KD Grace

New Years Resolutions Through the Back Door

K D Grace

I’m still seeing a fair few of the NYR runners intrepidly pounding the pavement, and the gym is still surprisingly full of NYR th, the universal urge to be ‘better’ in the New Year is already losing its sparkle. All those best made plans always sound better that week before New Year when we’re all still feasting, still drinking, still overindulging, still watching crap TV. The question is, how do we fool ourselves into making a new years resolution a habit, how do we make it a positive change for life?

“get-fitters.” I give the die-hards until the first of March. I’m talking New Years resolutioners, of course. Me? Nope! No New Years Resolutions here. It’s way too early. I can’t stand the drama! I can’t take the pressure! Ask me in a month, and I’ll tell you how it’s going, once 2016 is well and truly under way and I’ve got a feel for it. Every January first people stop drinking, stop smoking, begin learning Spanish or French; people promise to take better care of themselves, to eat better, to keep their houses cleaner; people vow to be better organized, spend more time with good friends, waste less time in front of the telly, and the list goes on. But by January 7

It happens every year; that urge to reflect on what’s been and plan ways to make the New Year better. Hope and excitement at new beginnings is so much a part of our human nature that the end of a year and the beginning of another can’t help but be the time when we anticipate, plan change, and dare to dream of what wonderful things we can bring about in the next year. In fact there’s a heady sense of power in the New Year. I think it’s the time when we’re most confident that we can make changes, that we really do have power over our own lives. It’s the time when we’re most proactive toward those changes, those visions of the people we want to be. It’s the time when everything is possible … in theory. 

Before I began to sell my writing, back when I dreamed of that first publication, back when there seemed to be a lot more time for navel gazing, I was a consummate journaler. I filled pages and pages, notebooks and notebooks with my reflections and ruminations. Nothing took more time and energy, however, than the END of the YEAR ENTRY, in which I reflected on and scored myself on last year’s resolutions before busily planning the ones for the next. This was a process that often began in early December with me reading back through journals, taking notes, tracing down some of what I’d read during that year and reflecting on it. Yeah, I know. I needed to get a life! 

By the time New Years Day rolled around, I had an extensive list of resolutions, each with a detailed outline of action as to how I was going to achieve it. Some of those resolutions fell by the wayside almost before the year began — those things that, if I’m honest with myself, I knew I was never gonna do, no matter how much I wish I would. Others I achieved in varying degrees-ish. But sadly, for the most part, a month or maybe two into the year, that hard core maniacal urge to be a better me no matter what always cooled to tepid indifference as every-day life took the shine off the New Year and I was reminded again that change is hard. 

It was only when there stopped being time for such ginormous navel-gazes and micro-planning that I discovered I actually had achieved a lot of those goals that were my resolutions simply by just getting on with it. As I thought about how different my approach to all things new in the New Year had become the busier I became, I realised that I had, through no planning on my part, perfected the sneak-in-through-the-back-door method of dealing with the New Year. The big, bright New Year changes I used to spend days plotting and planning no longer got written down, no longer got planned out. Instead, they sort of implemented themselves in a totally unorganised way somewhere between the middle of January and the end of February – sometimes even later. They were easy on me, sort of whispering and waving unobtrusively from the corners of my life. They came upon me, not in sneak attacks so much as in passing brushes and furtive glances. 

I’m my own harsh taskmaster. I’m driven, I’m tunnel-visioned, I’m a pit bull when I grab on to what I want to achieve with my writing. No one is harder on me than I am – no one is even close. And yet from somewhere inside me there’s a gentler voice that sneaks in through the back door of the New Year and through the back door of my life reminding me to be kinder to myself, to be easier on myself, to find ways to rest and recreate and feed my creativity. I’ll never stop being driven. The time I’ve been given, the time we’ve all been given, is finite. And that gentler part of ourselves must somehow be a constant reminder of comfort and peace, of self-betterment that comes, not from brow-beating and berating ourselves, not from forced regimentation, but from easing into it, trying it out, making ourselves comfortable with it. We, all of us, live in a time when life is snatched away from us one sound-bite, one reality TV show, one advert at a time. Often

our precious time is bargained away from us by harsher forces, by ideals and scripts that aren’t our own, and the less time we have to dwell on the still small voice, the deeper the loss.

So my resolution, my only resolution every year is to listen more carefully to that gentler, quieter part of me, to forgive myself for not being able to be the super-human I think I should be, to settle into the arms of and be comfortable with the quieter me, the wiser me who knows how far I’ve really come, who knows that the shaping of a human being goes so much deeper than what’s achieved in the outer world, and every heart that beats needs to find its own refuge in the value of just being who we are, of living in the present and coming quietly and gently and hopefully into the New Year, even if it take us a little more time to get there.

Frolicking with Typos and Auto-Correct

K D Grace

After sending out a photo on Facebook of Hubby and me in Dubrovnik eating the lovely Croatian holiday treat of

“Saruman”  — often eaten with mash potatoes —  we tried to edit our update only to be re-auto-corrected to eating “Sarah” for lunch. The incident reminded again of just how much fun words can be and how much trouble they can get us into. I decided that instead of my usual rather serious end of the year navel gaze, that I would approach 2016 with a celebration silliness while I look back on some of my best best typo and autocorrect moments. Writers, especially erotica writers, tend to have a particularly juicy collection.  By the way, it was sarma we were actually eating – no evil wizards were stewed and no women named Sarah were fricasseed, nor invited for a steamy threesome while frolicking on a bed of spuds.

Any writer will tell you that word-herding is hard work. Words are unruly things and not always willing to fall in line like we want them to. They’re tricksters just waiting to trip us up when we least expect it. That’s why I’m blotting about typos and, the bane of everyone’s existence, auto-correct. I recall a very fun twitter convo with Madeline Moore about my latest blot post, which was up for everyone to read right not!  She promised me she would go right to my blot and read the pist, then buy my book not. 

Writers constantly play with words, and as Madeline and I tweeted back and froth, I got to thinking about how much fin

we all have when the wrong word is used — either because of a typo or because of an over-zealous auto-correct. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve NEARLY called someone ‘Sweetit’ on FB or in an email. ‘i’ isn’t even close to ‘t’, so I can only hypothesize that because of what I do for a living, fighting the unconscious urge to write ‘Sweetit’ instead of ‘Sweetie’ is probably a Freudian thing. If I call you Sweetit in any of our correspondence, please take it in the spirit in which it is meant and know that it was probably my evil Muse’s way of giving myself the finger … in this case the wrong finger on the wrong key.

I once had the misfortune of being the victim of auto-correct when I asked Vida Baily about her latest ‘WIPE’ instead ofher ‘WIP.’ The silly convo that followed was caught for posterior on Facebook because for some reason, the ‘edit’ function wouldn’t work. Not long after, I was looking down through my blog content folder for an older post I wanted to refer to when I saw in my documents a post I’d written as I participated in the ‘Snob by the Sea’ blog hop, which will come as a real surprise to Victoria and Kev Blisse, who organized the ‘Snog by the Sea’ blog hop to promote Smut by the Sea. Honestly, there was not a jot of snobbery in that fabulous blot hog, just a lot of hot snogging!

I can’t count the number of times my characters have ‘shit the door behind them’, which is far more painful than shutting it … one would assume. And my poor Lakeland witches were nearly caught at the top of Honister Pass in a snot storm. I once read a story in which the hero’s face was pinched by an uncomfortable erection … After I fell off my chair laughing, terribly relieved that it hadn’t been fatal, I was reminded how easily I can make a sentence go on and on forever until it’s hard to tell what part of a character’s anatomy is being pinched by what … or whom, which is simply a very long drawn-out way of saying that sentence argument is very important!

The thing is, as writers we think a lot faster than we can get those thoughts down on paper. When those thoughts come out of the imagination, and when our characters and plot take control and drag us down the rabbit hole, sometimes it feels like we’re actually just secretaries struggling to take down their words and actions as fast as we can before faces get pinched by erections and whole villages are buried under snot storms.

Language and word play say a lot about a person. They say a lot about a writer, about a story-teller. Writers choose to dance dangerously with words, so it comes as no surprise when we occasionally trip over our own semi-colons. It doesn’t help that I’m the world’s worst speller. Then there’s the constant battle of homophones. I’ve had the odd pale face end up pail … and while faces may be good for showing emotion, they’re not very practical for carrying large quantities water. Seriously though, it gets really tense sometimes when every word counts, when I want to make sure that my readers catch every nuance, every scent, every taste, every feel of flesh on flesh. That being the case, sometimes a writer just needs to play with the words and let them have their head. That means occasionally shitting the door on the more serious word-smithery and leaving the plot and the characters to stew in their own juices just for a little while, just long enough for a silly little blot post to all of you Sweetits out there before I get back to more serious word-herding in anticipation of the new year.

Higs and snobs all around, my Lovelies! Wishing you all Hippy Holidays, no matter how you celebrate, and all the beast in the New Ear!

The Appian Way: I did it my way!

 By K D Grace

I’m just back from four glorious days in Rome, and I’m reminded once again why I love the place so much. Poor Raymond

was stuck in a conference the whole time, but I tagged along to play, to explore Rome MY WAY! The introvert’s way, and that meant a very long walk on the Queen of Highways, the Ghost Road, better known as the Appian Way. Living in Britain we know a thing or two about Roman roads, with more than a few of our byways and motorways having been built on top of Roman roads. The Romans did roads real good! Built in 312 BC, the Apian Way connected Rome to Brindisi, in Italy’s boot heel, some 350 miles away. It was originally built for military purposes. Wasn’t everything?

I once spent a fabulous afternoon in High Gate Cemetery in London. The Appian Way reminded me of that outing, only with more warmth and more sunshine. Places of burial and the way a culture deals with its dead are reflections of the culture itself. When High Gate was built churchyards were so overly full that the stench and the spread of disease were serious problems. What to do with the dead is a major issue in urban areas, so cemeteries were built outside the cities to ease overcrowding in churchyards, but the cities grew up around them. Cemeteries are a relative modern solution.

Now, imagine if the burial solution had, instead, been to allow people to bury their dead along the main motorways and freeways. That was the Roman solution in the time of the Caesars, when burial was not allowed inside the city. The Appian Way is a living monument to the dead. The road begins at the gate of San Sebastiano in the old Aurelian walls with a series of catacombs just beyond. They were all closed the day I went, which was fine. I was there for the walk. The first ten miles of the Appian Way have been made into a national park, and those ten miles are chockablock with ancient monuments, mausoleums and ruins of villas. Not only was the Appian Way the place for burying the dead, but it was prime real estate for building your villa. Beyond the first few kilometers there’s no traffic other than the rich and entitled, who now have their own villas along the Appian Way. Those you can’t see because they’re all set well back from the cobbled road out of sight of the hoi poloi. 

I stopped at the Villa and Circus of Maxentius to picnic on the sandwich I’d bought at a cafe near the Appian Way Visitor Center. After spending way too much time exploring the mausoleum and the circus, I realized there was no way I could manage any real walking if I stopped for a detailed look-see at every monument and ruin along the way, and it was the feel of the road I wanted. In a way, it was a road trip ancient Roman style. I’m a huge fan of aqueducts and after studying the map I’d picked up at the visitors center, I made an executive decision to walk all the way to the aqueduct at the seven-mile mark. Of course seven miles out meant a seven miles return to where I could catch a bus back into the city. Never mind that! I’m a pit bull when I decide to do something, and I had my mind set on aqueducts.

My choice was a good one. Both sides of the road are literally lined with monuments, broken statuary, and even the odd remains of stone coffins. Some of the more important monuments were on the map, but most were not. The Appian Way is like the Forum and the Paletine in a straight line, but without the heaving crowds and the city noise. Since most people were more interested in the catacombs and the monuments just beyond, I shared the whole Appian way with only a few other intrepid walkers and runners and the occasional cyclist — oh, and a goat herder with a large flock of goats, bells tinkling, kids bleating as they crossed the cobbled road in front of me. 

An erotica writer alone with her thoughts on a long walk in the beautiful Italian sunshine would have been enough to

inspire without the bloke who had, perhaps found riding his bike along the rough vibration of the cobbles a bit too stimulating. (I kid you not! What are the chances?) I figured he either thought he was alone or his situation was too urgent for him to notice that he had an audience. I suppose it was possible he was just an exhibitionist. That was all right, since I’m a bit of a voyeur, albeit a shy one. I smiled to myself and pretended not to see. Really, rough cobbled or not, who could blame the man for taking matters into his own hands on such a beautiful day. There’s something very stimulating about a nice long walk in the sunshine. I tucked that little scene away in the back of my mind for future use, and you’re welcome to borrow it if it inspires.

I made it to the aqueduct, and not a step further. Oh I was tempted to see what was along miles eight, nine, and ten. I was tempted to go all the way, but seven miles out meant seven miles back to the

bus, and I was in serious need of espresso. Besides the walk was a stretch for me. It was the longest I’d done since my knee surgery in February. I made it back no worse for the wear, giving myself a mental high-five as I arrived just in time to catch the bus back to Rome with a Danish couple who had been leap-frogging me for the last five miles. Immediately upon my arrival at Piazza della Repubblica where our hotel was, I found a café and had a celebratory espresso. In fact, I made it a double — being too embarrassed to ask for a triple.

Later, after I had re-caffeinated, drank a gallon of water and lingered beneath the shower massage, I enjoyed wine and spaghetti carbonara in an open air café, while I watched the lights of the Eternal City blink on around the Piazza della Repubblica, with its fountain and it’s spotlights on the ruins of Diocletian’s Bath. It was one of those days that felt, larger than life, as I often find days do when my only job is simply to pick up my feet and put them down one step at a time while I watch and observe and let myself be acted upon by what I see. Those days stand out. Those days are precious because they make me feel up to the task, they make me feel like I can do anything. They open me to possibilities, and there’s nothing more precious to a writer.

Paranormal Lust

K D Grace

With Halloween upon us, it’s a perfect time of year for me to wax paranormal. Some of you might know that I’m

writing a free dark paranormal serial on my blog right now. In The Flesh comes out every Friday and has demons, angels, vampires, succubi — a real mash-up of fun, scary, sexies. But as the story unfolds each week, what continues to astound me is that, though I know the villain is to be avoided at all costs, like my heroine, I STILL want to shag him! 

Our attraction to the villain is one of the wonderful contradiction that makes a great paranormal story. And the delicious and frightening opposite side of the paranormal coin is that as a reader, and a writer, I want to be almost as afraid of the hero as I am of the villain. I want to shag them both! Oh the angst! I honestly can’t think that anyone could really fall for a vampire or a werewolf or a demon or a powerful witch, or any other paranormal hero/heroine without being, at the same time, terrified. In fact just the right combination of fear and attraction is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs EVER! I think it’s absolutely essential in a sexy paranormal story. A part of what makes good paranormal work for me is knowing that the hero or heroine could easily turn and destroy the very thing he or she loves and longs to possess. More often than not, the hero is really an antihero, striving to be greater than his nature, and the more difficult the struggle, the more endearing I find him to be.

In fact, there are times when the only separation between the hero and the villain is how willing they are to do battle with their own flaws. Of course the battle with flaws is nothing but the age-old human struggle magnified and highlighted for the sake of the story. Few of us literally rip people’s throats out when we’re having a bad day, and most of us would be horrified if the love of our life did that before morning coffee. That niggle of fear, that edge of uncertainty is what raises the stakes, what raises the level of tension and excitement in a good

paranormal story. The lover is not safe, and yet that danger makes the sex all the hotter and the angst all the angstier.  In my opinion, it’s the lack of safety that makes paranormal erotic romance so stimulating in those larger than life ways that are more difficult to achieve in ordinary romance, though are definitely brought into play in BDSM stories. In fact, I’d suggest that BDSM, at least on some level, is, in part, the desire to make our sexuality alittle more dangerous, a little more edgy, in the absence of demon lovers and vampires. The whole sexy, super-heated, blow-your-mind purpose of good paranormal erotica is to make totally dangerous sex and plunging-off-a-cliff romance a vicarious possibility for the reader. 

I remember seeing Frank Langella’s Dracula back in the day and thinking, as I panted my way through the horribly delicious scene in which Dracula seduces Lucy, that even with the terrible truth of what the end result of his sexy attentiveness to her will be, who could possibly have refused, even if they hadn’t been under his thrall? He was a gentleman, he was charming and mysterious, he was hypnotic, he was gorgeous, he was terrifying. And I wanted him! 

In paranormal erotica, one good fuck may be all you ever get, but it will damn well be worth it! Give us a demon, whose power is lust, whose sensuality is deadly, a vampire who is terrified he may just rip his lover’s throat out in his passion, a succubus who can bring her lover to exquisite ecstasy but at the risk of stealing his life force. Oh yes! Bring it on! While the beautiful, unsuspecting couple in a horror film have wild, ecstatic sex just before their hearts are ripped still beating from their chest, by the villain, in paranormal erotica and romance, that edge of ecstasy, that infatuation that may well be deadly is drawn out to a thin, dangerous edge and, as readers, we get to ride the edge, wondering if there will be pleasure or death or both.  I get goose bumps just thinking about that moment when le petit mort could very easily end in the real thing!

I love the paranormal contrast of light and darkness and the way the two are blended. After all there’s only

awareness of one in the presence of the other. I think the balance of fear and lust and the highlighting of flaws through otherness, done well, is the making of a good paranormal romance. Conflict is the main ingredient of any good story, and when a story is paranormal, there is, by the nature of the beast, or the witchJ more room for more conflict. And that’s a big part of the fun. Wanting what we know is very bad for us while at the same time not trusting what might be good for us keeps us on that delicious edge that, in every good story, pulls us forward, makes us fantasize and lust and speculate. And seeing the characters in a paranormal novel get exactly that, exactly the thing that both attracts them and terrifies them is what makes paranormal so outrageously hot. 

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain and All Hallows!

On Second Thought

By K D Grace

When I lived in Croatia a hundred years ago, I spent three weeks every summer camping on the Adriatic near Pula. At the campsite where I stayed, there was a small store and a restaurant that had live music every night. There were several buildings with showers and toilets. That was the extent of the place.

One of the shower blocks not far from where I set up my tent was a narrow concrete pre-fab with a row of cubicles, each containing a shower, each with a door leading right out onto the main path through the camp. One year one of the six cubicles was missing a door. That meant more congestion for the remaining shower units, which were in high demand in August. There was almost always a queue.

Early one evening on my way back from the grocery store, I noticed two very fit German blokes I’d seen wind surfing earlier in the day queuing for the shower, but they got tired of waiting, so they stripped off their Speedos and waltzed right on in to the cubicle without the door.

I happened to be with a friend who was a bit more prudish than I, and she averted her eyes and dragged me away in a huff, me nearly breaking my neck for one last glance over my shoulder at naked, wet maleness. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. What I saw was fleeting. But what I imagined – over and over and over again – was most definitely not!

So why do I bring this up? Last month, just back from Scotland, I wrote about the inspiration a writer gets from images and shared a few examples. This month, I’d like to explore the inspiration we get from that glorious, super-high-tech instant replay in our brain.

My voyeuristic encounter at the showers stands out to me as outrageously erotic, and yet nothing happened. Two blokes got tired of waiting in queue for the shower, probably anxious to get to dinner and a cold beer, so they chose to shower in full view of hundreds of people they didn’t know, hundreds of people who would never see them again. BUT, they were wrong, I’ve seen them countless times in my imagination – sometimes sun bleached and golden in the late afternoon light, sometimes dark, tattooed and dangerous just before dusk, beckoning me to come join them, speaking softly to me in German — words I don’t understand, though I completely get their meaning. I know exactly what those boys want, as they leer at me and I leer back.

In some of those instant replays, I meet them on the beach at midnight to share a bottle of wine and a naked swim in the warm moonlit waters. In some of those instant replays, I shoo my prudish friend back to her tent, then strip off shamelessly and join them, letting them soap me and rinse me and protect me with their naked, glistening bodies from the gaping onlookers. In other versions, they come to the shower late at night when everyone else is asleep, and only I’m there to watch them lather and bathe each other, thorough in their efforts to get clean, more thorough in their efforts to relieve the tensions of the day.

Everyone has an instant replay in their brain that allows them to rewind, slo-mo, enhance, zoom in on any part of any experience or image that catches their fancy, and then enjoy it a second or even a 50th time around. We can take that experience and totally change it if we choose. We do it all the time; in our heads, we rewrite the ending of an interview that didn’t go so well or an argument with a lover so that we can take back what we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes we imagine what would have happened next if things had been allowed to unfold to the end, if I had been allowed to linger a little longer in front of the showers. In fact, we can be really neurotic about it, playing the same scenes over and over and obsessing on them, for good or for ill.

Writers are especially adept at using this instant replay to inspire, to arouse, to tease out and focus on details we might otherwise have missed, details that might have totally intrigued us the first time around, even details that weren’t really there. Then we write those details into whole new sexy scenarios, sometimes even whole novels.

I know, I know! It’s all a part of memory. Anyone can hit the ole instant replay button at any time and

experience the past all over again. We all do that. But there’s nothing ordinary about the ability to relive our experiences and imagine ourselves in a different life – perhaps even as different people who make a different decision; perhaps the decision to strip off and shower with the German wind-surfers. The creative process of a writer depends on the exploitation of that instant replay button. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that isn’t grounded in some way, no matter how miniscule, in my recalling of an experience, my reimagining of a moment, or my reworking of an image that intrigues me. In a very real sense, we are what we write as we wind back the video in the editing room of our brain and hit replay, then hit slo-mo, then zoom in real nice and tight-like so that we can enhance and recreate every detail to tell a brand new story.

A Picture Really IS Worth a Thousand Words

K D Grace

A picture is worth a thousand words and, for a writer, sometimes a picture is worth a whole story – even a whole novel. Now some of you might already suspect that could be my shameless way of sharing some of my pictures from my recent trip to the Scottish Highlands and, while I’m not saying that you’re wrong, I promise if you bear with me, there’s a reason for the photos. Oh, not this first one though. It’s here just because I like it. 

As internet connections, wifi and smart phones have gotten better, I’ve gone from totally forgetting to take photos – even on the most amazing holidays and events – to being a shutter-snapping fiend. I take hundreds and hundreds of photos when I go away on a holiday, and if there’s something that interests me, even at home, I take a gazillion shots of it. Of course the instant gratification of sharing a trip or an event with everyone one through Face Book or Twitter and enjoying their responses is added incentive. I admit having shamelessly sent piccies of everything from my fish and chips in Lyme Regis to the scars on my knees after surgery, from the courgettes I grew in my garden to the blisters on my hands from kettle bells. Dearie me! I have become the monster I most feared.

The thing about an image is that it evokes senses other than just sight. It also stimulates memory and emotion and, for a writer, it stimulates imagination. I think that, more than anything else, that fact is responsible for my increase in photo snapping. The image doesn’t have to be beautiful any longer as it did in my earlier shutter-snapping days. The image needs to be evocative. That’s the key for me. I played around on Pinterest quite a bit at one point. Some of you may recall I wrote a post about my Pinterest experience, but evocative images happen wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, and an iPhone guarantees that if I want to capture that image for later use, I can do it without a second thought.

Here are some examples of what I mean. These shots were taken in the men and women’s loos in a pub in Inverness Scotland. Hubby took the men’s room shots for me after I told him what I saw in the ladies. 

The hair straightener in the ladies room at a pound a pop got me thinking about Rapunzel sneaking out from her tower prison for a little fun with her girlfriends. 

After wild dancing at the ceilidh, she notices her do is gone all frizzy. 

But since she’s Rapunzel, she has so much hair that she runs out of pound coins and has to offer sexual favors to the woman who spends money on a variety of sex toys from the vending machine, which she uses on Rapulzel.

Meanwhile Prince Charming, who finds her missing from the tower pursues her to the pub. Feeling frustrated, he treats himself to a Travel Pussy and some whisky flavoured condoms just in case he finds her. Well you get where I’m going with this.

Here is a shot of a deserted phone booth on the Isle of Sky near our cottage. With no wifi and no phone signal it’s easy to imagine a hiker getting lost and ending up on a small farmstead. In desperation, she tries the phone booth, but when the phone doesn’t work, she elicits the help of the farmer who lives there — a bit of a twist on the ole farmer’s daughter stories and jokes. Of course the farmer could be a woman…

Or perhaps you’d like a biker story with a twist? I’ve got inspirational images for that too. How about instead of a biker bar, we set our little tale in a biker bakery. In our little bakery the chef makes the most delectable bake goods of all time. She is enticed into providing all the bread, biscuits and buns for the local biker gang. What kind of deal would the head of the biker gang make with the curvy head baker/pastry chef to get a bargain on her delectable buns? 

Oh, and the very wet hoodie sitting on top of the coffee shop part of the bakery looking rather forlorn, well, I figure a woman who makes baked goods for a biker gang might just have a crow for a pet.

I love the great outdoors, so for me every great-outdoorsy shot is an inspiration for a little garden porn or fun Al fresco, I’ve written whole series inspired by outdoor images of mountains lost in the midst and caves visited by demons and witches. But the truth is that sometimes a beautiful image is just a beautiful image, and being just back from the Highlands, as I am, and being a captive audience, as you are, I’ll leave you with this lovely image from the Isle of Skye.

Tasty Inspiration: My Pilgrimage to the ButterCooky Bakery

Today I want to talk about bakeries. Well one bakery in particular. Today I want to talk about the ButterCooky Bakery in Floral Park, New York because it’s not only a feast for the taste-buds, but it’s a total feast for the eyes as well. Sadly these days there are fewer and fewer real bakeries and more and more groceries with a bakery-ish that makes pastries and breads-ish. But real bakeries, aw, now those are a true national treasure!

To me, Bakeries are like art galleries in which you get to eat the art. I’ve always loved to look at the way the displays, but I’ve never actually seen a display quite so eye-popping as the one in the ButterCooky Bakery. In fact the ButterCooky is so stunning, that it’s become a place of pilgrimage for me. OK, so it’s only my second trip to NYC, and the ButterCooky is not actually in NYC, but it doesn’t matter, it’s still a very inspiring must-see.

This year I made the trip on my last day in New York. I had a 9:30 PM flight back to the UK, so plenty of time to hang out and write locally. We’ve stayed the last two visits to New York in Floral Park because Raymond has gone for martial arts training and the dojo where he trains is in Floral Park – an easy ride on the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station and Midtown Manhattan. The best of all worlds – he trains, I play tourist! But I digress. The ButterCooky Bakery has the distinction of being right across from the dojo. That was originally how I discovered it, and I have it on good authority from Raymond’s sensei that more than a few of his students are frequent visitors after workouts. Apparently the ButterCooky is quite famous in the area.

After several hours of writing, I made my move Mid-morning. I loaded up my backpack with my laptop and my

camera and headed off at a very slow trudge toward the ButterCooky. The TV in the breakfast room of the hotel had promised another scorcher with heat index of over 100 and, by 10:00, it already felt pretty close. It’s about a twenty minute walk from my hotel to the bakery and I arrived wilted and glowing, very much in-need of the cool breath of air conditioning wafting from the front entrance by the cake display.

I’ve never seen so many beautiful baked goods to choose from – dozens of kinds of cookies, whole display cases full of pastries and breads, a display case higher than my head full of cupcakes along with biscuits, buns, pies and croissants and probably a dozen other delectable I missed in the total overload of visual gluttony.  I’m sure I would have been overwhelmed by it all and completely unable to make a choice if I hadn’t gone with one special treat in mind. The real reason for my perilous journey through the heat was a great big fat cream-filled chocolate éclairs. Even knowing exactly what I wanted and wanting it with a passion, I still stood stunned for the first five minutes, taking it all in, letting my eyes enjoy the calorie-free feast before my taste buds tackled the delectable calories. When it came my turn at the counter, I ordered one beautiful

éclair and a much-needed iced coffee and asked if I could take pictures. Apparently I’m not the only person to make that request. The manager only smiled knowingly and said go ahead.

But first things first. I found a quiet, marble-topped table with a view of the whole bakery and the street outside, then I sat down to write, enjoy my éclair, and gird my loins for the task of photographing so much yumminess.

Cakes! Beautiful cakes! Round, voluptuous layer cakes, frosted, piled high with fruit, latticed with butter cream frosting, covered with coconut and almonds and all manner of scrumptiousness. I watched several people

come in for special birthday cakes, often more sculpted than decorated. They all nodded their approval and then the cakes were lovingly boxed up and taken away. Oh, and cupcakes – everything from Big Bird to fluffy kittens, from French poodles to flower gardens. I watched one couple pick out a dozen and a half of these little masterpieces for their son’s birthday party. I’m pretty sure they walked out with a whole zoo of cupcakes. I wonder how much you can learn about someone’s personality by the kinds of cupcakes they choose – by the kinds of pastries they delight in. Now that would be an interesting study.

Oh, and the éclair! A total orgasm for the taste buds. I savored it, I made it last, I totally delighted in every chocolaty, cream-filled nibble. Now you might ask just how inspiring is a chocolate éclair? Well, I managed a thousand words sitting there in the yummy surrounds of the ButterCooky relishing my éclair and iced coffee. It’s especially nice when inspiration tastes so good, and how could I not be inspired by something so totally cream-filled?

Once the éclair was gone and I’d licked the last of the sticky, bitter-sweet chocolate off my fingers, I got about the

serious business of taking piccies. Then I thanked the clerk and headed back out into the heat.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a food Philistine. If it takes more than thirty minutes, I’m not likely to cook it. I baking repertoire consists of oatmeal cake, snicker doodles and coconut cream pie – all simple, all family recipes I learned by doing from the time I was a little girl. These days they only happen once a year if that. But even though I’m no foodie, the magic of cooking and baking and creating beautiful food isn’t lost on me, and there’s a very real magic involved in taking something into myself that’s as beautiful as it is tasty. As I walked back to my hotel room, a thousand words more done on my WIP, thinking about my ButterCooky pilgrimage, 2015, I could completely understand why food inspires in so many more ways than simply taste and nutrition.

It's Garden Porn Time Again

I’m just in from our back garden, fingers stained red from a hefty picking of raspberries. That’s right! It’s time for me to subject you to more garden porn, complete with pictures and sticky fingerprints on the keyboard. Most of you know that I grow my own veg and that I’m quite often inspired by getting down and dirty in the veg patch. I’ve written stories, chapters, entire novellas about the naughty things that can happen in a vegetable garden, or in a flower garden, or any garden for that matter.

Everyone loves to walk through a well-tended garden, and knowing you lot, as I do, I figure it’s probably a safe bet that, like me, you’re looking for all the nice little hidey-holes and private places where on might have a grope or cop a feel. Oh, you might not necessarily use them, but you’ll think about what it would be like if you did. You might be admiring the size of the courgettes or the cucumbers, or possibly even thinking about the dual use of the ordinary garden variety (You see what I did there?) carrot with it’s lovely orange shaft penetrating the earth while the lush fronds above ground are so very green and flogger-like. Who doesn’t love to play with their food?

My veg patch is sometimes well tended, but more often than not it looks a little rough around the edges, and as much as I love to wander through a well-ordered patch, it’s even more fun to shove and push my way through an overgrown garden. While there may not be an orgy of phallic veggies waiting to be picked, there are lots more places to hide and grope and play.

Personally, I think there’s something about a garden overgrown, a building left derelict that invites trespass. A five-star hotel is one thing, and believe me, I’m not dissing the pleasure of a fine mattress, but there’s something primal about a fuck on a mossy stone bench behind an overgrown hawthorn hedge, or forget the bench, the grass will do just fine, and it’s softer. Uncomfortable? Hell yes! But there are a lot of things that are worth doing in spite of the discomfort.

Maybe it’s about connection. Maybe that’s the appeal of a garden to me, you know, feeding ourselves with what we’ve grown, and garden porn … well if we eat from the earth, why not rut a little closer to the earth? It works for all of our animal cousins.

Maybe it’s just the time of the year. Maybe there’s something about watching the birds in the garden go at it, or seeing the plants grow from seedlings to fruiting courgettes or beans or corn plants. Perhaps it’s that first ripe strawberry teased out, fondled and plucked from the bed and then popped into your mouth, all juicy and sweet … or maybe popped into the mouth of a lover. Certainly soft, ripe fruit dripping and succulent is responsible for a multitude of sensual metaphors. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, and even more so at the thought of sharing that ripe juicy fullness mid-grope on that mossy stone bench behind the hawthorn hedge.

Several years ago while walking a bit of the North Downs Way not terribly far from home, my husband and I came across a hedgerow overgrown with wild plums. There must have been a quarter of a mile of scraggly trees, heavy with swollen fruit, buzzing with hungry insects. We ate all we could, licking the sticky sweet from our fingers, laughing like children, feeding each other and teasing. Then we stuffed our bags and took some home with us. All

throughout that next week, we ate fat, squishy plums and reminisced about our walk. The sensuality of the experience, the unexpected lushness of being offered up a feast in the middle of nowhere, the feeling of discovering a treasure trove has stuck with me. I have that feeling whether we’re picking wild blackberries along the canals and walking paths or harvesting sweet corn from our own little patch, that sense of awe at the abundance, the largesse of nature, that feeling of participating in something far more primal that just eating what’s good for me. The sensuality of what grows, the fecundity of the season can’t help but inspire the libido, and the muse takes full advantage of it, pointing out the subtle and the not so subtle inspiration of planting and digging and picking and eating and … playing with what we eat … playing with someone else with what we eat. With all that in mind, it’s hardly a surprise that gardens figure so prominently in story and that so much of what’s written about gardens is sexy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go wash up the raspberries and share them with hubby. Happy summer, everyone! Share a peach, pop a cherry, appreciate the shape of a courgette, admire a carrot for the parts you don’t eat. Even though sometimes it’s easy to forget, at the end of the day, we’re still a part of nature, and sometimes that’s just fucking sexy! Enjoy!

Dry Canyon Observations & Inspiration

By K D Grace

I’m just back from two weeks in Oregon with my sister. I always come back a bit more clearheaded and focused and with more than a few ideas for new story possibilities. Oh it’s not so much that I’m with my sister. In a lot of ways, we’d drive each other crazy under different circumstances. She’s an extrovert who can’t get enough people and activity in her life. I, on the other hand, like my doses of people small and far between and am very keen on solitary activities. But for two weeks, we balance each other out, and we totally revel in each other’s company. We take long walks, we talk and laugh into the wee hours, we have our annual Pride and Prejudice marathon while veging out on her TV room floor with popcorn and chocolate and any other decadent food or drink we can manage during that indulgent six hours. We bounce ideas off each other and just generally pick up where we left off.

I think I come back to England more clearheaded, more inspired because I’ve had a break from the routine, because for a little while I’m living completely outside my own context. Personally, I think it’s easy for writers to get so tunnel-visioned, so focused on our writing and promoting routines that we forget that walking outside our little world is the best foreplay for the writing orgasm. To be disconnected completely from the things we cling most tightly to, not only forces us to view things differently, but also opens us to inspiration in the viewing. With that in mind, here are a few things that inspired me during those two weeks, things that may very well end up in stories and novels yet to come, some of which have already have ended up on my blog.

Walks in a dry canyon

My sister lives in the high desert of Oregon, and there’s a dry canyon cut by ancient volcanoes that literally

divides the town she lives in right down the middle. A long time ago it was used as the town dump. Now it’s been cleaned up and serves as a walking path, which includes a couple of playgrounds for the kids, along with a doggie playground, and a series of nature trails that spread out over the wider stretches of the canyon floor. The place is well used and well cared for by the town’s population of 26,000 who live along either side of the 3 ½ mile rim. For convenience, the canyon was recently spanned by a bridge that was built to blend in beautifully with the colour and the geology of the canyon, the design so well thought out that even the noise of the traffic is negligible from the canyon floor.

Nature alive and dead

I’ve seen deer in the canyon, along with rock chucks, ground squirrels, birds of all kinds. This year I saw nesting scrub jays, even a nest of crows in the cliffs exercising their wings as they prepared to fledge. My sister says that on occasion there have been mountain lion sightings in the canyon and there’ll be warning signs posted when that happens. Though I didn’t get lucky enough to see one, there were the odd occasions when I felt as though I was being followed, when my skin prickled, and I turned slowly to find nothing there, but a quiver of the sagebrush behind me … no doubt caused by the breeze. That being the case, it’s not surprising that I should return to my sister’s house with visions of mountain lion shape shifters showing themselves in the desert moonlight beneath the bridge. Nor is it surprising that the idea should find its way into my blog.

And then there are the dead things one encounters in the canyon. I’m not sure why they matter to me, but they

do. On one of our walks, my sister, knowing the strange twists and turns of my mind, pointed out the well-desiccated carcass of a dead skunk off to one side of the trail. Her mind has it’s own strange twists and turns. It stunk to high heaven last fall, she told me.

It didn’t smell so bad by the time I stood over the dusty heap of flattened skin and bones taking pictures. I would have missed it completely if she hadn’t pointed it out.

She watched as I photographed the delicate skull and teeth, visible above the sun bleached remains of the pelt. You don’t get to look at wild things up close and personal when they’re alive, so dead things deserved to be honoured and observed, at least I think they do. In truth there’s something beautiful, something magical in the way nature takes back her own. The teeth and the delicate bones of the skull caught the desert sun, and the shape and structure held its own fascination, though I was relieved it no longer smelled. I don’t know why it mattered. I don’t know why a dead skunk can somehow inspire, and yet it does. Even now, after I’m home and back into my routine, it still matters for some strange reason.  And anyway, inspiration sometimes is a delayed reaction, isn’t it?

Detritus of Past Lives

The canyon used to be the city dump back when the hearty settlers moved in from the more ‘hospitable’ parts of the west to practice dry land farming and cattle ranching. It was a hard life, though you wouldn’t know that now as

you drive through the modern town of Redmond, with it’s slight touristy, slightly Western feel, or walk along the canyon and see the runners and mothers pushing prams and people walking dogs. But there are still a few places along the cliffs where mangled, rusted remains of cars and farming equipment and tangles of baling wire are scattered in decaying heaps, now blending in so well with the shades of kaki and burnt umber of the canyon that they’re hardly noticeable except to someone who only ever gets there once a year, someone who wonders what stories are hidden in the twisted metal heaps aging in the glare of the desert sunshine.

Detritus of Present Lives

The cliff tops above the canyon are lined with prosperous housing developments, trailer parks and building sites. My sister and I walked a path behind a trailer park and then out through a new, well-landscaped housing development to get down into the canyon. The stretch behind the trailer park will, no doubt, someday be built upon as well, but for now it fascinated me in that it contains what was left behind of the houses, or perhaps trailers that were there before. I know that children from the trailer park play in the mounds of dirt along the irrigation ditch that runs through the wasteland behind. I noticed one high mound with a shovel standing upright in the earth, and I wondered, in the way storytellers do, who was buried beneath that mound of dirt and what tale were buried there with them?

Where my sister and I crossed back into the trailer park to head on to her house, there was a deserted pickup truck filled with what looked like the contents of an apartment quickly evacuated. My sister told me the truck has been sitting there abandoned for months. The police ticketed it, but the ticket blew away, and still the truck sits there. She told me this while I rapidly snapped photos of said truck and my mind raced back to the mound of dirt and the shovel. We both noticed the badly battered rodeo dummy buried beneath a weathered cane rocking chair and a broken computer desk. She says there were actually lacy women’s panties hastily dropped behind the vehicle early on, and we speculated as to whether that was a part of the story of the truck or possibly just teenagers trying to find a bit

of privacy for a feel-up behind. Either way, it got tucked away into my mental file cabinet for further perusing as necessary.

After that dusty walk, we decided to reward ourselves with an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen, and while we partook, I shared with her the story I could see forming in my imagination – sexy shape shifters, writer turned investigators, foul play, sexy encounters in a dry canyon. She listened and nodded and occasionally threw in an idea of her own between licks to her ice cream cone.

Now, back home in my own space, walking the places that are familiar to me, the places inspire me, preparing a post that I hope will inspire others, I find myself thinking of what I’ve brought back from those two weeks and how those experiences allow me to slip back into my own life and my own routine with a view slightly altered, with a sense of purpose a bit more focused and hopefully with my senses and my imagination a little sharper from the experience.

Masturbation & Creation

By K D Grace

It’s that time of year again! May is International Masturbation Month   and, as one who is proud to be a frequent masturbator,  and one who believes our creativity is deeply connected to our sexuality, I feel it’s only right to honor the occasion. Several years ago, I came across a fabulous article by Eric Francis over on Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross’s Sex Information Online site. Every time I revisited, I’m reminded why I liked it so much.

In his post, ‘What Exactly is Masturbation Month,’ Eric Francis wonders why most sites by and for singles, to promote and

validate the single lifestyle don’t discuss masturbation. The surprising answer seems to be that masturbation is a subject even happily single people just aren’t comfortable discussing. But what intrigued me most was Eric’s speculation as to why that might be:

 ‘I would propose that masturbation is about a lot more than masturbation — and that’s the reason it’s still considered so taboo by many people, and in many places. First, I would say that masturbation holds the key to all sexuality. It’s a kind of proto-sexuality, the core of the matter of what it means to be sexual. I mean this in an existential sense. Masturbation is the most elemental form of sexuality, requiring only awareness and a body. Whatever we experience when we go there is what we bring into our sexual encounters with others — whether we recognize it or not. Many factors contribute to obscuring this simple fact.’

I read this through several times, savored it, and read it again. The ancient Egyptians believed masturbation was a creative act in its own right. In the Heliopolis creation myth, the god Amen rises from the primeval ocean, Nun, and masturbates the divine son and daughter into existence, and they populate the world. Even if I look at the Judeo/Christian myth in the first two chapters of Genesis, in which God speaks the world into existence, I am still looking at a solo act.

I love Eric’s line, ‘Masturbation is the most elemental form of sexuality, requiring only awareness and a body.

Awareness and Body. What a fabulous combination! Eric even goes on to say that whatever we take from that proto experience of masturbation, we bring into our other relationships as well. In other words, it’s formative, that solo act, that original creative force. It brings awareness and body together. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The discovery of who we are in relation to ourselves is key if we are to be able to properly enter into discovery of ‘The Other.’ Doesn’t the act of creation, metaphorical or otherwise, begin with taking an inventory of what we’ve got to work with and learning how best to work with what we have to bring forth what we hope to create?

Creation as a solo act is an experience with which every writer is familiar, an experience in which we masturbate the world into existence — our world, our characters, our plot — all an act of solitude, all an act of imagination. And I can’t possibly be the only writer who feels that experience viscerally as an act of self-exploration, an act of self discovery. 

Awareness and a body. Masturbating the world into existence. It happens all the time. At the risk of offering too much information, my understanding of sex, my deepest understanding of my own sexuality, comes from awareness and my own body. That’s what I have to work with. My understanding of writing, my deepest understanding of the creative forces in me also comes from awareness of self and all that awareness can imaginatively create.

I’m astounded that in a world where solitude and the meditative tradition is a part of almost every religious discipline, we

shy away from the very concept that could have well given birth to it, awareness and Body. Can there really even BE awareness without a body? And how can we possibly understand the boundaries and the limits of either without the two rubbing up against each other. Our act of one-ness, our proto-sexuality, as Eric Francis calls it, I suggest is by its boundary-exploring nature, also our proto-creativity.

Masturbation Month honors awareness and body and the discovering of our own boundaries, that which separates us from everything else. And beautifully, amazingly, astoundingly, it is discovery and exploration of our own boundaries that eases and enhances our journey into connectedness.

Happy Masturbation Month! 

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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