A Sneak Preview – The Book of Abaddon

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COPENHAGEN, JUNE 24TH, 2010, 4:28 AM

On such an early summer’s morning, when the growing light made Copenhagen glow, the city was so fucking beautiful. It was as if the cobblestones, the asphalt of the street and even the butter-yellow cemetery wall inhaled the light and exhaled possibilities, dreams and hopes in a chorus with the flowering elder trees behind the wall. Or else he was just yet another drunk poet.

It was the exact perfect time to wobble home to the lemon face and the harsh words that waited, but he was in no hurry to get home this magical summer morning when even the taxis were all gone, when the buses hadn’t started yet and when it seemed as if the entire city held its breath, but for what?

So fucking beautiful. While he stood a moment and enjoyed the sight of dawn breaking over the cobblestones, his nose caught something else. The merest hint, a trail he involuntarily stretched out his neck for and tried to follow. Was it a perfume? It smelled like heaven and the most sublime sex, like an otherworldly flower, like …

He turned to follow the scent trail. It continued down the street. He followed it, and the dizzying, fantastical scent grew stronger, received a brush of other flowers and darker desires, became almost overwhelmingly heavy in the cool pre-dawn air.

What the hell was it that perfumed everything this morning?

When he saw it, at first he thought it was one of the countless art installations that popped up everywhere in Copenhagen in unexpected places. He took a deep breath. For a split second, the street and the dawn span around him in a sickening waltz.

No art hung on the closed wrought iron gate to the cemetery.

It was a man. He was tall, in impeccable shape, young, maybe in his late twenties, with expensively cut blond hair and beard stubble that gave his face a certain romantic air, in sharp contrast to a well-worn t-shirt and a ripped pair of jeans. His arms were spread out like a crucified Jesus, and were tied like his feet to the gate by some vine-like plant that gripped him from head to toe. Here and there, purple-white flowers bloomed that all exhaled that heady, dizzying scent that drifted down the street like an invisible, perfumed fog.

He looked first in one direction, then the other down the street. Not one car, taxi, cyclist or pedestrian in sight. As if all the neighborhood, Copenhagen, Denmark and maybe even the world slept frozen in time on a Thursday morning in June, while a beautiful, dead young man was tied to a wrought-iron gate with this strange vine.

Not even eleven massive beers could kill his curiosity. He crossed the street and stood in front of the gate.

Close up, he could see that the young man was not tied so much as thrown by some colossal force into the gates, where the wrought iron had bent beneath the impact, outlining his body, but where the wrought iron ended and the vine began he couldn’t see if he tried.

There was no suggestion of blood anywhere, no discoloration or anything else that could make it more real, more brutal, more human, and that shocked him most of all. How could … who could? What in the world?

He grabbed for his phone in his jacket, but he had left it at home, along with the cow, the bitch, the wife. And two more phones.

He swayed in front of the dead man for a few long, silent minutes in the growing light, dizzy with the sight, the scent, the likelihood, before he took a deep breath, turned and ran across the street.

Ran like he had the Devil himself on his heels.

________________________________

 

Photo from Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen, June 2010, the Jægersborggade gate. (The gate!)

With thanks to Henrik Sandbæk Harksen, and always, the Dude.

Shattering A Dream

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Today, I did a (very!) radical thing. I have reported my former publisher for copyright infringement to Amazon and requested that the sales pages for all editions of Quantum Demonology be removed.

For the longest time, I’ve always hoped it would never come to this, hoped nearly beyond hope that somehow, some day, the publisher of Nigel’s Flight would contact me, if only to say that our contract was presently null and void.

Yet in spite of several rather provocative blog posts, emails, letters, phone calls and direct/private messages delivered through her increasingly limited social media channels, I never heard a word back. Not since May 11th of last year, so you can imagine my horror and mortification when I discovered the announcement and subsequent publication of yet another book by that publisher later last year.

Well, I’ve cut the deadwood, clocked it all up to experience and… moved on.

What does the future hold for that strange, erotic story, Quantum Demonology? A few things… some of which I’m not currently at liberty to say since I don’t want to jinx anything, and some of which are definitely cooking.

Including a planned sequel I might have called Lilith’s Revenge (although that sounds like a very bad romance novel!), and a prequel – nothing less than the history of that fascinating entity, Dev – currently underway titled The Abaddon Yarn.

But before I dance off into cyberspace, should you, dear reader, be among those who bought the book in either Kindle or hardcover (and thank you if you are!), know that your edition is soon to be very rare indeed! 😉 If you haven’t and wish you did, you have 7-10 business days to remedy that oversight. Go!

As for the future – it might be so bright, I’ll have to wear shades! Stay tuned!

Gut(ted) Instincts

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Gut(ted) Instincts

– When Eureka! Moments happen…

For the past two months, I’ve been wrestling. Wrestling the Fail Demon, wrestling the virtual page, and wrestling a Quantum Demonology prequel in Danish I had hopes to submit to publication in time for a New Year’s Eve deadline. To get the word out about me, to establish my questionable reputation, to maybe? start getting just a little buzz in just one small corner of the world. Just a little.

This evening, I had a eureka moment, the moment when I suddenly realized a vital fact:

It ain’t happening, baby.

After 12.000 words and not a little headache, after trying to translate pithy John Milton quotes and nailing a story arc to the page, nope… it’s not happening.

Seriously, folks, I really hoped it would. Hoped that maybe this one, maybe this time, maybe, baby. I really could pull this rabbit out of my hat and knock out 20.000 words of peerless prose.

Only to find that as my story progressed, my feelings of doom, dread and river-in-Egypt syndrome bloomed so very much faster than any time-lapse photography ever could.

The words were leaden. The cursor d-r-a-g-g-e-d across the page. I’m perfectly bilingual and verbally dextrous, so why the hell couldn’t I write in another language?

Then it hit me, that proverbial sandbag of insight right smack in my solar plexus.

Because I couldn’t feel it.

I’ll spare you the details of my unorthodox trans-Atlantic upbringing, but suffice it to say my first language was not Danish, for all I was born in Copenhagen and am a Danish citizen, but English. I mostly think in English (and some French and Italian), I certainly feel in English, and most importantly, I’ve received far more accolades (such as they are) writing in English than virtually anything I’ve achieved in Denmark. It helps not at all that my beloved (lethally smart) younger sister is an acknowledged journalist, author and blogger with the situation in reverse: born in the US, she’s far more truly Danish than I could ever be.

When we discussed our different projects a few days ago, she mentioned one of her own pet peeves about the English language: “There’s just too many… adjectives, too many descriptions, too much verbosity. I don’t need to have everything spelled out, and if you have to spell it out with adjectives, you’re not trying hard enough as a writer.” (She was referring to her elder sister’s novel.)

Ouch.

But back in the solitude of my own apartment, after the sting subsided, I realized that what she disliked was precisely what I loved best.

Verbosity. Adjectives. Describing the unknowable. And last but never least, feeling those words in your gut as you type them.

Whether it’s major mental constipation on my part (Denmark holds quite a few not-so-happy memories for me) or simple bloody-mindedness, I picked myself off the floor after that sandbag hit and made a decision.

Sometimes, your gut instinct knows what you can’t consciously acknowledge – in this case, when something feels wrong, it’s because it is, at least for me. So then, I thought.

Fuck it.

The prequel novella, titled “The Confessions of Apollyon”, is the story of the Devil (Dev, as he’s called in QD), what and who he is and how he came to be that guardian of nightmares and negatives. It begins on the very same night as Quantum Demonology and even in that same blues café a few hours before the QD protagonist walks through the door in search of mulled wine.

Some time ago, I became the proud owner of ten perfectly valid ISBN numbers and even registered an imprimatur under my own name. I’m also registered with the print-on-demand printer who printed the hardcover edition of Quantum Demonology.

So here’s what will happen: Over the next month or so, Dev’s story will be translated and rewritten for English-speaking audiences and formatted for publication. I’m registered with Amazon as an author. I know book bloggers who might be interested.

More to the point since that hit of the metaphorical sandbag, I’ve experienced an incredible sense of relief. Even my cats are finally able to share the room with me. I won’t have to stress around like a madwoman to meet that New Year’s Eve deadline, and can even devote some time to some of my other writing projects.

This does beg a question.

Would you – if you’ve read and enjoyed Quantum Demonology – like to know a little more about the one character in the story that a lot of readers relate to?

Tell me all about it in the comments!

Blood On The Floor

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  • Thoughts on the eve of a Red Letter Day

 

It was… a dark and stormy night, that Friday the 6th of November 2009, a night I was bored, couldn’t settle down, couldn’t sit still.

So I went through my browser history and located a link to a image I found a few days before that stuck in my mind, mostly for reasons I can’t possibly repeat, but I’ll tell you this:

It was some picture!

I still don’t know how long I simply stared at that picture when some diabolical voice whispered in my metaphorical ear:

What if?

Any writer can tell you – all stories, one way or another, begin not with Once Upon A Time, but with What If.

Lo and behold – an idea arrived! I had no idea what sort of idea, nor even where it came from, but in about two hours and typing as if taking ectoplasmic dictation, I had a short story about a woman in a café at midnight, a woman who had nothing at all and even less to lose.

Because I’m the sort of reckless, hapless person who does this sort of thing, I next posted it as an incidental short story on the virtual soapbox I had at the time – a blog about music, madness and feminism called MoltenMetalMama. I expected absolutely nothing. I did not even expect anyone to actually read it, for all I had 13 (!) blog followers at the time. Then again, you never know…

Yet the following morning, a comment landed in my inbox. One faithful reader had read it. Liked it. And even taken the time to comment my (lack of) storytelling abilities had blown him away! Right before he asked:

“So what happened next?”

What happened next was this: before November morphed into December, I found out I was writing a full-blown novel, wtf. No game plan, no idea how it would end or where the story would go, yet I completed over a fourth of it by the end of December.

And kept going. Going on the days the words flowed like champagne and bloomed like perfume, going on the days it seemed more like squeezing dried out toothpaste from an empty tube, and I had many of those, too.

Which is why Quantum Demonology is (also) dedicated to Portland OR resident and all-around fab fella Phil Hanson, because without him, I would never have had the courage to keep going, even as I fell through the rabbit hole of my own subconscious into very scary and very dark places I never even knew I had.

Four years later – a year ago today – I came out of the closet as what I totally thought was a dream come true: a soon-to-be-published writer, of a rather curious novel called Quantum Demonology.

This happened because of two things: One, after finishing the book nine months to the day later, I became a perfume blogger to satisfy my girlie itches and aesthetic inclinations, but mainly to become a better writer.

After a while, I ventured on to other perfume blogs and made connections and comments with other bloggers. One of them had a dream to become a publisher. She had read the original draft of QD (with more plotholes than even I could count) and thought it had the potential to become a book that would sell.

Would I like to publish it with her?

I couldn’t say no.

So on December 17th last year, and with a great deal of trepidation, the book was published by Nigel’s Flight of Austin TX to modest fanfare on the social media outlets of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere.

And then. Then came that cautionary tale of all debuting and vainglorious writers everywhere.

Nothing.

Well, I thought, give it time. These things take time.

Understand, this was and is in many multilayered ways a very personal book. It was a book that ended up costing me my marriage, a dearly beloved son I have no idea when I’ll see again, and virtually everything I had. It wasn’t just a book, it was in so many ways the story of a life that could very well have been my own if only things never happened the way they did.

Review copies were sent, press releases sent out. Contacts were (likely) bombarded with alternate, counter-culture versions of

‘So how do you love it?’

Three months later, I was informed about my first royalty check – also the only money I’ve ever made writing in my life.

And still nothing. No one was curious, no one wanted to find out something about the inspirations behind it (for all it’s very much a Goth(ic)/post-punk/metalhead story), no one was interested in the figuratively naked writer across the Atlantic, shivering in the social media blast of Being Utterly Exposed As A Potboiler Writer.

Do you know, that would be perfectly OK, if not for the occasional emails from my publisher feeding me pablum about future hopes and possibilities that usually kept me off my local high-rise bridge that day.

Stranger things have happened!

Just like my protagonist, I had/have nothing at all and even less to lose. Unlike my story, all those so-called “possibilities” were nothing more than pie in the sky.

So I stepped up my game and thought long and hard about what we could do to move the merchandise a bit higher up on the Amazon food chain. I came up with alternate ideas on how to market it, came to discover thanks to a New York PR maven (bless her!) I had a unique angle to market it with and wrote all my ideas down for my publisher’s delectation in a future Skype conversation.

Except – this was in May – my timing was lousy. My publisher told me in exquisitely hyper-polite language to fuck the hell off.

Well, I did.

She never wrote me back again.

Some time later, I was more than a little outraged to discover she was working on another book with another writer – this one, I gather, slightly less of a hard sell, maybe? Or was it since I wasn’t an overnight sensation I had been dropped like a hot potato to rot in that infernal pit of Hades reserved for failed loser writer wannabes?

Before I shoot myself in the foot even more than I already have, I’d like to say that I was gently raised to be polite, nice and grateful at all times. I was also raised to answer all letters, emails and private messages promptly.

In the six months since I’ve fucked off, I’ve sent her five emails and two letters requesting to terminate my contract, so I can have my pathetic little nightmare back more or less intact.

No response.

On the two social media outlets I have left for her, I sent her a PM/DM today, asking nothing more than she contact me at her earliest opportunity today, in the hopes of at least hearing from a human being again, but really <evil snicker> hoping this blog post wouldn’t be necessary.

No response.

Here’s the thing: this woman, who I once regarded as a dear friend, spent quite a bit of money to get my book published, money I never asked her to spend on my behalf no less and money I certainly don’t have. For that and quite a few other things beside, I’ll always be grateful, just as I’ll always be grateful to know what I learned in the helter-skelter two months it took from ‘start revising’ to ‘publish’.

I can understand the shame of a miscalculation, the chagrin of a failed marketing approach, the embarrassment of not being able to deliver a nicely tied up dream on a silver-screened platter, or the lies fed to an isolated, dissociated misanthrope misfit to keep that dream alive.

Shit happens.

Most of it, I can even forgive. I’m human, too.

What sticks in my metaphorical craw, however, is not being deemed worthy of the honesty I told her in our very first Skype conversation was my one and only demand. And a disturbing and very unsettling feeling of being violated in some indefinable way, since that dream was not really hers to sell, but mine.

According to the terms of our contract, it will expire on December 17th this year for non-payment of royalties accrued in the past six months. Not that I expect any, you understand. Still, it burns me no end if this is how it ends.

This is not, so far as I know, how any professional publisher does business.

I will likely never see a dime off Quantum Demonology ever again, unless (as I also hope), I either prepare a new edition or another publisher bites, one with a better work ethic and hopefully infinitely better communication skills.

Meanwhile, most US literary agents won’t touch me or my manuscript with a ten-foot pole so long as I’m still under contract.

Meanwhile, the blood on the metaphorical floor is all and only my own.

Sic transit gloriam scriptori.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t. Buy. This. Book

Cover design by Rosy England Fisher

Cover design by Rosy England Fisher, The Oculus Studio, Portland, OR

Once upon a time nearly five years ago, a rather lonely and severely dissociated middle-aged woman wrote a short story inspired by a photo (never mind the photo) that somehow turned into a Faustian tale of a woman who did NOT sell her soul to the Devil in exchange for a dream – to become a full-blown, professional writer. The story ended when she took the Devil’s bait, and that, thought this writer, would be the end of it.

Until a reader (one of her four regular readers on her defunct blog, Moltenmetalmama, asked that fatal, terrible question:

So what happened next?

What happened next? That reader – one of the three to whom the book is dedicated – egged her, which is to say, me, on to write out the entire story of … what happened next, and so, the book that eventually became Quantum Demonology was born.

And before I knew it, all sorts of things happened in quick succession. I became a perfume blogger and then a perfume writer, gained a following for my words, and even created a perfume project with indie perfumer Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids around the book’s  torrid story of good, evil, the Devil and a writer.

Along the way, the potholed, first-draft version of the book was revised, edited and revised again. I knew I had something, knew it meant something, knew, as all artists do (if they’re lucky) This Could Be A Thing.

But the problem with pathological self doubt and having to do everything on your own is precisely… that you have to do everything on your own. It just so happens that one of my own creative quirks is the need to be kicked. In other words, I need a swift, hard kick to my derriere before I swallow all self-doubt and insecurity and get stuff out there. 

I had a story. A good one, so I thought at the time. I needed fame and glory and a gazillion dollars a publisher, and for that, I needed an agent, and to get an agent, I needed to write that most dreaded item in the history of literature: The Query Letter.

<Insert pathological self doubt panic attack>

Then, a miracle happened. I just know it did. I was contacted by a long-time virtual friend and fellow blogger and asked:

How would you like to publish Quantum Demonology?

What? No query letter? No agent? With a friend? Are you KIDDING?

So almost a year ago, I signed a fairly standard publishing contract and signed into an insane deadline. Apart from my photo session, I have absolutely no recall of the month of November last year. I was too busy revising and polishing off my story to a high and glossy sheen, which was to say… for the first chunk of ten chapters, I spent two days in bed with the covers over my head moaning spicy alternate phrases for “I suck! I can’t!”

Yet we could, and we didn’t.

Quantum Demonology was published as an e-book for Amazon Kindle on December 6th, and in a beautiful hardcover edition on Amazon on December 17th.

My publisher and I had all sorts of ideas on how to market it, where to market it and who to send it to. So far as I know, being half a world away, it was sent to quite a few people for review.

Quite a few lovely people on Facebook, who knew me as a perfume writer, bought or downloaded it, read it and a few (five) reviewed it on Amazon. I can’t tell you whether it was out of a sense of friendship (since I couldn’t afford to bribe anyone) or obligation that made them give it a five-star rating, but it could also possibly be they thought the book was just that good…

Then, on February 12th this year, I received my first ever Kirkus review. And wow, was I ever surprised that it was a good one! The reviewer didn’t hate it!

I think I floated for about two whole days. Well, apart from the fact that the protagonist of QD did NOT sell her soul, but as my sister, a published writer herself said when I brought it up, we have absolutely no control over how our stories are received.

But even with all those free review copies she sent out, no one wanted to so much as talk to me. No interview requests, nothing.

Not one.

Over the course of this past spring, the ambience between my publisher and myself became increasingly… strange. I was told of things that supposedly happened. I began to cook up alternate marketing ideas and wrote them down. I even guerilla-bombed a favorite band of mine and handed out book postcards after a gig, because it was all the drummer’s fault anyway.

He did say he was flattered…

In May, I sent off an email to my publisher to ask for a Skype session at the worst possible time, I gather. Because basically, she told me in excruciatingly polite language (the kind that slaps you across the face with a metaphorical glove), to eff the hell off.

Meanwhile, I also received the only money I’ve ever made from writing: a royalty check for $92 and change. (I blew it on a fountain pen I’ve wanted for years, so I could sign my own books in style) The book sold 22 copies in hardcover.

That was three months ago. My emails go unanswered. My Twitter DM was ignored. All I currently know is this: she’s preparing to publish book number two. Book no. one – which would be mine – is evidently not a priority any longer. I say ‘evidently’, because I have nothing at all to go on.

Having said that, a very, very dear friend gave the book a rave review – on one of the planet’s biggest perfume blogs.

This story – and the sequel underway in bits and pieces as I type – is my baby. I don’t have a gazillion projects to juggle bookwise because I don’t have the time, meaning the money. No one I know would ever demand a synopsis for screenplay development, because I don’t know anyone who does that.

My contract explicitly states that my publisher has the rights only to the edition published by her. In other words, a different cover and a few small changes would mean a new edition, which would mean… I could do this myself. So long as I also buy two new ISBNs, a bar code and a registration fee with the print-on-demand printers, and at this time, I can’t afford that.

Alas, I don’t own the rights to the beautiful cover designed by Rosy England Fisher, my publisher does. Which really kills me, since Rosy encapsulated everything I ever hoped that cover could be and a few more things I never dared to ask for.

There is surely a special section of Hell reserved for those unhappy souls who pounce on their email hoping against hope that some day, an answer will come. Or simply any kind of response at all.

For the longest time, I debated with myself on whether to go public with this. My publisher spent a lot of time and money to get Quantum Demonology out as a book, and for that alone, I can never repay her, nor for her enthusiasm as we battled Heaven and Hell last autumn.

But three months of silence is  more than long enough.

At this time, I don’t know what the future of Quantum Demonology will be, or even if it has a future. I’m so poor, not even Lulu is an option to self-publish.

But here’s what I can do.

Tell you this:

Don’t buy this book. 

Ritual Magick

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– How a writer builds a rabbit hole – and stays in it!

Ask anyone who knows one – artists of any stripe are a superstitious lot. They each have their own invocations, preparations and magickal formulae to set up their creative space and prepare, even if they never know what, precisely, they’re preparing for.

A writer friend of mine calls this ‘circling the wagons’. This is a code phrase for writers who will do anything, literally anything to avoid having to write. If the brilliant 2005 documentary ‘Dreams With Sharp Teeth’ is any indication, not even the highly prolific Harlan Ellison is exempt. Which gives me more courage than he’ll likely ever know.

Writers will… get away from their computers, start a load of laundry, plow through the dirty dishes, straighten up their desks, begin ill-advised home improvement projects, turn the WiFi back on and surf the Web. Whatever it takes to distract from the fact that The Hour Is Nigh and no excuses are valid any longer.

It is time to invoke and conjure. Which is a terrifying time and a truly scary place, because from that moment on, no writer is able to control much at all. (For writers, creative control = editing).

But first, the comforting magick of ritual to make sure that rabbit hole is as safe and secure as can be and thoroughly feathered.

For me, this means… Lighting the gold candle in the Feng Shui-ed prosperity area of my writing space. It’s surrounded by “gold” coins (leftover euros from a trip to Florence) in a red dish flanked by a green wine bottle containing a purple silk lotus.

Second, tea. Since I don’t usually drink coffee after 5 PM, that means tea. Sometimes it’s mint and sometimes it’s an exotic Korean variety a friend sent to me recently (chrysanthemum tea, anyone?) but mostly, it’s either green tea, lavender tea or good old-fashioned Earl Grey.

Third, music. I can’t even begin to stress how important this is. I have concocted an 11-hour playlist specifically for writing, because here’s another doozy – I am physically/psychologically/mentally incapable of writing to any music I don’t know well. If it’s not so familiar I know the lyrics by heart more or less, I’ll get distracted and before I know it… exit rabbithole. I’ll start thinking about the lyrics, the artist, the circumstances, the album, the reviews of said album and before long, I’ll plaster myself all over Wikipedia to look up something completely irrelevant. And so, the Muse leaves the building. And I’m eclectic – in no order of importance my playlist contains… the Ramones, the original Misfits, Fields of the Nephilim, the Cocteau Twins, the Cure, Nick Cave, Iggy Pop, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Burzum, Darkthrone (I’m a massive Fenriz fan), Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Donald Fagen, Godsmack, Tool, Type O Negative, Pantera, AC/DC, Frank Zappa, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sheila Chandra, Kate Bush, Ondyne’s Demise, Nox Arcana, Joy Division and Danzig.

Fourth, although it maybe should have been first, is to ensure my two cats (the Edward Albee George & Martha of the feline world) are fed and watered. Woe betide me if I overlook this single step, since those pesky creatures will not allow me to do anything – except fall and break my neck on one of them – until I do.

Fifth, I either perfume my person and the room or else I burn incense. This makes sense given that I’m also a perfume writer. Eighteen spectacular perfumes were created to conjure up the Devil in a bottle, and trust me – they work!

So. The iPig is playing. The candle is lit. The room is perfumed with infernal permutations of labdanum and frankincense. The blinds are down and the cats are asleep.

Now, I can finally begin to begin to begin.

This is where the horror story starts!

Because the monsters and demons are waiting in the wings for their turn in the spotlight.

Writing Sexy – Sexy Writing

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–  on the perils of rolling with Cousin Id

Whenever I’m asked done of those ‘how did you’ questions about ‘writing sexy’ (which is never defined by the questioner, strangely enough), I often joke that if you can write about perfume or sex, you can write about anything.

This isn’t strictly true, but in an age that has a celebrated UK prize for Worst Sex Scene, I figured I might as well hedge my bets, especially in a book that has so darn many of them, each of them pivotal to the overall story arc, as I came to discover when I revised the book for publication.

The fact is, sex sells. As a favorite arch-villain says in a favorite TV series, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power. (Now you know!)

So one thing my publisher and I agreed upon straight off was to turn the amp up as high as the writer could bear. In this post-Fifty Shades age, the readers who might read my book are becoming more jaded, more blasé and demanding in their judgment of what constitutes a ‘sexy’ book.

Therein lies a treacherous peril. Because of that blasted, wretched, execrable piece of clit lit called ‘Fifty Shades’, its two sequels, and its countless imitators.

Let me start by stating this first: I have an immense respect for the cultural impact of precisely what E. L. James has done: She got women thinking – and talking – about what turns them on to such an extent it’s become a cultural touchstone. I’m far less happy that she has hugely misrepresented the inner workings of BDSM, and in so doing given vast numbers of people all sorts of wrong impressions on how such relationships actually work. And really livid her heroine is such a passive, naïve nincompoop of a cardboard, two-dimensional ‘character’.

Worst of all to my literary mind is the woman couldn’t write it without hauling out the most tired, overexposed clichés in the Oxford English Dictionary. It may be effective, but it sure ain’t pretty… and I only made it through Volume One before I wanted those hours of my life back.

So it follows that any comparisons to that particular collection of prose curls my toes in all the worst ways. That’s not what I set out to accomplish.

I have my own idols of erotic writing and certain standards I try to live up to. Erica Jong, Anne Rice, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Colette, Apollinaire, Pauline Réage, certain passages of Huysmann’s À Rebours and À Bás, Baudelaire’s poetry… I could go on. All of these writers have inspired me to such an extent, they’ve become the gold standard for the kind of writing I felt I could send out into the world without blushing.

Yet in the reviews I’ve received and in the comments and emails that have followed in the wake of Quantum Demonology, that s-word keeps recurring. Sexy.

Thank you. I tried. And this is how.

To begin with, I’m not exactly a blushing virgin. A wide range of experiences has been much more of a bonus that I ever expected. (Thanks, guys!) Interpret that as you please.

Second – and I can’t emphasize this enough – the character of Dev as he’s portrayed in the published book is not based on anyone I know or have ever known. In the first draft, there were many references to a former (toxic) boyfriend I once knew, but you can bet your booties I took every single reference out when I revised it for publication.

Third, in complete opposition to Hemingway’s maxim of ‘writing drunk and editing sober’ and contrary to what you might think, every draft I ever wrote was written in a time of absolute celibacy. If it weren’t, I’d be far too busy to write… 😉

Celibacy does astonishing things to the creative imagination. As Anaïs Nin once noted in a similar context and I’ll paraphrase, when you’re starving on a desert island, you don’t dream of three McDs cheeseburgers, you dream of sixteen course haute cuisine extravaganzas with all the wines to match.

But the biggest caveat in writing ‘sexy’ is this one: it has to fit the storyline, suit the characters as they’re written and the overall arc. Because if it doesn’t, it doesn’t belong in the story to begin with.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, OK, you might think. But how do you write about it?

Thanks to my training as a graphic artist, I’m very keyed into the visual. In other words, I have to see what I write as a movie (NOT that kind) and choreograph it in my head with lights, mood, ambience. I also have to remember that it’s far more erotic to imply and suggest than to spell everything out in graphic and boring detail. The trick is to set one tiny cog in motion in the reader’s mind and watch the domino effect from there. That way, I’m not spelling out s-e-x-y, the reader’s imagination is. Which is far more effective than anything I could write.

Next, I have to write it out as I ‘see’ it in my mind. Most of what put the ‘sexy’ in Quantum Demonology was rewritten and revised a minimum of eight to ten times before I sent it on. Some were just skipped altogether at the time and finally knocked out two hours before the deadline in exasperated desperation and a lot of despair. All of them written with a great deal of pencil chewing, cursing in several languages, teeth gnashing, figurative banging my head on my keyboard and sheer, utter agony – not because I’m a prude, but because it’s the hardest writing you can do, bar none. And if it didn’t work for me, it didn’t work at all.

Strangely enough, one of my readers of draft three mentioned ‘the very depths of depravity’, which surprised me no end. I thought I hadn’t been depraved enough, debauched enough, sawed through that branch of a sure thing hard enough to freefall.

In other words, I felt that somewhere, I wimped out. I feel a little less so now the book is out to judge or condemn, but I do know enough to realize that I could have been far more depraved, except it would have been far less successful as a book if I had.

I’ve received many compliments on that ‘sexy’ book. But the two biggest compliments of all came from two male friends of mine – one a most excellent acknowledged writer himself – when they both said my words had turned them on…

Which means I finally got something right!