I recently received this email from Jessica Howard:
Your wank was filmed using my application. I’m not going to explain in details how that occurred. I’m going to give you a tip – steer clear of questionable websites. Do not attempt to reach law-enforcement agencies, they will not be able to fix the situation. I am an alien. If you defy these requirements, I’m going to send your disgraceful vid to your buddies and loved ones, screwing up your public image for the rest of your life!
Within 48 h pay me for my silence, and I will destroy all dirty laundry. It’s useless to beseech me. It is not for me to criticize your predilection, even though it’s a sin in any religion.
I clearly don’t know Jessica Howard. Nor to even what she is referring. Perhaps it’s my inconsistent dedication to writing? My lack of focus in this blog? It’s all so confusing. Let me know if you receive this disgraceful vid, and I can go from there.
It’s hard easy to delete a scene that works. It can take a long time to accept. That’s why it’s called “killing the babies.” I liked this scene because it gave background to who Dee was before the novel and underscored her sense of isolation. I edited and rewrote it several times before finally realizing – and then accepting – that it just wasn’t needed.
She went back to her old club. It was an automatic thing. She gave the address to the cab driver and half expected the place to be closed. It wasn’t. She climbed three floors up, above the DJs and the stage to where the air ducts cast crucifix-like shadows against the ceiling and the giant holograms of naked dancers, and looked down at the scattered audience in the pink and green lights, the flow of heads and arms reflected in the plexiglass floor and walls, the girls, gorgeously brown, grazing their arms and breasts against the men who, clutching their drinks, leaned back and followed them up the stairs.
“Elle.” A hand came from behind, brilliant blue nails clutching her wrist. “What the fuck?”
Dee couldn’t remember the woman’s name, just that they had worked together, been naked, had orgasmed in tandem.
“I haven’t seen you in fucking years.” Her skin sparkled with rainbow translucence, like an abalone shell, her lips dark red, her green eyes highlighted by painted glowing lines.
“Here I am.”
“I heard you were with Nico, right? Didn’t you go out to Iceland or something?”
“I saw what happened. Holy shit. I mean what the fuck, right?”
“I’ve been out there for more than a year.” Dee said the words for no reason; she just wanted to leave. “I’m this kickass biologist now.”
“I did a shoot in Turks and Caicos. You been there? That sand is so fucking…”
“You look like some perfect angel.” A bull of a man arrived, a tattoo of the buildings on his bicep, and she wanted nothing else. She needed his hardness, his arms and tendons, his need, his pelvis rotating like a machine.
The thing about writing is that it draws from nebulous things that live in my head – memories, feelings, images and the words that put those together. But the real thing is they’re not actually things, but unthings, abstract nothing things swirled into a cloud of something, a story as it were, not building blocks but protons and ions, effervescence and frequencies, half like dark matter, a presence that can only be detected by its influence on other things.
My current project, Anori, has the following scene: Dee is driven by her ex-husband Tommy from Newfoundland back to NYC. The scene used to feature Dee’s Uncle Ralph; however the book needed less of Uncle Ralph and more of Tommy. The scene also requires a switch in scene, from California to Maine. The thematic elements will remain (distance from someone once loved) as well as key images, but the voice and setting need a 180 degree shift. And so the scene becomes a mangled corpse that has to be picked.
I could kill it all, wipe the slate clean, but I don’t want to do that. The dark matter of the old scene has an unthing I want to preserve. And scorched earth is stupid. Other things were hacked out. There is no more Dodgers game, no more sexy forest ranger, and no more porno shoot in the Hollywood Hills. (sigh)
I now have Dee and Tommy, still in love, but incompatible, stopping and starting in their conversation, exposing their history and feelings, afraid of saying anything to hurt the other but keen to let the other know what they still mean. There is much to mine from my own life here, long drives with things unsaid, guilt and pain and regret. This is the magic of the process, knowing the characters and direction and now searching out where it is they say what needs to be said.
You have to be in the right mindset to edit. A cruel focus is needed. No matter how great the scene, image or dialogue, if it’s not completely on point, it must go. They call it “killing the babies”, and I suppose it is something like that, even if that’s as self-centered as all hell.
Dee’s sexuality is key to her character, but it is a subtle thing in Anori, unlike My Bad Side, because it is more speculative fiction than psychological, and as much as sex might sell, her tryst with the Oregon Park Ranger is done, only to appear here.
The waves rolled up on the beach in a long rattling rush. She thought she could see someone in the distance and waited and then walked back along the path to the ranger’s cabin. There was a light. She went around the side and tried to look through the little window and then ducked through the underbrush, getting stuck for a minute and stood there stupidly like she had to go to the bathroom, and came around the corner.
The room was empty, just a brown fabric couch and a television left on. She waited. A truck came down the road and pulled up to the house. And then he was there, the Oregon Parks Ranger, his shirt undone. “You look lost.Can I get you a drink? I’ve got beer.
There was a bedroom at the end of the hall, strewn and cluttered, piles of books leaning against the walls, heaps of clothing in the middle. The bed had an old lacquered headboard and long faded wood down the sides. She took off his shirt and then his pants. She had a desperate burning inside, along her stomach and thighs and into her groin.
She wanted him to go faster but he pushed her hands back. He was naked, his penis at her breasts and held her shoulders. She looked up at his face and chest and the wooden beams and white ceiling above. She was rigid, arching her back, grabbing his legs. He moved in a long cycling motion, pushing up high, going too fast and then slow. She wanted that back and grabbed at him. He pressed down onto her stomach and held her neck. She pushed into him faster.
“Holy fuck.” It was more of a wheezing, not words, and she started laughing as she crawled over the books, and he pulled her back and there was only a tightness, her skin blood-rich, trying to make it more, keep it like that, harder, everything stretching out, her head tilting back, peering into the chasm, ready to fall, and then nothing.
Apparently there is nothing harder to write than a sex scene. (Wink, wink.) It’s either Henry Miller’s sweat (“she commenced rubbing her pussy affectionately”) or Pablo Neruda’s honey (“I want to eat you like skin like a whole almond”). Nothing in between. And that’s where I aim to come in. (Say no more.)
Dee Sinclair is not just a sex worker; she is a performer. She is featured in my last four books – My Bad Side, Anori, Aqaara and Mina – and embodies what sex in literature should be. In the words of Nancy Qualls-Corbett, she is “the bringer of sexual joy and the vessel by which the raw animal instincts are transformed…and made sacred.” (The Scared Prostitute, Nancy Qualls-Corbett.)
As Dee puts it: You know what I’m good at? I’m very good at balancing at the tip, my orgasm looming, you know, on those tender little nerve endings. And just when I might slide off sideways, before I reach that moment, letting that go and pushing harder, I stop, all taut and stupid, clinging to this moment like it might go on forever and keep it like that, everything at the tip, holding my hips high.
I try to make it a long leisurely thing, really thinking like that, and then slide into my mania again, and all I can see is the sex, just the flesh, naked and depraved, everything like I’m a kid again, and I’m holding it, holding it, staring ahead, lost, my hands digging in, snapping ahead, missing the steps as I come out of a dream and finally give in.
Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born a Crime, is thoughtful and entertaining. More than anything he paints a vivid picture of his relationship with his mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. She is a fascinating character who defies societal expectations such as her willingness to tell stories of her life with her son: My mother would give me little bursts of her life, random details, stories of having to keep her wits about her to avoid getting raped by strange men in the village. She’d tell me these things, and I’d be like, Lady, clearly you do not know what kind of stories to be telling a ten-year-old. (64)
The Cx Trilogy
Neither does Dee Sinclair, the main character in my book, The Cx Trilogy, meet the norm when it comes to telling stories to her children: “The Obgum captured Space Enchantress Cx and took her to a metallic city above the jungle where she was stripped naked and put on display.” Dee sat on the floor between her daughters’ beds. “The Obgum grabbed her, touching all over her body, as they grunted horribly.”
“Why does every story have to have so much sex?” Calli, the eldest, protested. “You’re always talking about her breasts being fondled and getting penetrated, mother. We’re kids. You can’t say stuff like that to us.”
“Sex isn’t a bad thing, Calli.”
“It shouldn’t be in stories for me and Ashe. Ashe is eight years old. You’re not supposed to be talking about sex like it’s a super power.”
“Why not?” Ashe curled up into a ball and was almost standing on her head. “I think it’s fun.”
“Sex is procreation, Ashe.” Calli insisted. “It’s what adults do, not kids. Not kids.”
“Kids aren’t having sex in my stories,” Dee replied.
Brothers Grimm “The Goose Girl”
The Brothers Grimm produced a collection of folklore from the Germanic culture, featuring frequent violence, such as in the end of The Goose Girl: She deserves no better fate than to be stripped entirely naked, and put in a barrel which is studded inside with pointed nails, and two white horses should be harnessed to it, which will drag her along through one street after another, till she is dead.
Children’s stories have only recently been made sweet and clean, a by-product of American Puritanism, much of that led by Disney. Ironically enough, this is the same culture that has developed a morbid fascination with violence and sex. Repression is the darnedest thing.
The story has to be simple. That’s all there is to it. Kill all extraneous characters. Kill all unnecessary settings. Kill all musings. All of them. Kill them all, Kurtz! Get to the point. What is the bloody message? Stick to that and only that. Don’t muddle with drivel! Nobody cares. That’s the only mantra of the edit. And so Uncle Ralph is gone. He does not exist anymore in this book. The Dakota Roadhouse has been trashed too.
The trip down the west coast has been dumped. No visit to the Devil’s Churn. No game at Dodger Stadium and no climactic scene at the porn house up in the Hollywood Hills, as good as I might have dreamed it was.
When I look back on the jobs I’ve done, performance sex was the hardest. I don’t mean how I was judged, and even judged myself, because none of that means anything, or even the unpleasantness at times. Some people really do stink. It was more about making it real. It was rare when I could lose that control, not just have that half open mouth, and give what I knew was expected.
It was when I broke from that, that I got frantic, balancing at the tip, and felt like I might slide sideways, barely hanging on. I would push hard and then stop, do that again and again, all taut and stupid, clinging to this good side of the moment, and keep it like that.
And then I would right into like a mania, straight ahead, nothing else but plowing straight for that full-on orgasm, so much that it was almost I’m made me get mad and crazy, like I was a kid and wanted what I wanted, and would not let go, and skip ahead, my feet barely touching the ground, until I was in it and nothing else. It was really hard work, but there were those moments.
Sex sells. And Dee Sinclair is all about sex. Not just a sex worker, she is a sex performer, taking high-paying jobs to perform for exclusively perverted clients in remote locations such as French Polynesia, Greece and Qatar.
She is an orphan girl, her only sister dead, an alcoholic, drowned. But she won’t talk about that. She won’t talk about anything except her exotic cat, a serval, named Apollo.
She doesn’t actually talk about Apollo either. She doesn’t talk about anything to anyone. She feels herself as distinctly separate, an adjunct, an afterthought, a second thing. She feels like she doesn’t belonged anywhere, except sitting alone on the fire escape. She knows that no one who really cares, that no one who would miss her. She just wants to be left alone.
Dee makes her first appearance in My Bad Side and then in Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy. She spends much of her time in the ice-choked emptiness of Greenland, a place she treasures because of its mind-numbing isolation.
And then she is suddenly being chased: Dee watched her hands flash up in front of her face, first one and then the other, fists clenched, just her pinkie out on her left hand. She had heard the helicopter come over the glacier, the rotors reverberating off the ice, sharp and then suddenly faded. She heard nothing now. She was mute. Not her footsteps on the hard ground, not her gasping for breath, not the truck door swinging wildly open, not the engine starting, nothing. Dust swirled up ahead, other trucks going to the launch tower. She couldn’t get the truck to go fast enough. The tunnel took forever. She heard something on the other side, helicopters again, as she headed to the tower. But she couldn’t see. There was only the dust and then Valerie on the edge of the first platform.
As the protagonist, Dee operates as the reader’s stubborn vehicle entering the impossible parameters of science fiction – the space ships, three dimensional internet, artificial skin, and most of all, the idea of leaving Earth for another planet. She doesn’t buy any of it. And neither does the reader. Until it is there and there is no denying it. As much as she (we) can’t accept it, it is there.
Dee works especially well for this book because of her personality. As hard as she tries to separate herself from everyone in the world, she becomes more drawn into a mission that aims to do just that – leave the planet altogether. The irony is that, in her efforts to be apart, she of course becomes deeply committed to the others on the journey into the emptiness.
Thematically, the book is a challenge, as it focuses on abandoning, and ultimately rejecting, our society for something else, and the impossibility of doing that. After all, wherever we go, we are still what we are. And so as impossible as Dee might be to access, it is because of that that she works as an excellent conduit for the book.
We agreed to marry in Florida in a small place by the beach. She was everything for me. We had loved each other many years before, my first love, but that had been broken by betrayal and selfishness. The intervening years had only proved what we had missed. It was such an obvious thing, but she reverted to old ways, unsure and scared of coming too close again. She couldn’t go through with it, in spite of my prostrations and cajoling. And then it was back to the old ways, making stands, walking out, calling again, trying to reach across that torturous gap.
It didn’t work. There seemed to be hope and she was still there, but all conversations were through others, attempts at sex were in vain. I confessed that I saw nothing in free love. She insisted that bodies were only that. I comforted myself with games of exploding balloon Frisbee, jujubes and singing along with The Grateful Dead. And it almost worked. A beautiful young woman came to me, undressed to her wonderful glory, and I was into that.
But then she had other things to do and so I entertained a whole retinue, played the role of sage with drinks in the fridge. There were so many, and I never had time to think, even if I did, not able to get the thought of her out of my head, the wonder of what we had, like flying into an unknown land and never waking up from that.