Summer is Coming!

Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, it stays light out until 9 o’clock… yes, summer is almost here! And as usual, I’ll be doing some big giveaways to celebrate my vacation. (Hope you get a summertime break, too!)

Also, for the first time, I’ve decided to release three short stories at the same time. Another first for me is making them available for pre-order. I know, so many firsts, it’s crazy! All three stories will be released on June 30th. But you know you want to be the first to read them, right? So pre-order right now!

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The first story I want to highlight is an intensely personal one. I’ve mentioned this only briefly, but I lived in Senegal, West Africa for two years in the mid-2000’s. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in a very small village with all the usual amenities: a mud hut, a grass roof, a well, and a dirt road. And peanuts. Lots of peanuts. It was an incredible (and incredibly challenging) experience. This story is loosely based, not on actual Peace Corps service, but on something I observed during a short – but very informative – trip to the beach.

Senegal has a long Atlantic coastline – no surprise the national dish is fish stew over rice! It has charming coastal villages, brightly painted pirogues, and broad, white-sand beaches. Basically a tourist’s dream… especially if said tourists are also interested in sex. I am hardly an expert, but I saw with my own eyes that it’s the thing to do: both women and men engaging in casual vacation sex with gorgeous beachside companions.

As a young observer, I was disturbed by this. Especially given my background knowledge of poverty in Senegal, and the many dreams of foreign wealth I heard about daily.  Of course I understood and sympathized with the young Senegalese – they were taking advantage of a rare opportunity to make some money. What I did not understand was the many European tourists who came down, not just for the sun, but for the sex. It disturbed me for the simple reason that those White tourists, by the simple fact that their currency is worth more, had huge economic power. Yet they carelessly reinforced a backward kind of modern colonialism. Taking what they wanted from an ‘exotic’ country, and not bothering to truly understand it. Money flying everywhere, all to create the version of Senegal that suited them – a version that includes beautiful, available, anonymous, and cheap (currency exchange, again!) sexual partners.

I’m all for sex work. Legalize everything! But only if sex workers are truly treated fairly, as equals providing a service to other equals. Sex tourism – at least as I observed it – is based fundamentally on the economic superiority of one person, and relative vulnerability of the other. Sad stuff, guys.

And not sexy. Yet, I wanted to explore it, shed some light on it. And also, you know, write a good story. What I accomplished, I think, is some of my best work yet. It sheds some light on this small sliver of Senegal, while also (I hope!) crafting what turned out to be a heartfelt, and sexy, love story.

I hope you enjoy! And remember to pre-order, y’all!

senegal beach cover

Sources for further reading about sex tourism in Senegal:

https://www.pri.org/stories/2010-04-29/senegal-draws-tourists-sun-sea-and-sex

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maya-lau/senegalese-sex-tourism_b_952640.html

http://www.nswp.org/timeline/event/sex-work-legalised-senegal

 

Somewhere in the Sahel…

The two years I spent in West Africa remain forever imprinted on my mind. Nothing in my life to date can compare to the intensity of my experience there. Though I’ve had many adventures since then (and no doubt will continue to!), nothing, perhaps, will ever equal it.

Whether that had to do with my age (a tender 22), my naivete, my cultural isolation, or any combination thereof, the Sahel has marked me. That strip of arid land, tenuously holding back the Sahara desert, is a place where people understand the value of water. More than anywhere else, perhaps, they rely on the vagaries of Nature to provide. This is especially true in the small, rural village where I lived. No road; no electricity; no plumbing. Most people there are subsistence farmers, and farming is only possible during the rainy season, a mere three months of the year. The rest of the time, water comes from one place only: the village well.

And who’s in charge of getting water? The women.

How many times I went to the well with them, worked the pulleys, filled our buckets? How many times did I carry home the full bucket on my head, cushioned by a roll of old scrap fabric? How many hours were spent collecting water, storing water, using water, conserving it? (And I was only one person – most women were in charge of getting water for their whole family.) In short, village life revolved around the well. Water is life.

Which led me to think about Timbuktu. Legend has it, that great city began as merely a well in the desert. A place of refreshment; a woman’s place. How could I resist a story about that? Get it for free on Amazon (January 16-19): Buktu’s Well.

And read more about this fascinating city: The Legendary Origins of Timbuktu

Remembering Tokyo

Several years ago, I had the amazing good fortune to live and work in Japan for a year and a half. There, like so many Anglophones, I taught English (and French, as it turned out) in a public high school. I absolutely loved it. Japan remains one of my favorite places on Earth. (And yes, I have been around a time or two!) The people were incredibly welcoming and kind, eager to share their culture with me, bumbling foreigner that I was. Somehow, the Japanese people have managed to find a balance between a rich and valued history – still very much alive in their customs, manners, and traditions – and the modern world.

When I lived there, I was in a ballroom dancing club, learning to waltz and tango with the delightful middle-aged (and older!) ladies and gentleman of the town where I lived. They had a snack break, and one of the grandmas would produce a jar of homemade picked daikon. She laughed in delight when I exclaimed, in my terrible attempt at Japanese, how good it was. “Oishii!” was all I could really say, but it was enough. “Dai suki desu!”

At the same time, my Japanese tutor (poor woman; I was a terrible student. However, I helped her kids study English, so it hopefully evened out) invited me to her home for a gorgeous traditional meal. Afterwards, she dressed me in one of her kimono – quite a process, I can attest – and guided me through the tea ceremony. (For me, the kimono remains one of the most beautiful of all traditional garments. Crisp and tidy as an origami creation, it covers almost everything and takes many knots, tucks, and folds to put together. However, with a couple tugs of a cord it falls to the ground in a silken heap. Now that’s sexy!)

TokyoAREcoverWhile I didn’t live in Tokyo, I visited the city many times. It struck me as the perfect capital for Japan. Like the culture, it is a blend of old and new, tradition and modernity. I wanted to write a travelogue sort of piece about it, highlighting some of my favorite things. But then I thought, hey, this has to have sex in it! Plus I always had that fantasy of being splayed out high above the city, staring down into the endless lights while a nameless stranger fucks me from behind… Tokyo: A Job With A View is the result. While certainly a work of erotica, it is also a taste of Tokyo. I hope you will visit one day, and discover this wonderful city for yourself.

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.