Thursday, October 30, 2014

Francesca Lia Block: Beyond the Pale Motel

Beyond the Pale Motel is narrated by Catt, a thirty-something hairdresser living in L.A. She's not your typical "California beauty--" blond with blue eyes, long legs, and big tits. She is painfully aware of her "physical imperfections" and forever compares herself to other women, mainly actresses, models, and her best friend, Bree, also a hairdresser, who embodies the typical California beauty, although she dyes her blonde hair pink, lavender, etc., in what feels like an attempt to elude the stereotype or stand out as an individual. This is impossible, however, since men covet her sexually, thus filing her right back where she belongs, with all the other sexually objectified women, and in this book, especially, little more than body parts gathered by gruesome means by a psychopath the media calls "The Hollywood Serial Killer." Catt becomes not so much obsessed with the killer as with the women he targets, all of them the typical California blonde with long legs and big tits.

One thing I appreciated about Francesca Lia Block's book is how it examines not only the objectification of women, and how women sometimes objectify themselves because they feel unworthy of love, but also the fragile and complicated relationship between women, how women are capable of experiencing true, selfless love for one another even while competing with one another for men, for attention, for validation. This is complicated stuff Block handles with sensitivity and grace, especially at the end of the book, when we discover Catt's sacrifice.

There's a moment in Beyond the Pale Motel that will forever stick with me, when Catt receives a message on an Internet dating site called "FU CUPID," which is creepy and abusive. Rather than delete the message or report the sender, Catt reads the message, stares at it a while, then files it away. The implication is clear. Women sometimes tolerate, even entertain, such abuse because they feel they've "asked for it" or are helpless. Ultimately, Catt isn't helpless. She's brave and heroic and spills over with love, just not, of course, for herself.

I carry a collection of books in my heart, the ones I love above all others, and Beyond the Pale Motel just joined that collection. In Francesca Lia Block, I've discovered a "spirit writer," someone who shares my obsessions: beauty, addiction, violence against women, etc. I empathize with Block's narrator who forever chases perfection and is innately drawn to pain.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Emerald: If . . . Then

Emerald's If . . . Then is the most love affirming collection of erotic stories I've ever read. I'm in love with all the love in this book. These stories never venture into the sappy or sentimental. The author writes with precision and grace. Her characters feel authentic: they move as real people through a real world and wrestle like the rest of us with pain, loss, insecurity, and vulnerability. What is unexpected, is the way Emerald's characters regard one another with such respect. Their lack of ego is stunning. Their generosity inspires me. My favorite stories in the collection, "Relative Anonymity" and "Then," both involve threesomes (M/M/F). In "Relative Anonymity," a woman's ex husband invites her back to their farm house where he reveals a couple secrets, which she accepts without judgement. In "Then," a husband offers his wife what she wants, a new sexual partner. Again, the generosity of these characters, not to mention the trust they share with one another, is mind blowing and inspirational. Other stand out stories include "The Plant on the Mantle," "Rain Check," and "No Such Thing." In the first, a couple are drawn to a plant that once belonged to the woman's grandmother, which leads to the woman revealing something she had learned about her grandmother to her male partner, something most of us will never learn about our grandmothers, but wouldn't it be nice if we did? In the second, a woman makes herself sexually vulnerable to a kind and persistent lover. In the third story, a woman taps into the healing power of orgasm. What the author of If . . . Then implies with her collection is that desire is human but emotional intimacy is divine. XO.

Visit Emerald's Website.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Praise for Dog Men (XO)

"DOG MEN is a collection proving that desire is as dangerous as it is unstoppable.  Alana Noel Voth plays at the intersection of the erotic and the vulnerable, the frightening and the enlightening.  Her stories move inside the electricity of first love, the shiver of the paranormal, the complicated bonds of family, the allure of the stranger. Her protagonists feel real, long-inhabited: fighters, moving through treacherous landscape with limited information, battling their own darker impulses, trying to do the right thing in a world with no moral center.  DOG MEN will stay with you." -- Sera Gamble, writer, executive producer, and show runner of Supernatural

Sunday, October 19, 2014

In Which I Compose a Fifth Potential Fifteen-Second Script for Sam Trammell

Last weekend, I composed then posted four potential fifteen-second scripts I'd written for Sam Trammell. I've gotten no further. I haven't decided on a script, and I haven't sent that script to the man in question. I considered emailing all four then letting him pick. He'd probably pick #4. I don't know. Maybe. I have no idea. This is an example of a writer taking everything she writes seriously, even an outgoing phone message for a celebrity to record for her. You know. Sigh. Decisions. Revisions.

Potential Script #5:

Hi, this is Sam Trammell. I played a man who could shift into a dog on a show called True Blood. Coincidentally, Alana wrote a story collection called Dog Men. I can't wait to receive my personally autographed copy then read it. Please leave a message after the howl. Thanks. (Howl.)


Saturday, October 11, 2014

In Which I Compose Four Potential Fifteen-Second Scripts for Sam Trammell, Also Known as Outgoing Phone Messages

Yes, I'm writing a fifteen-second script, also known as an outgoing phone message, which Sam Trammell will deliver, word-for-word, into my phone. Actually, I'm not sure how his message will get from his mouth to my phone. Will he call my number? Will I answer? Will I hear him say "Shit" before he hangs up? Will he continue to call until I don't answer then record the message?

Unanswered questions.

A mystery.

My son says, "Mom, he won't call your phone; he'll call the voice mail service, whatever." Oh, right.

Potential Script #1)
Hi, this is Sam Trammell. Alana can't come to the phone right now because she's watching Season 2 of True Blood again. (Sigh.) She really needs to cut back on the TV, or she'll never finish her second novel, which I, for one, am dying to read. Leave a message after the wolf howl. Thanks. (Howl.)

Potential Script #2)
Hi, this is Sam Trammell. Would you believe I gave up my career as an actor to become Alana's personal assistant? It all started when she replaced John Irving as my favorite writer. Her book, Dog Men, was so good I wept. Please leave a message after I finish weeping again. Thanks. (Weeping.)

Potential Script #3)
Hi, this is Sam Trammell. I'm never going to offer to record another outgoing phone message for Alana again. She wanted me to howl, weep, and lie. I'm a talented actor. And Alana is a talented writer. In fact, John Irving doesn't hold a candle to Alana's literary talent. That is not a lie.

Potential Script #4)
Hi, this is Sam Trammell. Alana spent three days writing this outgoing phone message and all she came up with was, "I don't know what to write for Sam Trammell." In other words, she was struck dumb by writer's block. I'm sure she'll recover soon then get back to completing her second novel. I'm rooting for you, Alana!


Sam Trammell

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

You Keep On Keeping On

Dear Alana Noel Voth,

Sincere thanks for sending us "Born Again" for consideration. Your work impressed the editorial staff with its impressive portrayal of the interactions and motivations of children. Their characterization is authentic and truly childlike in that they think in the simple complexities of innocents exploring their world. Though not selected for publication, the piece makes us hope we'll see more of your writing in the near future.


The Editors (The Missouri Review)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Joker's Gay Son (Draft 5)

At eighteen, Afton was on billboards for Abercrombie and Fitch. He stood shirtless in front of stores and middle-aged women stopped to take their pictures with him. The women smiled for the cameras. Afton smiled for their husbands. Maybe villainy was contagious. Maybe love was.
Every morning, Afton listened to “Cats in the Cradle” while exfoliating his face. At night, he stalked Jack Nicholson at parties. Jack turned on him one night.
“Stop tailing me, kid.”
“I wish Heath Ledger was here,” Afton said then burst into tears.
Two bouncers lifted the boy by his arms then hauled him out of the party.
“Which one of you wants to play my Daddy?” Afton asked as he propelled his feet, dangling. “Hehe. Haha.” He hadn’t perfected the laughter.
A week before, the Scarecrow had told Afton, “You’re too effeminate for a villain’s son.” Afton’s father was effeminate if you considered the face make up and clothing. The Scarecrow hadn’t meant “effeminate.” He’d meant weak. At night, Afton lay alone in bed, shivering. He saw his father’s shadow climb the walls. Memories of his laughter took the place of a hug.
After the bouncers tossed Afton onto the driveway, he stood, smoothed his suit, then showed them the bird. “Hey!” he screamed. “I have a million followers on Twitter.” His handle was @wickeddandy. A million followers weren’t enough. His wicked side was lacking.
A car with tinted windows pulled into the driveway. The passenger door swung open. Afton heard a young man’s voice. “Get in.” The inside of the car smelled like Tommy Hilfiger cologne. Afton smoothed his hair. The young man in the driver’s seat was handsome and stoic. He hit the gas pedal, then the car peeled out of the driveway. Afton worked on his laughter.
“Wow, you have any idea how you sound doing that?” Robin asked.
“Maniacal and wicked?”
 “Uh, sorry. More like a giggling lamb. Maybe the maniacal and wicked thing doesn’t suit you,” Robin said as he maneuvered the car into traffic. “I think you should join our side.”  
“I’m already gay,” Afton said.
Robin’s attempt to remain stoic behind his blush was endearing. “I mean work with us as a good guy.”
“I’m already a model for Abercrombie and Fitch,” Afton said.
Robin laid his hand on Afton’s leg. “Come on. I’m serious.”
Afton’s leg tingled. “What does your boss say?” he asked.  
“Well, he . . . thing is . . . I haven’t exactly . . . I don’t know,” Robin said.
Afton moved his leg away. He missed the warmth of Robin’s touch, the pressure. “It will never work,” he said then slipped a nail file from his pocket.
“Why not?” Robin steered the car into a parking lot of the police station.
Afton gulped. “Reason number one, this place triggers my panic disorder.”
“You’re imagining things,” Robin said then got out of the car.  When he came around to open Afton’s door, the villain’s son didn’t budge. Robin said, “Come on. Relax. Trust me.”
Afton counted to three, slipped the nail file away, then got out. They climbed to the roof of the police station where Afton stood back, feeling too hot in his suit. “Is that the Bat Signal?” he asked. When Robin nodded, he said, “You’re not going to turn it on, are you?”
“Of course not. That’s for emergencies and stuff. Seriously though, he’s a nice guy.”
“He’s your lover,” Afton said.
“Actually, that was a different Robin. I’m interested in someone else.”
“Who?” Afton asked.
“I don’t know. Say it.”
Robin asked another question instead. “How did you come out to your father?”
“Over the phone,” Afton said.
“What did he say?”
“Why so serious, son? The original definition of gay is happy.”
“So . . . he . . . took it pretty well then. He wouldn't have any of your boyfriends executed or anything, right?"
“I have to tell him everything over the phone,” Afton said.
Robin took a step closer.
“He’s a jet setter,” Afton said.
Robin got closer still.
“A super villain,” Afton continued.  “An enigma.”  
The super hero’s sidekick pushed his mouth against Afton’s. Their kiss was passionate. The villain’s son swooned before he remembered and found the nail file in his pocket then plunged it into Robin’s neck. The super hero’s sidekick staggered backwards.
“Why?” he asked.
Afton didn’t look at the slain hero, the boy who would have loved him. He shoved Robin backward over the edge. SPLAT! Afton ducked then peeked through his hands at the sky. No big bat swooped in to avenge his dead bird. No police rushed from the building. Afton sighed with relief then made his escape. Wait until Dad hears this, he thought. He had to tell him on Skype.
“Dad, I kissedImeanstabbedthenshovedRobinofftheroofofthepolicestation. I killed him. Dad . . .” Afton exhaled a breath. “Will you come home now?”
Inside the monitor, The Joker clapped his hands. “Oh, my dear boy, my wicked little dandy. You got the bird at last, and I’m so proud of you. Now, I’ve got a big, bad bat to kill.”
“But, Dad . . .” Afton stopped then began to shiver.
A shadow climbed the wall. His father’s laughter took the place of a hug. 

                     ©Alana Noël Voth
                             875 words 

Saturday, September 6, 2014