Thursday, January 29, 2009

a portion of the story

Tonight was going to be my last with Will, and I had to dress.

Suiting my education, I took to my suites and began to prepare. Since we were in New York, I had Merrique’s servants at my disposal. Gretchen pulled up the bath for me, and scented to water with bergamot and vanilla. After I had soaked, she rubbed me with lotion and left my cosmetics out. Michel was our hair stylist, and he would arrive in an hour.

In the mirror, I sat in my lingerie, La Perla Coup de Couer- a black lacy feminine pairing that was both deadly serious and fragile femininity. My nipples were just visible through the bra. Unadorned, I was pretty. With make-up and the right attitude- now, I could be anything I wanted. Marilyn Monroe used to sit in front of the mirror for hours, practicing facial expressions. I always used this time before and during the application of make-up for that very purpose. A meditative appraisal of my face, of my eyes and mouth and the tilt and turn that crafted the right look. Cheekbones and a nose give a face it’s character, the hardware a woman learns to use. I had been blessed by genetics with a fat plush bottom lip, and a chubby cupid’s bow for my top lip. This was my easiest ace. I had learned to highlight the inside of my bottom lip to make it appear rounder and fuller, which was a trick that never failed to seduce me, let alone a man.

Slowly, I watched myself as I moisturized, applied foundation with my make up brushes- some of the girls used an air brush, but I preferred the slightly heavier look of brush application. Geishas of Japan would leave a thin line of flesh visible around their nape and hair line, to suggest the mask of their white face paint. It was as sensual as letting your dress slip to show your bra strap. It suggested the warmth of the living flesh beneath, which in turn, eroticized the mask. As my face took on the even tone of foundation, I dabbed at my mouth, and it disappeared beneath the nude make-up. I covered my eyelids and under my eyes, which had always given me trouble. Just as I was born with a mouth to worship, I was born with under eye circles. No matter how well I slept, they were always there, the purple of a bruise.
When all my blemishes were covered, I smiled at my ghost face- the base of my empire. I used powdered eye liner, which took great skill to apply, but was worth the trouble. Befitting my mysterious dark woman persona, I gently tilted the line to appear more like cat eyes, and dusted a soft black of shading around the final line. This too, I had to take care not to look like I had a black eye.
There have been times where I was called on to wear false eyelashes, which I loved for their drama. This was not such a time. The up close and personal tussling I would be engaging in would have melted the glue, and nothing is less sexy that a sudden sprouting of a limb of hair from your eyelid. When I first met Will, I wore them. To be seen from across the room. The opera houses of old were the right atmosphere for false lashes.
I gently slid the mascara brush over my long curling lashes, and smiled at myself. With the right curling, they hung low, which added to the unfolding woman in the mirror. I brushed over my cheekbones, a bare bare blush, and turned my mind to my mouth. If anything could persuade me of what kind of a goddess I was to be, it was this mouth. It told me who I was that night. IT is hard to say what goes through my mind, because as I lined my lips, very little did. It is perhaps my greatest refuge- make up. It is so technical and delicate as to require full attention, and as I do this, I watch the appearance of a woman who is beautiful and formidable. Poor Will.

The color is red, as always. Will falls into the Victim Persona of the Sensualist, a sucker for the bright and lovely, for the sensations. In his world, that which is colorful, striking and pleasing is extremely desirable. I drag the lipstick brush down and up the lines of my lips, and smile slowly.

“Bernadette Godfrey.” I said, to the smiling woman in the mirror, fair skinned, dark haired, and almost naked save for a few bits of supportive black lace. I laughed.

I feel sexier when I put on my shoes first. Tall heels, with a seductive swoop to the heel itself, my foot was strapped and wound by the shoe, that invoked bondage severity. Gretchen helped me slither into the jersey dress (black) that covered me from my collarbones to above my knees. Long sleeves clung to my arms, and I could see the lift of my wrist bone under the fabric. I loved this dress because it gave away nothing but hinted towards everything. Michel arrived, and attended to me as I watched in my mirrors. He was tall, French, and bleached blonde. He wore dark rimmed glasses, and eyeliner. Despite stereotypes, he was flamboyant and straight. An artist from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet, he prattled adorably, but was all seriousness about my hair. After awhile, he became too absorbed to talk, and I had the distinct pleasure of watching him. A tight chignon, so simple and smooth and beautiful. I had to be able to take it down easily, so it was very difficult work. One pin to unravel his knot meant he had to tie it up with great balance.

“Adieu, Michel. Merci beau coups.” I said, shutting the door on my suites, letting Gretchen see him out. Once more I glanced at myself, and was surprised by the creature that watched me with wide dark eyes. The whites of her eyes were very white, and there was a hint of fear in the expression.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The writing place

There is a room, a loft studio. It has white walls, with years of paint on it and dents on the corners of the walls and doorjams from years of use and it looks well worn and a little fudged around the edges. But the light is amazing. The floors are a soft bright maple, a warm color, but in the winter the floors are so cold. All day long there is a bright bar of sunlight across the floor, and the writer has positioned her desk right by that window. The desk is an old cheapo kitchen table from the fifties. It's white Formica-ish surface is free of clutter entirely. In fact, the only thing on it is sometimes a typewriter, and sometimes a sleek little word processor.

If she wishes it, there is street noise, and traffic. She can look out the window and see the gritty sidewalks of the lower east side, and all the man hole covers say NYC WATER and SEWAGE. Sometimes there is a fire escape she can smoke on, drink her hot perfect cup of Starbucks and crawl back in the window, back to her words. If she looks up and sees a plant on the far windowsill, it is her old white orchid, pristine and sweet. Sometimes there is a snake plant, like her mother's mother grew, in a small terracotta pot.

There are old dressers on the two far walls, again the warm of maple. One of them has the fish-bone design on it's drawers and fronts like her mother's old art-deco vanity. Gone for years now.

When she needs them, certain women appear. Lately it's been Marilyn Monroe, dressed in a white sleeveless zip-up dress, with her pale pale blonde hair and baby soft cheeks, her gentle doe-y eyes and the voice that she did not have to make breathy. She has a small voice, but she's got a lot to say, and she says it all with the sigh of resign. She smokes with the writer, and stands just in front of the window, the light glowing along all her paleness.

Sometimes it's a dark beauty, like Monica Bellucci, who is wry and smiles with one corner of her mouth, tosses her dark hair, and sits on the farthest dresser, being beautiful. When asked questions, she gives simple one word answers, smiling like Mona Lisa. She is there to be mysterious and dark, and Marilyn is there to be world-weary and wise- the thing she never got to be.

Sometimes men are there, but there haven't been any men in a long time. The most recent one was Stuart Townsend, a faux-hawk and a torn black Clash tee shirt on. There was Sam Rockwell for awhile, sweaty and tanned, half-naked and swaggering. They all talked and she listened. They all told their stories, or rather, let the characters they brought to life for her tell the tales. There is a new face in her repertoire now, the right kind of face for a character she never could fit well wiht any person. She heard him loud and clear, but his face was hard.

But for now she listens to Marilyn sigh, and watches Bellucci smile. They all smoke and she drinks her coffee, talking to a voice that is not quite hers, but not unlike her. She tucks up one foot under her leg, wraps a scarf around her neck, because it is cold in the loft, but her fingers never get too stiff to type. She sets her coffee down and stretches out her hands to the machine before her. It is the Word Processor, this time, and when she lifts her head, both of her pretty muses are gone. Ann Bancroft stands in front of her, slick and bitchy and so wry. "Hey kid." she says, "Watch this." Ann Bancroft as she was in GI JANE, all business and Southern charm.

She throws open a door, and out walks a young woman, and when she begins to talk it sounds like this:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lascivious, a novel

lasciv⋅i⋅ous [luh-siv-ee-uhs]

1. inclined to lustfulness; wanton; lewd: a lascivious, girl-chasing old man.
2. arousing sexual desire: lascivious photographs.
3. indicating sexual interest or expressive of lust or lewdness: a lascivious gesture.

1400–50; late ME < class="ital-inline">lascīvi(a) playfulness, wantonness (lascīv(us) playful, wanton + -ia -ia ) + -ous

So let's review. Amanda Quick's novels always contain
  • A heroine who is considered an eccentric spinster (at 27)
  • She is intellectual and also very naive in the ways of the world, men, and sex
  • She is accused of a crime she did not commit, and must clear her name
  • She needs the help of the hero to do this
  • The hero is always disfigured in some mild way,
  • he is emotionally reserved if not downright cold, hiding a tender and wounded heart.
  • The word the "ton" meaning London society. There is also always a ball. And the heroine never digs the threads of the day.
  • It's always in regency England.
I decided I couldn't take it anymore, and after digesting the fun and frustrating fluff, I came up with an idea for a novel about a heroine who was NOT innocent- not naive, and really truly not so much a heroine. I was so tired of the women being so damn good. Practically angelic.

So what about a wicked woman as my heroine? A woman scarred by life and embittered? A woman more like the heroes in Quick's novels, but so much juicier....

This idea slowly evolved into two very different stories, but they both featured the two issues I had with all the romances I had ever read: The innocence of the heroine, and the bright redemptive version of sex these authors kept propagating. That kind of sex is possible, but not the way they keep selling it.

I decided to write a story that took those ideas up, and I am currently writing one of those stories-

I began with a woman in Regency England, who was young and brilliant, and fell in love. She was betrayed by the man she loved, and went off to become a character named Madame Merrique- a madam of a brothel, and a spy. She took several young women under her wing, and trained them in languages, etiquette, and the ideas of love in her culture. They used their knowledge to manipulate men- and the most important part of their training is the crux of the story. To abhor love, to see it only as a means to their destruction.

the story takes place in modern day, narrated by a new student of Merrique ( the original named her successor, and this passing of the baton went on for generations. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts.) She stands at the decision of becoming the new Merrique, or choosing to love.

It has a lot to do with arguing with the current ideas of sex, of womanhood, of love and marriage. I'm reading a whole lot of books to research it, The Art of Seduction, The Book of the Courtesans, Seductress, and those are what I've got right now. Veronica Franco will also be a very big part of my research, but I'm not reading up on her just yet.

Next time I'll give you a clip of the story.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'm thinking about a lot of things lately, and it's kind of like Jack of All Trades, Master of None. Nothing has really been wearing my wheels out, you know? I've had a whole bunch of ideas for posting, but nothing really said "write me". I knew a few of them could turn into something, if only I started the spinning wheel turning- hey, maybe even gold- but I just never got the motivation to do it. I have been writing a story, and maybe that's where my energy has been going. When I was in art class in high school, I spent a lot of time drawing, and none writing. Like I have only room for one expressive medium- or better yet, to do one medium right, you have to focus on it, and it alone. It's like a language, in that to really be able to converse in it, you have to speak it more than any other.

So writing a story takes up all the space, it is far more fragile than blogging. Blogging can be hodge podge and sometimes it can be half-assed. A story will tell you right away if it's lying to you.

But that's a whole other post, isn't it? The fine and delicate art of fiction? Even cheap fiction, like "beach novels" or "Subway Reads" the kind of throw-away literature you can buy at the grocery store- even that is fine.

That's where I got my idea for this story- cheap fiction. When I was in Junior high and high school, I had a friend who introduced me to Romance novels. She had entire boxes of these books, pastel colored covers with elaborate fonts and the inner cover had a picture of semi-pornographic embraces. All the heroines were short, fiery/spunky/strong-willed/determined/hell-bent, and they all had hair the color of some kind of jewel.

My friend liked the western romances, but I fell head over heels( ha ha ha) for a writer named Amanda Quick, a period romance writer who stood out from all the others I had been reading, because she could actually write with some skill. The first book of hers I read was a sweet iced tea (even if it was the instant Tops brand).

I began reading these romances in short obsessive bursts, two or thee, one right after another. I usually had what I called a mourning period after books, especially good books, but I didn't need that at all with the bodice-rippers. I read enough of them to notice several common threads. The genre was extremely limited, it seemed, much to my eventual dismay.

I came to realize that a romance novel is a collective fantasy, a culture of women longing to be women ( short, spunky and with hair the color of sapphires- shoot, those are blue! the color of copper? too common, not precious...shoot! Hair the color of honey- oooh, yeah.) But seriously, folks. Fantasies are very specific- the wrong note and the whole song is ruined. And in this way, romance is limited. In fact, there's a definition:

"According to the Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Others, including Leslie Gelbman, a president of the Berkley Group, use a more shortened definition, that a romance must make the "romantic relationship between the hero and the heroine ... the core of the book."[2] In general, romance novels reward characters who are good people and penalize those who are evil, and a couple who fights for and believes in their relationship will likely be rewarded with unconditional love.[1] Bestselling author Nora Roberts sums up the genre, saying 'The books are about the celebration of falling in love and emotion and commitment, and all of those things we really want.' "
excerpt from wikipedia

So, like I said- Amanda Quick. It turned out all her novels share the same bone structure. In fact, some of them share the same sentences, just shift out one name for another. I do find that kind of entertaining, and highly encouraging, since I could make MILLIONS as a romance writer and not work hard at all, but that's not the point.

The point is I got tired of reading these stupid miserable fantasies that reflected
nothing of what I knew of human relationships, men, women, SEX for crap's sakes...oh the crappy bullcrappy sex....

They never acknowledged the dark side of sex, and maybe that's because everyone lives with it already, but still. I needed it to be said, and nobody seemed to be saying it
. The heroine was always a virgin, was always more intellectual than physically oriented ( though she has a great body...and usually she feels self-conscious about some part of it, if not the whole thing, but the hero assures her just how perfect she is to him, can you dig it.) and was always F@$%ing CLUELESS about everything and anything sexual. She'd maybe been kissed, but not so well, usually poorly enough to convince her that sex was nothing to compare to a good rousing debate!

And Quick's heroines are always being accused of something that they are innocent of, and need the hero's help (reluctantly asking) to get their name cleared.

I was so tired of innocent sexually clueless heroines. I was so sick and tired of everything working out just fine, of the emotionally stony hero with a broken heart (and usually some kind of very mild disfigurment a scar, a limp, whatever.) who is won over in the end by the heroine's sweet fiery independent nature (toss jewel colored hair over shoulder and lift tiny chin pugnaciously)

So I came up wiht this idea- I even had the title of the book-


to be continued.