Monday, July 31, 2006

Under gloom

It's a day when the rain drips steadily off the gutters and down the back of your neck. I've done something to my back so I can't sit in a chair for long. Like an old lady, I must lie flat on my back, unmoving. Probably a chakra problem. Nothing to do with hours sitting in front of a baleful computer and not writing.
There are times I'd kill for an excuse to be not able to write, but today I've got three stories begging for attention and a load of research fresh in my mind that I don't want to lose. Ow.

There it goes again. I am off to lie prone on the living room floor and watch the Glasgow monsoon. Adios, lumbago calls...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Superpowers


Last night friend and I had a discussion - which superpower would you most like to have? She said 'the ability to know what others are thinking' and I said invisibility. Imagine being able to creep around unseen and watch other people's habits. It would be terrible but fascinating. She suggested they're really the same thing, and she might be about right. We're constantly trying to gauge people's thoughts by observing their actions. By reading them.

The Superpower of Knowing Others.

And thinking on it, this is the superpower you are aiming for when you're trying to write. Watching your characters, trying to gauge what's going through their head. Second guessing. Worst-Case-Scenario envisaging. Exaggerating. Extrapolating. Fighting the forces of Ambiguity and the Seven Demons of Cliche. We spend a lot of time in other people's heads.

Now, is this why we're all so damn paranoid? I think writers need an extra superpower. I think we need a poster-boy for our delicate egos. (Especially us fragile lady writers). I'm proposing Insolent Boy. Not sure exactly what his superpowers are, but he sounds cool. The ability to Zap! Captain Sensitive and his side kick, Disheartenment. Amazing healing powers to restore bruised feelings. Above all, the ability to see what other people are thinking, and really, really not take it personally.

So the next time you feel a bad review coming on - don't despair! Summon Insolent Boy, give the world the fingers, and hie thee to a keyboard to batter out your revenge the best way you know. By writing more.

PS I get a feeling I'm practically tempting fate here. A panning is probably imminent. This calls for Relentless Optimist-Woman and her Anti-Paranoia Gun. SPLAT!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Old Chinese Porn

"It's absolutely not pornography. It's literary stuff and a classic from the Qing dynasty,"

I wish, just once, I would get a chance to say that line out loud.

The glory!

I know it's tragic, just how much a little thing can boost me. But LOOK! I got four stars at Amazon, the reviewer said:

'This book surprised me it was not what I was expecting and I always love a book who can pull that off'

(in one breath. The review did spoil the plot a little, but bless her and thank you, and is there a cure for rampant narcissism?)

Ah, happy days!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It came out of nowhere...

Reading Mike Kimera's post about a story he wrote that seemed to arrive in his head 'fully formed', and I have a sneaking suspicion this is how my best work happens.

Sometimes you slave and research and scrabble and revise, and eventually you tick all the boxes - a plot, characters, dialogue, etc etc. A perfectly workable story. Yet the times when you sit down and just strap yourself in, fingers rattle over the keyboard and voices actually Talk to you, like there's someone standing over your shoulder.

A few hours later, you have a piece of writing you hardly recognise, but everything about it hums. Hums in a very good way.

Would you get the seat-of-your-pants stories, the gifts from nowhere, without the hours, days, weeks spent trying to understand the passive voice and sentence structure? Is this what they're on about when they talk about the subconsious, or is it Jung's collective unconscious, or mere luck?

Either way, I've spent all morning writing a particularly turgid first paragraph, and I'm here now to ask the muse or the psyche or the synapses to start work, please. I can smell the story, I just can't write it. Come on and possess me, o demons of pithy language...

Monday, July 24, 2006

(shhh....I think they've stopped)

(speaking very quietly...) here's an interesting article on women's erotica from publisher's weekly. That'll give you something to read that's not about water pumps, while I go and dance a little dance on my tippy toes to celebrate the return of peace to the street...

speak of the jingle

I swear to god the ice cream van is now faintly audible through the grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Three blind mice - grrrrrrrrrrrrr - three blind mice on a tinny, distorting, never-ending loop that cuts through the water pump like a nasty memory cuts through a nightmare.

grrrrrrrrrr blind mice aaaaaaargh blind mice grrrrrrrrrrrr cut off their tails with a carving knife grrrr argh grrrr argh blind mice

The water pump

the water pump is still running. maybe in a way its just like listening to your own heartbeat or the buzzing noise that unwanted thoughts make in your head or perhaps the builders are doing this on purpose because I know they stand on the scaffolding and look in at me with their mouths full of snickers bars and their 'cheeky chappy' slappable gormless faces while they waste time and money running water pumps that don't appear to be doing anythiing much, other than making a steady, toneless, LOUD grrrrrring noise - isn't aural torture something the US military use they did that in Guantanamo i heard, played 'barney the purple dinosaur' relentlessly at top volume for over 20 hours and wow peopleare horrible and grrrrrrrrrrrrrr what is the point anyway in pumping some nameless liquid from one place to the grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr next what is the point in anything when you think of it and isn't there some kind of suburban grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr petty bye law about this I know the milk floats have had ASBOs issued because of their piercing, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr repetitive jingles, IN FACT what about the dearly beloved criminal justice bill and repetitive grrrrrrrrrrrr beats being illegalised can't I call the police or invest in soundproofing well if only I could concentrate for ten grrrrrrrrrrrrrr minutes maybe I could come up with a dazzling first chapter and earn enough money to buy a house deep deep in the scottish highlands with no noise other than the occasional midge and perhaps a sheep, baa-ing cutely.

Oh good god. Please stop. Builders of the world - please.

(grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...)

Monday monday..

It certainly is. I can tell because it started so bad.

I woke up from a dream about my houseboat sinking, shouting 'turn off the water pump' at my poor b.f.

Turns out the good builders that have moved in next door have indeed got a (very large) waterpump. It's also very loud, and they are running it merrily and have been since the crack of dawn. (OK, since half eight this morning. I count that as dawn.) Whatever the hell they are pumping out, I hope it smells noxious and gives them all a headache to match mine. And I hope they feel bad that they are thwarting my latest attempt to write something beautiful, profound and totally unrelated to water pumps.

Second Mondayish snag - seeing some photos of myself taken recently. Jesus H. One is quite taken aback sometimes by just how white/large/oddly shaped one's body is. So that trashed my morning. Now, what's for lunch?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Two boys kissing

There's been a little rumbling lately about whether women like m/m, sorry, male on male action. Seems this is one fantasy that lurks without showing its face - I don't remember it ever featuring in Nancy Friday (which is of course, a very accurate barometer of female fantasy).

Last night, (about ten years after the rest of the civilised world) I watched 'Y tu Mama tambien'.

Wow. Beautifully, beautifully shot, all the shimmering, sour colours of Mexico. Nicely structured plot. I instantly liked the boys, and the woman's character (sorry, dreadful with names) was a more complex and interesting story. All that tension and youthful horniness, irreverent bravado. And the scene where they get it on, and the camera follows the two boys hesitantly kissing...

So maybe we should have a straw poll. The men have been drooling over 'girl-on-girl' for years - I'm voting heartily in favour of m/m. Perhaps with a similar caveat to the lesbianesque fantasies of men though, in my lurid fantasies, gay men and gay porn are not a turn on. Probably I feel left out, or intimidated. Straight men getting it on though, innocent men surprised by their own feelings - oh yes...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hunting for fresh

What about the idea that 'there's nothing new under the sun'? I wonder where the real fresh stuff lives. You know, the stories where you can just smell something exciting, something honest and original. The ones that reek of real thought, not recycled ideas. Is it possible to come up with something really new? Does it matter?

And I'm starting to think that holing oneself up in a stuffy little flat is not the best way to find new inspiration. I get a lot of my best ideas when walking, and if I didn't get so self conscious I'd carry a dictaphone. (Or if I could remember where I put it, which drawer the spare tapes are in and what kind of batteries it takes.)

Cos out there, right in the sweaty heart of the city - god, it's breathtaking. You spend hours pondering made up people, trying to make sure their actions are believable and consistent and the disbelief is properly suspendable. That there is some kind of plot doing something worthwhile.

And then you walk down Argyle street and there's punk kids crying in the midday sun, there's ageing transvestites buying fried chicken buckets, there's junkies getting slashed with razors, there's men in bowler hats eating Bright Red Apples...characters are jaw-droppingly inconsistent all over the place, they commit totally unbelievable acts. And synchronicity - don't get me started on the Deus Ex Machina. 'Because it just was'. Real life makes a very badly written story.

(This is where I have to remind myself of the division between life and stories. Again.)
Equality is like gravity...

From the man that gave us Buffy, here's a sweet, short and funny speech. I feel for him, because he seems so shy up there. But he pulls it all together, and what he says is spot on.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Worst Word

'Cunt' has allegedly been the nadir of the English language since, god, when did the Victorians decide everything that looked like a leg should be discreetly covered with a valance and gilded ruffles?

I love this word, but I can't deny it has power. Negative as well as positive. How did it accumulate such a mixed bag of karmic resonance? Has it always been both the weakest and the strongest point of a woman?

Zoe Williams in the Guardian has issued a challenge. 'Bring on the cunt warriors'.

I might take her up on it. But should the goal be to render the word cunt anodyne and inoffensive? Strong words are rare currency these days. Or does it hold that power exactly because it's describing something so powerful? The word isn't sexy, it isn't coy, it's direct and assertive. Maybe we should play with it rather than disarm it.

A close male friend recently muttered how all the suppression of women was a reaction to their ultimate power - the power to hold life within themselves, males being a necessary but disposable part of the fertilisation process. I'm not sure this is true, in fact. We could reduce men to sperm-donor status, but then women could logically become egg receptacles and baby-incubators.

The point is, brothers and sisters, there's nothin going on without both sides getting on.

The cock or the cunt are not the important bits, it's the trembling in between that matters...

Whoop!

'Undercover' is now available for your viewing pleasure at Clean Sheets. Hope the link works...

Now I must finish my peppermint tea and unstick my eyes to get on with Holiday Packing...Double Whoop!!!

(I should add - story for those of the legal age of majority in their country only. No kids!)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A short, dark story

Well, I haven't worked out how to make a button that will neatly pull up the story in another window. Sometime. Til then, here's a short piece that I haven't found a home for. Probably suitable for 18 and above. A little brutal. Perhaps.


*Cuts both ways*


A froth of tissue paper when I lift the lid, a smell of luxurious and expensive cruelty rising from inside the box. Polished to a mirror finish; sharp, exquisitely pointed. Lying like a deadly snake between us, and across from me, your face wax coloured, taut with patience.
Only the light tap of your fingernail on the tabletop betrays a tremor of intent, a curl of the lip that makes me want to dart from the room or kick nervously like a trapped animal.

Just like you to wrap something so carefully, so skilfully. You’d tied the ribbon perfectly tight, splayed the ends at exactly the right angle. Not a trace of disorder, not a whisper of hurry or frustration in those precise fingers.

I watch your hands. The long-boned menace of them.

Still, I want to play the game. Knowing what it entails, shivering with nerves, I allow you to stand and approach me. Fold your arms. Let the silent force of your expectation amass beside me till I am almost sickened.

I acquiesce to your unspoken demand - undo the buttons of my shirt and let it fall. Naked underneath, I tip my head back, bare my body to you. My heart. It beats fervent and weightless in my chest, and I feel I am exposing the most tender of weaknesses to the light. Shame rushes to my face like a slowly spreading stain. I am prickly with cold, awkward with longing.

This show of willing could be enough, I pray, to prove my soft body and broken soul are surrendered, in your possession.

I should know better.

Leaning over me you place a hand on each knee. Your palms are warm and dry. Implacable.

Without a sound you pull them apart, make me spread my legs for you. Beyond the point of pain, to a splitting moment where I nearly cry out. Hold them forcibly at the wide-open angle that leaves me obscene and desperate. Under the pressure of your hands my flesh is turning red – the scalded flush of a Chinese burn as you wait for me to beg.

Biting my lip, I resist for as long as I can, hoping the signs of my arousal will draw, at last, a reaction from you. A soft kiss, a little lick of the tongue. A pinch.

Beside us, the open box on the table holds what will finish this. Give me release. Though it terrifies me I throw a glance at it, giving you the signal you need to let go.

I release the tension in my legs a little, allowing the smallest of moans to escape from my mouth. There’s a shakiness in my breath that belies all the longing and fear of a supplicant.

‘Every gift is a double-edged sword’, you say.

You lift my gift from the box.

I am ready. I rise and walk straight into the beautiful trap you’ve set, hungry to suffer.




© Nikki Magennis 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nekkid = erotica?


In another life I was or am a painter. Last week, late night drunken argument revolved around life drawing and whether it's remotely sexual. Now, I've spent time sitting on the couch bare naked, while hairy old men scribble away in a circle around me. I've done the scribbling and I've taught classes in the same.

Most of us, artists and models, would protest loudly that it's not at all sexual. Really, it comes down to line, tone, shade, and finding a long enough piece of charcoal. And yes, I can dig this. Just a naked body, after all, and I'm not prudish.

But then - how come I'd feel uneasy posing naked for certain people? There's an intimacy there than must be more than body-shyness.

And how come most 'erotic' art is just pictures of naked ladies? Barring photos, it seems any nubile woman unclothed qualifies as a sexual object. Even if she's only washing her hair.

It's a thorny issue, and one I'm still thinking on. Meanwhile, enjoy the picture.

Tommy Sheridan...oh my word.

'a champagne-swilling adulterer with a liking for group sex', according to the front page of every paper in Scotland today. (Noticeably absent from the Guardian and other nationals - we really are an add-on, aren't we? I'd have thought this was every journalists dream. Sleaze, politics and sunbeds.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the golden-skinned Sheridan, he is or was the leader of the Scottish Socialist Party - rent-a-ranter for every demo and march I ever attended, and famous for campaigning to save our beloved Glasgow tanning salons. He was also, as far as I have heard in my brief brushes with the edges of politics, a conscientous and principled man. The SSP were the only councillors to refuse junkets offered by...one of my previous employers.

So he likes group sex. He cheated on his wife, perhaps. What the fuck has that got to do with his work? It's between he and she, and nothing to do with politics. The same goes for every political sex scandal ever 'exposed'. The only question I have is why such a disproportionate number of MPs and presidents get tangled up and tripped over by their ravenous sexual appetites. Is this part of the personality of a politico? Or is it just that if you dig deep enough, everyone is kinky underneath? We love to crow at the sleaze, but are we all really so lily-white and honourable ourselves?

Calling all scientists...

Ok, you're sending a probe to Mars. You have done studies into how to eat a biscuit while minimising crumbs. Do you think just one of you smart arses could come up with a surefire hangover cure? The bane of mankind. Think how much more productive us old lushes would be if the morning after wasn't lost in a haze of - scuse me

- sudden toilet dashes and woozy headspins. Either the 'organic' wine failed to protect me from a hangover or those poisonous little Barbie clone bitches at the so called restaurant last night have slipped something into my food.

I call it food. Two dots of potato and fish, mashed up, fried and salted heavily. Ten pounds, thank you very much, and service with a sneer. Times like that you wish you were a restaurant critic.

Realised that the last time I was in there I did a runner. For very good reason, it seems.

Afterwards LOML (there, for all you acronym fiends out there, I made one up. I'm sure half of them are anyway. ROFLMAO) and I drifted home over the river, and through all the big industrial desert between here and town. Some of our loveliest times seem to have been spent drifting round down by the river, with the evening sun turning everything gold and the moon rising, peach coloured. Budlea blossoming. Broken glass dusted over the tarmac. Half cut, rambling, aimless.

Oh yeah, and the nice little plan we've got in development for next winter. To escape for a few months to the other side of the world. Via Iceland, California and Japan, onwards to New Zealand. The nicest thing about finding the person you want to be with for ever? Daydreaming together.

I realise I might be too much of a romantic for an erotica writer. But then again...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Twitchy.

And getting nothin done. It's beautiful hazy weather out there but I am hypnotised by this bloody computer screen. Apart from making cup a soups, all I've achieved today is ... um. Nothing. I keep opening documents and then sliding off into tangents. Can't settle. Admin, I can call it an admin day, can't I? Rather than admit I've done NOTHING of any value.

OK, I've composed a letter to a formidable sexual philosopher to ask him to allow me to probe him. Research for the book. Unsurprisingly, I'm unable to post it because it sounds so damn rude. And found a book I want - the Carnal Prayer Mat by Li Yu. One of those ancient yet apparently very contemporary stories - Tale of Genji-esque.

Sigh. And yesterday was so promising...(this is where I take a hold of my head and crack it hard off the table, and *force* myself to do something. Adios...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Look! I made links!!!

Pop the champagne, I think I'm getting the hang of this blogging thing. If it's all worked right, there should now be links at the side there, to the novel and some other writer's blogs. If you happen to be one of them (- does a little flag go up when someone links to you?) I hope this is okay, I'm still lurching round the technology, and haven't even started on the etiquette yet.

I mean, is it forward to link to someone? Or am I way too old fashioned? Ah boy, I'll get there one day...

Revelations? On a Monday?

So I spent yesterday in a funk worrying about bad reviews and how I never wanted to be a writer in the first place and ouch this hangovers not going away and There is a funny smell coming from the fridge. I'm sure it's an omen.

That was yesterday. Today I remembered that Plan B is to stay in bed for as long as is needed (half ten this am, not bad...) with tea, cigarettes (I know, aren't I a dirty slattern.) and a notepad. Ignore outside world, it's phoney anyway. Write out in longhand, with detailed tangents and descriptions, the Absolute Worst Case Scenario. Snivel, moan, wallow in self pity. Blow nose, get up and get half dressed. Make tea.

Feel much better. Remember the point is to write what you WANT to write. The reason the review shook me (jeez, I haven't even read it yet) is because I worry so much about the book. When I'm happy with what I write I couldn't give a damn (well, not much) what people say. You get that buzzy feeling, and you just KNOW deep down that it's good. Not necessarily to everyone's taste, not even necessarily a great piece of writing. But simply that you wrote what you wanted to write today.

Ah. I'm thinking about tattoos and subways and dusty city alleys. This is the other writer's paradox - when you decide to take a day off from writing to work on your inner moron: hey presto, within ten minutes you're writing again. Or maybe it's that inner moron itself, tapping away quite happily...Bless her.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

In the laundry...

Clean sheets are nearly there with publishing my short 'Undercover' - and the noble editor called it a 'lovely, arch little story', which tickles me immensely. Boost.

I'll shout loudly about it when it's online!

On the other hand, I'm now in cold sweats about this review of Circus Excite in Scarlet - no copies available in the local newsagents and my imagination's starting to run in overdrive. The line 'you'll never write in this town again' is running through my head. Ah, great, the fertile imagination now diverted from the tricky first chapter of the book into writing my own obit. I may have to lie down in a darkened room for a while...God, how come writers are such oversensitive creatures?

Course, I can always leave the country and assume a different name.

Again...