I wrote about incest, or a sexual power struggle, or an encounter involving ambiguous consent. But I also think these stories may be my best chance to write a story that helps someone heal, or to have an insight or understanding that they might not otherwise have had.

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Phew!  Finally!  Kinlea Keeper was released at Drollerie Press last week.  Yes, I know I said it would be released in June, September, and October respectively, but this is an honest to goodness sure thing!  I’ve seen it!  It’s true, I tell you!  Now we can all wait with bated breath for Curse (the sequel), which by contract must be released before early March of 2010.  If you are at all interested in mixed-myth folklore fantasy, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the series, and I would be more than a little grateful if you give the excerpt a shot even if you aren’t.  It’s free, after all, and I promise it won’t take up too much of your time.  Much obliged! -EGD

Ok, so I have parts of three different pumpkin pies in my fridge at the moment, and all three were made by yours truly in the little-bit-less-than-a-week.  Crazy, I know.  The first one, I made on my self-declared “Pumpkin Pie Day” last Tuesday.  I wanted to buy pumpkin, so I got my butt down to Walmart and I bought pumpkin, gosh darn it!  While I was there, because they were cheap, I also grabbed a couple of graham cracker crusts and a box of vanilla pudding.  Inspiration struck when I got home and was fishing through my mind and the sides of packaging for a pie recipe while thinking of how dang hot it still is around here.  I didn’t want to turn on the oven or the stove, so I invented the recipe for two of those partial-pies hanging out in my fridge.  I call it (you’re going to love this): THE EXTREMELY LAZY CHEF PUMPKIN PIE!  Ok, so here’s what you do.  You get a cheap-o pre-made graham cracker crust.  Then, you start following the directions on the side of your box of Jello-brand instant vanilla pudding until the part where it tells you to let it set in the fridge.  Instead of letting it set in the fridge, whisk in a quarter cup of brown sugar and 1.5 tbsp of pumpkin pie seasoning.  Once those are whisked in, stir in the contents of one 15 oz can  of Libby’s Pumpkin.  Then dump it all into the pie crust, stick it in the fridge, and in 5 minutes you have pumpkin pie.  No kidding.  It really is incredibly good, and everyone who’s tried it thus far has loved it.  I brought the second LazyPie to the jingju cast Halloween party on Saturday, and even the teachers from China loved it, despite the fact the only utensils we had to eat it with were chopsticks.

Now, about the controversial pie I mentioned: As you all likely know, I spend my Sunday nights with the Hawaii Gagaku Society (see “Rum’s Favorite Cookie”, if you need a reference post).  Last week, I promised the gang that I would bake a pumpkin pie.  I used the recipe on the side of the can of Libby’s Pumpkin more or less, but I left out the eggs, added a tablespoon of butter and a half cup of flour.  I also added some ginger along with the pumpkin spice.  The resultant pie was quite nice, and I liked it, and it made the weirdest stir at the Gagaku society.  More or less simultaneously, Evelin across from me made a face and said there was too much spice, Chow to my left turned to me and said “next time, more spice,” and Yuka and Yoko to my right were holding a conversation in Japanese about how they’d never tasted a more perfect blend of spices in a pumpkin pie.  Polly agreed that the spices were perfect, and Yuka and Polly decided between them that their tastes matter more than Chow and Evelin’s because they’ve been in the society for longer.  Yuka claims it was the best pumpkin pie she has ever tasted.  Chow said the crust was too hard.  The rest of the society, I am sure, had an opinion, but they kept it to themselves.

I’m going to eat what’s left of that particular pie for breakfast in the morning.  There’s not much of it left.  The only person who left some on his or her plate was Evelin (who thought it was too heavy as well as over-spiced).  All in all, I’d say it went over well.  If I decide to bring pumpkin pie again, I think I’ll use exactly the same recipe.

Rocks.  Totally rocks.  Oh… my… gosh.  So, I went to the Ben Vereen and Honolulu Symphony concert at the end of last month, and woah.  Seriously.  I almost can’t describe.  The symphony opened (they played the first half hour sans Ben Vereen), and they were pretty good.  It was excellent as symphony pops concerts go, actually.  They called that half hour the “first half,” though, and this strikes me as silly because Ben Vereen performed for two hours straight.  And get this: he only got better as the night flew by.  He performed excerpts from a musical about his career (he’d been working on it with the Honolulu Symphony’s conductor, you see), he performed tributes to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., he sang songs about Hawaii, shared anecdotes about times he spent hanging out with Don Ho (same for Bob Fosse), and did a ton of the the signature Ben Vereen stuff like “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” and “Jesus Christ Super Star,” and “Defying Gravity.”  He danced, he sang songs that featured various instrumentalists, and he generally charmed the daylights out of the audience.  Let’s just say, if you get a chance to see this man in performance, by all means, find a way to go.  I doubt anybody in his or her right mind (erm… who likes song and dance) would regret it.

And seriously, TWO HOURS!  ONE MAN GOING FOR TWO HOURS STRAIGHT!  That’s a real showman for you.  40 years from now, I hope I’m still going that strong.  Wow.  -EGD

(P.S. if you don’t know who Ben Vereen is, SHAME ON YOU!  Go get your hands on the first season of the Muppet Show or on the movie version of Pippin and get back to me later)

Ok, so you’ll all get a review of the awesomeness of the awesome Ben Vereen concert later, but in the meantime, I have devised a contest to keep you occupied:

These days, the Drollerie Press forums practically echo with emptiness.  The only people who wander through are two DP authors, and we really only haunt one thread (Word Associations).  This is very sad, because the forums have enormous potential for community fun!  Thus, I have hatched a devious plan to kick-start new forum activity, and it involves (GASP~!) a free book.  So, here’s the contest scoop, and hopefully both the contest and the prize will be fun for all:

Anyone who, between now and November 30, A) Posts in the DP forum (you may need to register to do so, if you are not already a member.  When you register, please also send an e-mail to drollerie_interact@yahoo.com with the words “forum name” in the header and the name you registered in the body of the text) and B) Guesses one of my top two favorite forum posts as DokodemoElisa will be entered in a drawing to win one of two copies of Kinlea Keeper OR (if you can’t wait until the end of November to read Kinlea Keeper) a copy of the Curse, the second book in the series, which will be coming out by February.

HINT: NEITHER of my favorite posts are posted in the Word Association thread.

You can post your guesses along with your forum name as a reply to this post or e-mail it to me at dokodemoelisa@yahoo.com.  Happy forum-going!  -E.G.D.

Ok, so I’m barely coherent at the moment, but get this: we got out of Jingju class early today so we could go see Ben Vereen talk in the temporary dance building on the other side of campus.  A) As we all know, the man is one of the greatest greats Broadway ever saw (have I mentioned I have a BA in musical theatre?), B) MAN OH MAN can the man tell a story, C) I got a free ticket to his show this Saturday, D) HE SIGNED IT!!!!  E) He said I have beautiful eyes (SQUEEE!).  I also got a picture with him and a few of my friends from the theatre department.  I may post that later when I have my camera cable and stuff handy.  I’m totally going to frame this ticket with that picture if it turned out at all well.   Yeah, I’m really hyper-high at the moment, and now I need to go play an elegant female Jingju part in rehearsal in something like ten minutes.  We’ll see how that goes.  In the meantime, OMG BEN VEREEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Dang.  Wow.  -EGD

Ok, so it isn’t just jingju.  The vog, an evil, evil volcanic pollution-fog that comes here to Honolulu all the way from Kona, has been making it extremely difficult for me to focus.  My eyes are streaming, my sinuses are full of burning goo, my ears are all plugged up, I’ve been pushing migraine in the headache department for days, and on top of all that I’m in an insanely intense training program that requires me to memorize large swaths of a script in extremely stylized Chinese, which is NOT one of the three languages I speak and understand.  It’s like memorizing very specific and important (not to mention long) monologues in gibberish… with tones.  Also, the movement style is so counter-intuitive for one of my roles that it’s painful and mind-bending.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more completely out of my depth and incompetent in my life.  And one of my long-suffering professional actor teachers from China appears to be growing disappointed in me, which makes it all worse.  Blargh.  The vog and the jingju, they are eating my brains slowly (and apparently with a dull plastic spork), and if nothing more important, my ego may not survive the ordeal.

In my defense, the play isn’t until February, and if I have even an eighth of my brain left by then, I WILL KNOCK EVERYONE’S SOCKS OFF SO HELP ME THE GOD OF LONG LOST BUT FONDLY REMEMBERED FREE TIME SO HA!

If anybody needs me, I’ll be hiding in the closet rocking back and forth and reexamining my outwitted zombie plan.  -EGD