"Because stings of the same magnitude don’t necessarily feel the same, Schmidt has written haiku-like descriptions for each of the 83 sting entries:
Anthophorid bee, Pain Level 1, “Almost pleasant, a lover just bit your earlobe a little too hard.”
Maricopa harvester ant, Level 3, “After eight unrelenting hours of drilling into that ingrown toenail, you find the drill wedged into the toe.”
Termite-raiding ant, Level 2, “The debilitating pain of a migraine contained in the tip of your finger.”
Club-horned wasp, Level 0.5, “Disappointing. A paper clip falls on your bare foot.”
~Avi Steinberg, in his fascinating article about entomologist Justin Schmidt from New York Times magazine. This is one of those pieces that cracks open the way you see the world to let the light in. So good.
"Pain helps a predator learn. Schmidt’s book is, in a sense, a memoir of one predator’s education..."
"Meeting a wild tarantula hawk, which is as visually pleasing as it is mysterious, I could understand why Schmidt talks about stings in the language of aesthetics, like a connoisseur. It isn’t about masochism, or machismo, but about the desire to grasp each and every molecule of a thing, even the sharp ones, which is, in that way, a bit like love. Seeing this flamboyant solitary wasp, whose venom helped keep it alive on earth many millions of years before humans first appeared, the beauty of the sting was self-evident: not for the pain it causes, but for the life it sustains."
I love writing about sex. The tension, the unity, the erosion of self and dignity. The new self that slips in, sometimes, after-
The suspension entirely of self, for minutes, after-
For years I've written lit erotic stories here and there. My girlfriends love them and they're fun to write. They make for a nice 'break' basically, and I sort of have this issue, which you may have noticed, tee hee, where there's a lot of erotic tension in my novels, &, uh, a fair bit of sex.
(For example, this NSFW post.)
It just happens. I've never believed in trying to repress oneself, or others. I think repression is where our culture goes wrong. I don't believe in evil. I think repressed spirits explode, that's all.
Anyway, to make a long story short, last year one of my dearests, V, had a suggestion. "Dude, why don't you put these on Amazon...?" she says.
So now I have this romance series on Amazon :)
Here's an excerpt...
from Candlemoth: Book One:
I put my hand over his, pressing my cheek into his touch. His hand was warm and firm, and the dimensions of the night and the bar and the room all seemed to fall away.
“You want to get out of here?” Ry said. His voice low, deliciously scratchy.
He grabbed my hand and suddenly, we were running, laughing hysterically. We were outside, the sound of our footsteps echoing all around us and I could see the flickering flames of gas lamps at the corners of my awareness like tiny fallen stars, and all at once we were back in the cobblestone alley outside his house where I’d stood just a few days before talking with Chef.
We stood there giggling, catching our breath.
Then Ry pulled me close. He pressed his lips to mine, closing his eyes. I was spun up in his kiss like glitter whirling through a shook up snow-globe.
“You make my knees weak,” I murmured.
He dipped me back, laughing, and my body responded to his as naturally as if I’d been made for him. Our kiss deepened; my hands tangled in his hair as I pulled him to me, wanting more. He pressed me back against the stone wall, one of his hands at the side of my neck and the other at my waist, and then his touch began to drift down, his thumb pressing my hipbone.
I swooned into him. “God, I want you so much.”
“You,” he said, caressing my cheek, “are the most captivating woman I have ever met.”
Ry pressed his lips together a moment, studying me in the dark. Watching my expression as his hand stroked down over my ass, feeling the shape of me fill his palm and fingers. I couldn’t help but arch back into him, wanting his touch between my legs. “Oh, Lily.”
I fitted my leg around his so that there was nothing between us but my panties and his linen pants, and he kissed me so savagely it sucked the air from my chest.
Oh, I wanted him deep inside me.
“I want to get on my knees for you,” Ry said, and everything in me tightened at the cultured, raspy purr of his voice.
“I think I’d like to see you on your knees,” I said, my voice raw and strange.
Ry, paused, smiling, his eyes slitted with lust. He kissed me differently then, with slow, lush slides of his tongue that made me ache to feel his mouth between my legs.
“Mm…” His fingers curved down over my thigh-
Heh. I'm working on Book Three now.
Which is to say I have it going on another tab, only I decided to pull up Weebly & write a post instead. Which should tell you pretty much all you need to know about how Book Three is going-! But oh well, oh well...
Ok but also. My reason for posting this. So much of literature is filled with erotic interludes that sneak up and surprise you- Don Delillo, The Names (goddamn!!), Jim Harrison's immortal Dalva-
But in general it's hard to find spicy stuff that's stylized the way I like. I enjoy them when I do find them, so I figured you might, too.
So here's a list of awesomely stylized erotic/gothic romance. Because you know, being Midwestern born & bred, I am nothing if not helpful:
-The Story of O, by Pauline Reage.
-Anything by Anais Nin. (Although honestly I prefer the writing in Nin's diaries. Which also happen to be fiction, it turns out, but I forgive you, Anais. If there is such a thing of reincarnation, I must be some incarnation of you.)
-Crossfire, by Sylvia Day (yow, she writes passion so well!)
-Belinda, by Anne Rice (Just picked this one up from Mr. K's, & will update with thoughts, but can pretty much tell it's gonna be good.)
-Exit to Eden, by Anne Rice (Likewise... but read half on the porch yesterday, with a big pitcher of ice-rattling homemade seltzer & brine from some pickled peaches Andrew made, which are fabulous... this story though, it's great stuff, classic Rice. Published close to the time she put out Interview with a Vampire & has a similar flow. I love how Rice always has this distance from mortality in her work. Don't you love getting to know somebody's body of work: recognizing the certain words, themes, they come back to repeatedly; the ways their relationship to those themes shifts, grows, wanders off...ah! adore that)
And that's all I can think of right now. Kind of a shame, right?
Ok, but you know what I want to exist?
So this fucking POETRY book, man. It's amazing. I keep telling people about it, and I'm never loaning my copy out, no matter how much wine: Ocean Vuong, A Little Closer to the Edge.
I want a book of erotic poetry written like that. Poems that are that beautiful, half cobweb, each one glittering with both history and personal ache- I want an Al-A'imma Bridge of erotic destruction- god, is this heresy?- or does this already exist, somewhere? (please tell me if it does; oh Sappho, if we only had more of you!) If it doesn't, I'm going to write it. Years from now, probably, because there's some other stuff I have to finish first, but I'm telling you what, I want it to exist, and I want it to have illustrations :) Gorgeous woodcuts, Vania Zouravliov-esque...
Yas... Evening's Land is still on submission. Sigh. Fingers still crossed. Although some days I give up. The rejections have been wonderfully supportive (hah, or maybe they worry that I'm unstable, given my subject matter-? or my lovely agent censors the ones she knows would have me bowing out from civilization-) but no updates, really. I tried to pull it back from her last week, saying I wanted to try fixing it up again, but she wouldn't let me, she loves it as it is. So that's encouraging. I guess.
Man, sometimes it's hard to stay present & not fret yourself crazy when you've trained your mind to whirl off into make believe.
All this spring & summer my days have been pendulums. I'm entirely to one side or another. I don't know why Andrew puts up with it, honestly.
We're trying to work on 'us' more. For so many years, we've been a Venn diagram with not too much overlap, but the overlap part was really good. Now there seems to be less of it, somehow. He loves decadence, chaos. I love what is raw and free. The only time we spend together is when I want to stand in decadence with him; for the most part, he's not interested in tramping around, sweaty, with me, in the woods and swamps and colonial era alleys, seeing what we can see.
We've drifted too far, maybe, and now both have to remember how to compromise. For him a little less partying. For me, a little less writing.
Well, it's a thought.
We're working on it :)
P.Z. West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is a Library Journal Self-e Selection, winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
Pauline West's books on Goodreads
Candlemoth: A Holy City Romance
ratings: 27 (avg rating 4.04)
ratings: 24 (avg rating 3.46)
Candlemoth Volume 2: How To Spend It
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.40)
Candlemoth Book 3: A Twist of Fate
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.17)
Stalker: A Gothic Thriller
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.25)