Reflections on Writing and The Past Year

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* Note: Slightly Rambling Blog Post *

Hello Readers,

I’ve not written a personal blog post in quite some time, but thought I’d write one to share some thoughts I’ve had with writing/publishing/blogging and my other interests.

2014 was the first year I spent more time reading and writing non-fiction. This happened as I continued noticing a gradual (and sometimes, not-so-gradual) decline in eBook sales.

My heart has never been in commercial fiction, and it probably never will be. For that reason, I am unlikely to continue eBooks publishing as a business (because as a business, it’s commercial forces one has to consistently observe and adapt to). I have some other personal reasons for no longer having the drive for writing fiction as I used to several years ago when I first ventured into digital publishing.

Towards the end of last year, I had a very strong need to switch directions entirely in terms of profession. I’ve listed some of the things I’ve been / am involved with on my about.me page. It’s a refreshing change and I’m grateful for the new work experiences. I like doing things that have some level of originality/innovation/analysis, and I felt indie publishing was not the right place for me anymore.

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‘Reflection’ photo by Arthur Davison, used under a CC License.

I should add that I almost gave up my interest in socio-political blogging for the sake of a close friendship/relationship (let’s just say that my views were “very divergent” from the other person’s). Regardless of the topic, my personal belief is that people who respect each other would be able to sort out their differences. At the end of the day, I concur with activist Brooke Axtell, who said during the 2015 Grammys:

“Authentic love does not devalue another human being.”
(– activist Brooke Axtell)

To me, a friendship/relationship isn’t worth it if either person feels no guilt/shame/remorse in belittling or disparaging the other person, because they disagree with the other’s views and sentiments. (Perhaps this is partly due to the “Venus Scorpio” in me that highly values self-respect and mutual respect.)

I guess quitting self-publishing (or “turning my professional attention elsewhere” for the time-being) gave me an additional sense of closure to that whole chapter in my life. It just felt like everything had reached a dead-end and that it was time for me to try something new, on both the personal and professional level.

That being said, I’ll always like writing, so you’ll see some of my copyediting material online this year along with socio-political blogging book reviews when I can get down to it (once my current schedule has settled in a little bit more). Writing socio-political blog posts helped me access an “analytical” side of my mind I hadn’t really accessed before, which is why I’m keen to continue those independent/unsponsored blog posts.

I’m thankful for the readers/customers I’ve had and heard from over the years, particularly the readers of my earlier erotic material. I guess that’s a part of my life I’m leaving behind too, in a way (since my early erotic fiction was largely due to my own sexual neuroses!).

I appreciate others’ appreciation of my writing — somehow it feels like that will be something which will inspire me with future projects I get up to. It gives me a sense of comfort/satisfaction to know that my efforts were not completely wasted on meaningless things, since I like to focus on one thing at a time and give my all to it if I’m passionate about something.

I guess my main website (jessINK) may “morph” over the next few years, to reflect my personal interests and projects I’m involved with along the way. I initially branded myself as an “author/artist/non-conformist,” a label I’ve since updated to “writer/blogger/analyst” (the practical Virgo in me loves anything of an “analytical” nature…).

Side Note: It is also this practical Virgo in me that keeps me from enjoying the label/lifestyle of “starving artist” (a label my artistic Pisces moon doesn’t quite mind)…I guess I have a rough idea re: career path (I do best with something that combines creative and analytical skills).

Have you had a similar experience where you just felt you needed to drop (almost) everything and try/do something new? Send me a note via email! (I’m keeping the comments ‘off’ on this post in the spirit of intimacy/privacy.)

Stay happy and healthy in the meantime.

— Jess.

Erotic Books: Poetry

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* This post is part of a short series:

QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)

PART 1: Introduction + Erotic Art Books
PART 2: Erotic Books (Non-Fiction)
PART 3: Erotic Poetry
PART 4: Erotic Books (Fiction)
PART 5: More on Love/Sex/Relationships

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Jess’s erotic stash / “sex education”

[PART 3: Erotic Books / Poetry]

I’ve loved poetry since a really long time ago (of all subject matter and styles). It combines succinctness with wisdom/clarity, beauty with spirituality, so on and so forth. What’s there not to like?

AND when the topic is about sex or erotic love…

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11. Erotic Love Poems of Greece and Rome | Amazon.com

Blurb:

A taste of amour in the ancient world-newly translated. From the famous erotic poetry of Sappho to love scenes from Homer’s The Iliad, as well as works from such eminent Roman poets as Virgil and Catullus, this enthralling collection taps into a range of passionate, timeless emotions.

Excerpt:

Seeing someone incredibly beautiful can leave the timid observer speechless. So it was twenty-six centuries ago. In this poem, Sappho describes what she experienced when, from a distance, she saw a young man sitting close to the young woman she loved.

(Tongue-Tied, Page 27)

The beauty of ancient Greek/Roman culture and mythology are things I’ll never get tired of. A very concise + tasteful book.

Link: Amazon.com

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12. Love Poems from the Japanese (Shambhala Library) | Amazon.com

Blurb:

Drawn from classical, medieval, and modern sources — including the imperial collections of the Manyoshu and Kokinshu — the poems in this collection are some of the greatest love poems from the Japanese tradition. The poems range in tone from the spiritual longing of an isolated monk to the erotic ecstasy of a court princess — but share the extraordinary simplicity and luminosity of language that marks Kenneth Rexroth’s (the translator’s) verse style.

Excerpt:

Since “the pillow knows all”
we slept without a pillow.
Still my reputation
reaches to the skies
like a dust storm.

(Lady Ise / Page 43)

This is the most expensive of all the poetry books here (bought from Singapore at Kinokuniya a long time ago — I won some book vouchers). Money well spent. It’s a perfect book — nothing superfluous.

Link: Amazon.com

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13. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson | Amazon.com

Blurb:

Though generally overlooked during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson’s poetry has achieved acclaim due to her experiments in prosody, her tragic vision and the range of her emotional and intellectual explorations.

Excerpt:

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port, —
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

(XXV, Emily Dickinson)

Wow, Emily Dickinson. A poet before her time, I think (with regards to style / mode of expression). But with reading her poetry, what I remembered the most was how she captured the sentiments/moments of our existence. I got this at the same time as the Japanese poetry book above, by the way.

Link: Amazon.com

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14. Baudelaire | Amazon.com

Blurb:

Modern poetry begins with Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), who employed his unequalled technical mastery to create the shadowy, desperately dramatic urban landscape — populated by the addicted and the damned — which so compellingly mirrors our modern condition. Deeply though darkly spiritual, titanic in the changes he wrought, Baudelaire looms over all the work, great and small, created in his wake.

Excerpt:

Eyes glowing like an angel’s
I’ll come back to your bed
and reach for you from the shadows:
you won’t hear a thing.

(“Incubus” / Page 102)

Baudelaire was a French poet, essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe (!).

Links: Amazon.com | Wikipedia

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15. Erotic Poems | Amazon.com

Blurb:

These poems, selected from most of the cultures and histories of world literature, provide magnificent witness to the fact that love is as much an act of the imagination as it is of the body. From fourth-century Li Ch’ung’s “Parody of a Lover” to John Betmeman’s “Late-Flowering Lust,” they re-create, through the revelations of language, that experience of the erotic. Other poets include Theodore Roethke, Robert Graves, Octavio Paz, Joseph Brodsky, Sylvia Plath, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and many others.

Excerpt:

…but I won’t call
Her ‘beautiful’. She has one fatal fault —
No sex-appeal: there’s not a grain of salt
In that big dish to stir the appetite.

(“Many Think Quintia’s Beautiful,” by Gaius Valerius Catullus)

Never know what I might find in this eclectic collection ;)

Link: Amazon.com

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QUALITY EROTICA (aka “Jess’s Erotic Stash”)

PART 1: Introduction + Erotic Art Books
PART 2: Erotic Books (Non-Fiction)
PART 3: Erotic Poetry
PART 4: Erotic Books (Fiction)
PART 5: More on Love/Sex/Relationships

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Author Interview, Vixen Phillips

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Author Interview #21, with dark/steampunk/cyberpunk/lyrical-trance aka “very cool” author, Vixen Phillips!

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Hi Vixen! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Enigmatic, Dreamer, Stoic, Individualistic, Retro-geek…

Mathematically-challenged (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Share a short excerpt and
blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Blurb:

Set in Melbourne in the late 90s, Trapdoor is a psychological journey through darkness and light — a story of love, obsession and beautiful self-destruction. Raven and Pegasus each have their own reasons for denying their feelings for one another, but once they are all they have left in the entire world, how long can this charade really hold out?

Sometimes, if you wish hard enough, dreams can come true, even if you should wake to find them gone like shadows in the morning.
A transgressive novel that contains adult themes, coarse language, homoerotic content, violence, and self-harm, suicide & drug references.

Excerpt:

Raven guides me to sit at a table by the wall, and squeezes my hand. “I’ll get us a drink.” His warm breath against my earlobe sends a shiver down my spine. I lean back, try to relax, and keep an eye on his shadow as he lopes off towards the neon glow of the bar. He takes a seat next to a man wearing a big straw hat and a spotted fur coat, with a younger boy playing ruined-glamourous on his arm. I don’t allow my thoughts to linger on this boy too long. Not so short a time ago, that could have been me. I can spot my own kind, even in the dark of a smoky club that probably isn’t even open, legally speaking.
Trapdoor, Chapter 8 (Pegasus): Blood Makes Noise…

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

so this jody stands up then/and for the first time I realise just what a specimen she is/a touch older than the other two, almost my age/but weird with it/I mean, there’s weird and weird, right/but jody was off the edge of normal and right along some/nothing to do with how she dressed, because that was scruff central, with a touch of couldn’t-give-a-monkey’s-tutu hippie shit/but her face, her whole manner, every last vein spoke of jitter, of flex, of what the fuck/body pinched shut, and so thin, the skin stretched taut over wire/black hair scraped to fit the skull, knife-edge whisper/and two of the coldest eyes that ever did view the world, I swear/they were eyes detuned, right through zero, and into the minus

reminds me of a bathroom mirror I once knew, the one I had to veil/turn to the wall/the peeling silver skin on the back of it/and that too, eventually, I could not dare approach

—Jeff Noon, Needle in the Groove

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

I really enjoy both of them. They obviously involve different skillsets, much in the way people talk about left/right brain functions, I suppose. I feel as though I’m getting more achieved by the time I’m immersed in the publishing stage, probably because by then the results of each step are far more tangible. But it’s important to keep the two aspects separate during production, I find.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

Writing where the author isn’t afraid of themselves… Personally, I tend to gravitate towards lyrical writing that arouses emotion or a kind of waking-dream vision in the reader. “Clever” plots are an unnecessary by-product, more often than not, though I have been known to appreciate them from an intellectual angle.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Trust yourself, your voice, and the story/work. Don’t get too hung up on how others think things should be done; give it what it needs and take it where it needs to go.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Lost Violet Press: http://lostviolet.com/
Trapdoor: http://trapdoor.lostviolet.com/
Author Blog: http://lyrical-trance.org/
Follow me on twitter @lostvioletpress
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lost-Violet-Press/145885795451092
Trapdoor on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004DI7LOS
and Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/4781

Much thanks to Ms. Vixen Phillips for the chat — love her website, vision, and the Jeff Noon excerpt (I had a copy of that book some time ago)!

Greek Mythology and Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

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Short essay for my “ENG 359 – Mythology” course, in Fall 2010. Yippee!

(Topic = Write about how classical mythology has enriched your understanding of a piece of modern literature)

P.S. De Profundis is one of my favourites. Have read it four or five times — it always gets better with each new round.

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Essay: Greek Mythology and Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

I first read Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis a few years ago (an eighty-page love letter he wrote while imprisoned, to Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas). My knowledge of mythology has enriched my understanding of this piece of literature in several ways, albeit in a subtler and more intimate kind of way than the parallel Wilde continually suggests between Salome and the moon, in his play, “Salome” (which draws on traditions of Greek and Roman mythology that figures the moon as a goddess). De Profundis also reflects Oscar Wilde’s lifelong admiration and passion for Greek literature, culture, and mythology.

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Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas

Dante’s Inferno is one of the texts to which Wilde frequently alludes in De Profundis. Dante’s Inferno is heavily influenced by classical mythology (for example, it features the Greek mythological figure Charon, and the great Roman poet, Virgil). More than half of De Profundis is taken up by Oscar Wilde’s confession, not only of his own sins, but of Bosie’s. He evokes a striking image for Bosie — he uses his favorite passage from Agamemnon, about bringing up a lion’s whelp inside one’s house only to have it run amok, to compare it to Bosie. He also writes the following line to Bosie, “If Hate blinded you, then Vanity sewed your eyelids together with iron threads.” This is a visual image from Dante’s Inferno, where the envious have their eyes eternally stitched shut with “iron threads.”

Oscar Wilde mentions the sea in De Profundis, comparing it to the mention Euripides makes of the sea in “one of his plays about Iphigeneia, [which] washes away the stains and wounds of the world.” Oscar Wilde then expresses his view that he “[discerns] great sanity in the Greek attitude,” linking this back to the visual imagery of the sea, and the contemporary people of Oscar Wilde’s time having “forgotten that water can cleanse, and fire purify, and that the Earth [was] mother to [them] all.” As a consequence, Oscar Wilde stated that the art of his time was “of the moon and [played] with shadows, while Greek art [was] of the sun and [dealt] directly with things.” These lines evoke the sense of purification in elemental forces, which Oscar Wilde writes that he wants to return to, and “live in their presence.”

The concept of decadence is also frequently mentioned in De Profundis, which is linked to Dionysus in Greek mythology — the god of wine, vegetation, debauchery, decadence, depravity and self indulgence. Oscar Wilde’s self-reflection includes a mention on how he experienced “pleasure for the beautiful body, [which was] pain for the beautiful soul.” He also compares filling his life to the very brim with pleasure, “as one might fill a cup to the very brim with wine.” He allowed pleasure to dominate him, which ended in “horrible disgrace” — leaving him only one thing in the end: “absolute humility.” Oscar Wilde also compares the appeal of Jesus Christ to people “who had been deaf to every voice but that of [the voice of love] heard for the first time,” and finding it to be “as musical as Apollo’s lute.”

Oscar Wilde continues his self-reflection by bringing in the statement of the Greek oracle: “know yourself,” which Oscar Wilde states is “the first achievement of knowledge.” He also writes a wonderfully succinct and comprehensive passage, which refers to several Greek myths all at once. He introduces this paragraph by writing that “the Greek gods, in spite of the white and red of their fair fleet limbs, were not really what they appeared to be.” He then compares the curved brow of Apollo to the sun’s disc crescent over a hill at dawn, and “while [Apollo’s] feet were as the wings of the morning, he himself had been cruel to Marsyas and had made Niobe childless.” He writes that “in the steel shields of Athena’s eyes there had been no pity for Arachne; the pomp and peacocks of Hera were all that was really noble about her; and the Father of the Gods himself had been too fond of the daughters of men.”

Oscar Wilde goes on to say that “the two most deeply suggestive figures of Greek Mythology were, for religion, Demeter, an Earth Goddess, not one of the Olympians, and for art, Dionysus, the son of a mortal woman to whom the moment of his birth had proved also the moment of her death.” Knowing the background of these Greek myths greatly enhanced my appreciation of this particular passage in De Profundis, which drives to a person’s core the message of sorrow. In the preceding paragraph in De Profundis, Oscar Wilde writes that Christ made of himself “the image of the Man of Sorrows, [which] fascinated and dominated art as no Greek god ever succeeded in doing,” thus using this aspect of the Greek gods and goddesses to enhance the Sorrow he went through while imprisoned (and the realizations that came about, as a direct result of this humiliating experience).

Thus, having some knowledge of classical mythology greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, which makes references to Greek mythology (as well as religion). De Profundis bares the innermost depths of Oscar Wilde’s soul via a long handwritten letter to his “hyacinth,” Bosie (in a letter to a friend, Oscar Wilde wrote of Bosie: “He is quite like a narcissus — so white and gold…he lies like a hyacinth on the sofa and I worship him,” which again brings to mind Greek mythology—in particular, that of Apollo and Hyacinth, as well as Narcissus).

References:

Wilde, Oscar. De Profundis. Courier Dover Publications, 1997.

Author Interview, Claudia D. Christian

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Author Interview #16, with dark/literary/erotic writer, Claudia D. Christian!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Contradiction, underdog, careful, observant, odd.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Blurb for Love Unfortunate:

A murder of crows flew by, startling Liana out of miserable turmoil. Their raucous chatter warned of what her raw core already knew. Liana’s moans ceased abruptly and the tears ran dry. She eyed the lone window.
Terrible longing stained her vivid green irises. Night was coming.
So was Laurent.

Excerpt:

Night descended and the air turned cold. Sounds of castle life ceased, leaving Liana completely alone. Sprawled on her back, legs open with wanton need, she felt her world shrink. It became a void where sadness, regret, and misery retreated.

Soon.

Liana’s limbs trembled with manic anticipation. She wondered at what familiar torments Laurent would devise for their mutual pleasure.

Restraints? Asphyxiation? Gentle, normal lovemaking?

Liana didn’t have to wonder for long. First came the scrape of metal. Inanimate groans spiced the air before footsteps whispered across cold stone.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

This comes from Remittance Girl’s “The Waiting Room.”

He began to tell Marcus the story of Sophie. Each detail was palpable to him; he saw it, smelled it, felt it still. Remembering made his cock ache and he fought the urge to shift in his seat.

“I saw her first at the temples, you know, in Angkor. She was oblivious to everything but the architecture. In fact it was her intense focus that caught my eye; she could have been utterly alone. She stood there, thin and willowy, in an awful, shabby cotton dress; it was far too big for her. She was so beautiful, Marcus, you can’t imagine.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

For me the writing part is quite easy. I write to please myself. When it’s time to publish, however, I’m assaulted with self-doubt. Is the story good enough? Will anyone like it but me? Soon enough I loathe the story I just loved. However, I take some time and those feelings fade to a noticeable hum. It’s the hum that makes me eye each word with critical intent. It lets me cut without remorse. By the time I’m done, the hum almost disappears.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

I think “good writing” is writing that moves me. There are many well-written stories out there that are consumed and then forgotten. It’s those stories that stir the questions about in my head that constitute good writing. If a story causes me to question my beliefs and/or my way of life, if it stays with me days afterwards, then it changed a piece of me. Good writing should do that.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

When your writing makes you comfortable — push further.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Author Website — http://claudiadchristian.com
Love Unfortunate — http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0036B8YNA

Much thanks to Ms. Christian for the chat!