City of Trees

There is a ravine near my house, so deep and steep even the most bloodthirsty developers shied away. In the early 1900’s it was gifted to the city and has been a park ever since. Walking there is like stepping back in time. Though no longer an old-growth forest, filled with mossy megaliths of interminable age, as it once was, the park still has the feeling of primeval nature. Towering sworn ferns compete with ancient horsetails, fighting for dominance in the swampy creek bed between the trees. Salmonberry canes sprout up here and there, as well as skunk cabbage, dandelions, weeds. The street roars above on a sculpted metal bridge, but in the ravine it is nearly silent. Nature quietly asserting her eternal dominance.

In the center of the ravine a tiny creek flows. Free to the sky for only for a little while before spilling once more into the underground pipes beneath the city, yet it burbles quick and clear, full of life, in the same track carved by its ancestral waters generations ago. Here and there wooden plank bridges cross it, so people and their dogs can walk across instead of dirtying their shoes in the viscous mud along the banks. It is rich mud, fragrant mud, the mud of life.

Once, my husband and I saw an owl, just sitting there on a branch above the creek. So amazing, to see such a wild bird in the heart of the city.

Hiking back up the ravine, I strode on the carcasses of trees dead so many years ago, their great-grandchildren have long since become lumber. Life and death mingle in every aspect of the forest, as seedlings rise from fallen trunks, mushrooms nibble away at stumps, and rain beats it all into a mush. It is beautiful, and ancient, and pure. It could be any time and any moment.

In the forest, I would not be surprised to find a herd of Diplodocus dinosaurs just around the bend. Likewise, it would not amaze me to come upon a futuristic city in the treetops.

If ever there was a portal to another world, it would be there.

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Good Reasons Not To Be Writing

I admit, the past several days I haven’t written a word. Haven’t even checked my email, in fact, or even opened my computer. My husband and I took a long weekend and drove over to the Peninsula for some much-needed time out of the city. It reminded me – once again – how incredibly fortunate I am to live in this beautiful part of the world.

We started on the northern shore, looked out over the water to the green hills of Vancouver island, so close we could practically spit and hit Canada. Then to the very tip of the continental United States, Cape flattery, with its lighthouse on a tiny sea island pointing the way toward the boundless Pacific. Seabirds flew into saves in the rock, crying and screeching as waves roared, whitecapped, deep within the earth. Later we went hiking down through thick, mossy forest, gathering wild salmonberries as we went, bending the canes to reach the ripest ones, stuffing the sweet-tart fruits into my mouth as we stroll, laughing, down to the shore. And there was the Pacific again, just a strip of sand between it and the dense forest. How amazing, to hear the sound of the waves and the wind in the trees, all at the same time; to walk through a wall of conifers so thick you can’t see more than three trees in, yet know the ocean is just a few yard away. Amazing.

As I walk, my mind is always turning. Even as I gather salmonberries, or dodge mud puddles, I’m thinking. Stories bloom in my mind. Characters form and begin to grow into personalities. Scenes take shape, slowly building together into a tale. So I suppose I actually was writing, after all; I just wasn’t typing it out. But without these breaks from everything, the imagination stagnates. Now, back at home, I feel fresh and excited, ready to release these pent-up stories. Nature, once again, has brought inspiration and energy, as well as peace.

The Rites of Spring

Springtime is beautiful in Seattle. First come the crocus, early in February, their colorful heads poking up from the bare ground. Shortly after them the cherry trees come into bloom, their blossoms like pink-and-white clouds against the gray sky. Mobs of people stroll in the Arboretum, or on the UW campus, to enjoy the sakura’s transient beauty.

Pike-Place-Flowers-2
Fresh bouquets for sale in the Pike Place Market.

Then the riot of tulips: fields and fields of them, tulips of all shapes, types, and colors, so many we have festivals dedicated to them, and every bouquet in the Pike Place Market is brimming with colorful tulip flowers. Roses are on their way, already; if it stays cool they will linger through the summer. All of that, plus other blooms and flowers of every description. Yes, it’s gorgeous, a reminder of the Earth’s renewal, the cyclical nature of our lives.

Mostly, though, it’s all about sex.

Flowers, really, are just a plant’s hermaphroditic sex organs. It’s no coincidence that a rose’s curling petals so closely resemble a woman’s inner labia. Nor that those pollen-coated stamens rise proudly erect, just like an eager man’s cock. Nature, that naughty minx, is always throwing sex in everybody’s face. If plants had legs, they’d be spread wide right now, an open invitation to all the other randy Plantae. Humans, meanwhile, are burying their faces in these sweet-smelling sexual organs, just enjoying the flowers.

So keep that in mind next time you’re cutting a bouquet. Those flowers aren’t as innocent as they seem. They’re just out to get laid – exactly like you and me!

The Legendary Origins of Timbuktu

This story sent me out on a limb, one I don’t usually climb. The character of Buktu started out in my imagination as a pretty vanilla – if sexually voracious – girl, but pretty soon it dawned on me that that couldn’t be the case. Buktu was in there, and she had her own ideas. Those ideas, it turned out, centered on the admiration of another woman, not a man. Suddenly the story deepened and strengthened, as a complicated love triangle emerged from Buktu’s origins in the wrong place, in the wrong time.

(Luckily, she has a 21st century erotica author here to help her set things right!)

First, though, a little history…

(Sources are listed at the end. Click on any image to link to its source page.)

 

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
One of the many famous historical sites in Timbuktu. A city rising from the Earth from which it’s built…

Timbuktu is a city straight out of legend. For years Europeans and Americans associated the name with inconceivable distance, foreignness, and inaccessibility. Before that, it was known as a center of profitable trans-Saharan trade, with a famous market for salt, gold, and slaves. In addition, Muslim saints and scholars called it home for centuries, making Timbuktu synonymous with Islamic piety, thought, and learning. It is a city of many mosques, tombs of learned saints, priceless libraries, universities, and schools for Koranic teaching. (Lately, tragically, many of these were destroyed by religious extremists. [See this CNN article on the subject.] However, the people of Timbuktu cling to their rich history and protected countless artifacts. Their bravery saved irreplaceable historic documents from senseless destruction.)


The famous Malian king Mansa Musa
made his celebrated pilgrimage to Mecca in the 14th century, he passed through Timbuktu… leaving cascades of gold in his wake. A man of fabulous wealth and intelligence, his extravagant generosity brought the kingdom of Mali to the attention of Europeans, and Timbuktu along with it. (Mansa Musa – now that’s a character I’d like to read more about! Ancient Malian erotica, anyone?)

Musa__Mansa
Mansa Musa appears at the bottom edge of this ancient map. He is crowned with gold and holding a gold nugget – clearly a man of impressive wealth and power.

On the threshold of the Sahara desert, Timbuktu is extraordinary in its wealth relative to its location. The Niger river is some distance away from the modern-day city (which still thrives, by the way); on the outskirts there is nothing but scrub brush and desert. I had the good fortune to visit in 2008 – before the destructive gangs got to it – and admired that mysterious city for myself. It is a city of uniform color, built from the red-brown Earth beneath it, adorned with heavy wooden doors embellished with silver and brass. My friend and I spent a night out in the desert (an ill-advised, but adventurous trip with two lecherous Tuareg guides… all’s well that ends well, but it got hairy there for a night. Not recommended to young women traveling alone!), and in the morning we watched the sunrise over the Sahara. Amazing.

Actually, I lived in West Africa, in the arid Sahel region, for two years. In that time I came to understand a central theme of Buktu’s Well: water.

Without a steady source of water, life is impossible. Without water, Timbuktu could never exist. Water is the source of everything. And so water is the key to understanding the history of Timbuktu.

tim buk well
A tourist trap in old Timbuktu, claiming to be the original well for which the city was named. I visited it myself; pretty sure it’s not the real deal. But it is a powerful reminder of how essential water was to the development of the city.

The clue to Timbuktu’s origins lies in its name. The most common version tells of a woman named Buktu (or Boktu, or Bouctou; whatever spelling you prefer), who lived near the banks of the Niger river. The “tim” part of Timbuktu could stand for the local word “tin” or “in,” meaning “property” or “belonging to.” This excellent article explains that, in that environment and in those days, property was synonymous with water. Therefore Buktu – whoever she was – must have had a well.

(The other suggestion that “buktu” means a person with a large belly button was, obviously, not as enthralling to my authorly tendencies as the story of a woman with a well… Luckily, writers of fiction get to pick and choose our sources!)

Water. When I lived in Africa, it was a tiny village with no electricity or running water. Every morning the women and girls would get up, gather their buckets, and head to the single village well. Together they pulled on the pulley rope, working in rhythm, hauling up full pails and divvying them up into the workers’ buckets. (I helped as best I could, but despite the time I spent there my arms never grew strong enough to really contribute. C’est comme ca…) Thinking of Buktu as a woman in charge of a well, she emerged as a strong character, both physically and emotionally. What would she have done to get that well? What depths would she have mined, deep within herself, to make that life-giving dream a reality?

smiling peul woman
A pulaar woman in Mali – one of the many ethnic groups in the region. I envisioned Rama as just such a natural beauty.
tuareg beauty
A Tuareg woman, one of the majority ethnic groups in the Timbuktu area. Mostly nomadic, they are true people of the desert.

And then, thinking back on the polygamous society of the region, it came to me: love. But she wouldn’t love her arranged husband; rather, her co-wife, Rama: young, sweet, and beautiful. What would happen, then?

(The idea of labeling a woman “lesbian” would have been foreign in those days, as it is now in many parts of West Africa. While gay men are attacked and widely detested, people have a hard time understanding two women in love. When a friend of mine tried to explain it, people just laughed and joked it off. Lucky for Buktu; had she been a man who loved other men, things might not have gone so smoothly for her.)

So there were all the elements, just percolating in my brain: Buktu, in love with Rama, and in need of a well. Together they struggle to make a life in an arid land. But that just isn’t enough for an erotica writer. Oh, no, it can’t be too easy for them – so a complicated love triangle emerged, organically, just as Timbuktu emerges from the ground.

It’s adventurous, and certainly different from most of my other stories. This one flew out of me during a long, feverish weekend, and it remains a surprise to me, how it turned out. I hope you enjoy it, as I did. Maybe it will take you to the mysterious land of Timbuktu…Buktu cover SMASH

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Sources
http://www.blackpast.org/gah/musa-mansa-1280-1337
http://www.exploretimbuktu.com/culture/culture/orgines_tbt.html

 

The Natural Joys of an Uncircumcised Cock

At the risk of offending several major world religions, not to mention a couple million of my fellow Americans, I believe it is time for me to say: I love an uncut cock. Yes, I’m a fan of foreskin. If you lined up twenty gorgeous naked men in front of me, I would go straight to the uncircumcised guy every time. (Well, maybe not every time; the whims of hormones are unpredictable, but you get the idea!)

It was a source of enduring frustration to me that, during my more sexually experimental years, all the guys I found were circumcised. This wasn’t their fault, of course. It’s a generational thing, and sadly most American men of my generation were circumcised as babies, before they had any say in the matter. Even as a tender college student who didn’t know any better, I secretly longed for dick au naturel, as Nature made it in all her erotic wisdom. (Finally I studied abroad in Europe, and that fixed me up just fine! Thank god the Europeans have gotten over the silly circumcision fad. The good news is I hear it is losing ground in the USA, too. Foreskins for the future!)

Although I could write poetry about the many joys involved in sex with uncircumcised cock(s), that’s not the point of this blog post. I don’t want to make the many millions of circumcised guys feel bad. Plus, as we all know, it’s not all about the kind of tool you’ve got, but rather how you’ve learned to use it. (Size does matter, though. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise! But it’s width, not length; put your rulers away, gentlemen, and get a tailor’s measuring tape.)

No, what I want to write about today is choice. As a human being, raised where I was, when I was, in the culture I was, I believe individual choice is one of the most essential rights a person can have. That’s kind of the root of the American worldview, for better or worse, which is why it’s so appalling that many American parents take away a pretty huge choice from their sons. By circumcising babies, you remove the possibility of a man being able to choose what kind of cock he wants to have. (And, incidentally, taking that choice away from the women they will eventually sleep with!)

I’m not against body modification; I have several tattoos and am always pondering more. The thing is, I chose to get those tattoos. I decided where I wanted them, what they would be, and who did them. If you want a boob job, great! You can have one! When you’re an adult. Want to pierce your face in every possible spot? Want to tattoo yourself blue all over? Great! You can – when you are an adult. All these things are pure body modification without any medical necessity, and in order to make a decision about whether or not you modify your body you must be a fully-functioning adult person. So why isn’t circumcision the same? Whichever way you cut it (sorry, bad pun), circumcision is medically unnecessary, purely cultural and/or cosmetic, body modification. Why not give that choice to an adult man who can weigh the pros and cons and decide for himself? (People say they prefer to circumcise babies because it’s very painful, and few men would choose to do it. Well, duh, it’s painful! Lots of things in life are painful. If you want it bad enough, you endure the fucking pain, okay? That excuse pisses me off! Case closed.)

What bothers me is that many Americans seem to think a circumcised penis is the “normal” kind. It’s anything but! Regardless of what porn and locker rooms may suggest, the “normal” way to be is the way we were born. Nature usually knows best; that’s why our ridiculous species has survived long enough to reach such pinnacles of intellectual development that we created the Internet, where one can watch cat videos all day and write whatever they want on a blog. I trust that our bodies are made this way for a purpose. We should be cautious of extreme modification – especially of genitals, those all-important tools of pleasure and reproduction – if only for this reason.

As an erotica author, I feel a responsibility to promote – to normalize, if you will – my favorite kind of cock. Although I may not always mention it (and I’m trying to do so more often!), you can always visualize a gloriously uncircumcised penis in all the pages of my writing. That’s what I prefer, and what I hope will soon reemerge as the natural and expected way for a man to be. Until then, read on! And keep dreaming those uncut dreams…

An Enduring Love of Paper

I finally did it. This may shock many people, considering how behind the times it seems. Those who know me in “real life” understand that, actually, I can be irrationally old-fashioned. (Hey, it’s charming!) However, being an author and e-publisher, I really should have got with the program by now, if only in solidarity. Yet it took me years and years before I finally gave in to the inevitable.

Yesterday, at long last, I gave in. I bought a Kindle.

At this point you are thinking one of two things: a) It’s about time! What the hell was wrong with you, that it took you this long to get an essential piece of reading technology?! or b) So what?

I bought it for the same reason many people have, for convenience. It will be so lovely to just have my Kindle, stocked with all the stories I could want, long and short. I’ll just be able to curl up somewhere and read them in any order I like, or take them traveling with me, or at the bus stop. I’m especially glad to have it for short stories, because those are so inconvenient in printed form, and the computer, after a while, does hurt my eyes. No doubt, the Kindle will transform my reading life and make it both more diverse and more agreeable.

And yet.

Way back in the nineties, when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came out, I was one of those girls who gasped with delight (along with Beauty) when the castle library was revealed. Shelves and shelves, all the way to the ceiling, stacked with books of every color, size, and type. How I longed to be there, surrounded by all those beautiful tomes! That was the moment, really, that Beauty began to fall in love with the Beast…as did all the rest of us wistful readers.

The public library has always been a place of wonder and magic. So have used bookstores. I love holding books in my hands, feeling the texture of the paper, enjoying the freedom of browsing. When I took books home, I amused myself by imagining all the other hands that might have held it, and dreaming of how other people may have felt when reading the very same book. That textural history, the fact that these treasures had come into my hands from someone else’s – who knows how many! – and that somewhere, I was sharing the experience of reading it with a stranger, was fascinating to me. I still love those places, and imagining the people who loved the books before me.

When I lived abroad, books were my consolation and my addiction. The house we shared had an enormous library (not quite as fancy as Beauty’s, but pretty damn nice), with books of all varieties. I read voraciously. I filled my arms with books, carried them heavily as I walked, and took them to my lonely apartment. There, I devoured them, turning pages in near-desperation as my mind swirled in imaginary worlds. I kept a stack of them on my dresser, promises and hopes to keep me going for another couple weeks, before returning to the library to restock. It was not easy to transport so much heavy paper back and forth, but for me it was worth it. Nothing felt so satisfying at the time as a backpack loaded with fresh books. I welcomed the ache and the weight of it on my shoulders; I felt I earned the joy of reading them, through my commitment to them. At the time, I needed this. And only books gave it to me.

I will never be so young and lonely again (if only because – thank goodness – I’m no longer 21), but I will always have memories of that time, and the books that were my companions. There is more to it than that, though.

My love of paper goes even beyond my own personal memories. In Paris, I ended up in a shop specializing in rare antique books. Because of a family connection with the owner, he sat me down and showed me some of his treasures. Into my hands he placed a small, leather-bound volume. A book of prayers. A woman’s signature was scrawled on the front page.
It had belonged to Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scots, who for a short time had also been dauphine of France. I held that book in my hands, reflecting that in 1500-something Mary herself had held it, had run her fingers over the pages. Overwhelmed by history, and the suddenly physical link I had with that doomed queen of long ago, I regarded that book as something close to magical.

Books aren’t magic, of course. But like all objects of personal importance, books retain some of the essence of their past lovers. (As do we all…) Paper can be touched and folded, smeared and creased, written on, stored, revived, and passed on. Paper has a long past, and a future. For a sensual person, there is no substitute. For a person who treasures connections with the past, and hopes to provide such for future readers, it is essential. Paper books have souls and histories unique to each. Paper books can fill library shelves, tumble down, lean against one another. They are a feast.

And so, although I am looking forward to receiving my Kindle and buying books for it, I will never give up my enduring love of paper. If I read a book and love it, I will always buy a printed copy, and tuck it into my ever-growing library like the masterpiece it is. Paper books are the physical manifestation of my passion. No matter how many e-books I read, or how much I type on my computer, I will never give them up. There is no true replacement for the joy, the feeling, the scent and weight and mystery, of holding a true book in your hands.

The Simple Pleasure Of A Good-Fitting Bra

It was time. I simply had to go bra shopping again – an annual-ish experience that is inevitably less than satisfying. As an erotica writer, I have an affinity for beautiful lingerie. However, like so many artists, my budget does not necessary match my tastes. Off to the sales rack as usual!

A life-changing day for me happened last year, when at an embarrassingly old age I was finally told what my actual bra size is. So many women go through their lives wearing bras that simply do not fit – until last year I was one of them. Poor souls! It just isn’t worth it. I can honestly say, having a good-fitting bra makes all the difference. My size happens to be an unusual one, and for years I made do with “good-enough fitting” bras that just didn’t do the trick, one size up or down here or there, cups puckering in odd places and the band riding up toward my shoulder blades. Silly to think how I let it go on so long. Now, at least, I know how a perfectly fitting bra should look and feel. Here for you now: Fionna’s tips for finding the bra that could change your life, the way my first properly-fitted bra did for me.

Step 1: Go to a REAL lingerie shop and find your size. Don’t pass out at the sight of $500 lingerie; just go inside, try on some beautiful things, and let the lovely saleswoman help you find your just-right size. Believe me, it is worth it. And also, you will probably be surprised at what your size actually is.

Step 2: Now go to the sales rack at your favorite normal-priced store and pick out all the bras in your size. You are looking for ones that are cute and pretty, but also functional.

Step 3: Try them on. This is the part when you really need to know how a good-fitting bra looks. The wire should not squish or pinch your lovely breasts in any way, but rather skim across the bottom curve, laying flat against your body all the way. Most of the support should come from the band, not the straps. If those straps are holding everything up, it’s not a good fit! The band should sit low on your back, not pulled upwards at all. And – here’s something I recently learned – it should fit just right on the loosest hook, not the middle or the tightest. Those perfectly-fitting bras should feel comfortable, supportive, and not have gaps in the cup or the straps. Double-check that band, make sure it lies straight across your back – no pulling!

Step 4: Pick the cutest ones.

Step 5: Buy some matching panties. You should always have some gorgeous underwear on hand.

Step 6: Celebrate! You survived bra-shopping for yet another year. (In my case, and I hope in yours, you should model said underwear for your partner of choice… that’s how you know it’s REALLY a good fit.)