Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sex On The Beach: More Than A Cocktail

If you are planning a sun holiday to Florida, you should understand that not every beach is like Miami Beach. The west coast is remarkably different in temperament than the east coast. What is tolerated on one side of the state will get you arrested on the other.

Things like topless sunbathing are heavily frowned upon when you venture west. Miami Beach is a destination for well-heeled world travelers who are looking for a party atmosphere, and because other countries permit bare breasts ocean side, the practice is generally ignored. Not so if you choose to sample the greater Clearwater-St. Petersburg region.

Cocaine traffickers who frequent Miami Beach might assume that the atmosphere they are accustomed to is the norm throughout the state, but Jose Caballero discovered that the Tampa Bay area is quite close-minded when it comes to things like having sex in the middle of a crowd of beach-goers.

The area in Florida near Tampa is teeming with retirees from Massachusetts. You're likely to rub against Irish Catholics and descendants of Irish immigrants who made good and saved enough money to enjoy the warmth of Florida in their old age. They don't like the Miami area because it's too crowded, too congested, too noisy and too full of Cubans. They flock to their own territory, and preserve the Catholic ethos among the natives who tend to be staunch members of the Bible Belt club.
Did you bring a towel? I thought you brought a towel.

So when Mr. Caballero was struck by a powerful wave of testosterone, he turned to his girlfriend for relief. He was aroused by the salt air, perhaps, and could not wait to get back to a hotel room. "Elissa, mi amor, let's do it here," he might have whispered in her ear, and in front of a three-year-old child and said child's granny, along with many, many other witnesses, the couple had sex. Twice. Without any cover-up to at least try to hide what they were doing.

We live in a world of video cameras in every phone and wouldn't you know it but someone filmed the second escapade. The video became evidence in court, and the grandmother testified against the loving couple. She had to explain what those two people were doing to the three-year-old, you see, and if there's one thing a grandmother doesn't want to explain to her granddaughter, it's sex.

Because Mr. Caballero was recently released from prison after serving time, he stands to face a much harsher sentence. Recidivism will do that to a man. He might be saying good-bye to Elissa for fifteen years, although with time off for good behavior, they could be fondling one another in seven to eight years.

He could have avoided the harsher sentence by accepting a guilty plea and a plea bargain, but in his brilliance he thought his lawyer had the best defense. The video, and the witnesses, didn't see any actual penetration, so maybe he was just going through the motions. Like a lap dance, but in a prone position?

The jury was made up of local people with a different sense of morality than that one might encounter in Miami Beach. They came, they saw, and they returned a conviction in as much time as it took to fill out the jury forms and walk back into the courtroom.

Now Jose and Elissa are on the sex offenders register, which means they must check in with local authorities wherever they go. Their names will be featured in an online database so their neighbors can be informed of the presence of perverts. If Elissa had any desire to enter a profession where she deals with children, she'll be hard-pressed to get beyond that sex offender label, but there's money to be made tending bar and the tips are good so all is not lost.

And no one cares if their cocaine supplier is a sex pervert, either, so Mr. Caballero can find employment once he gets out of jail.

Monday, May 04, 2015

In The Dark, All Cats Are Fifty Shades Of Grey

Benjamin Franklin once advised a young man to consider the older woman as a desirable sex partner. He offered plenty of reasons, all reflecting the tenor of the times.

What of that older woman, however, in these modern times? Where can she go to find one of those younger men who see relevance in old Ben Franklin's logic?

They go to Zoosk, apparently. That is where the lovely Sylvie, a French woman of forty years, hooked up with the handsome Anthony Laroche. At least he was handsome in the picture he posted along with his particulars. She wanted sex, no strings attached, and if you can share a bed with a good-lucking stud, it's all the more enjoyable.

Top off the hook-up with a dollop of Fifty Shades shenanigans and it's the perfect evening for those without a significant other to provide the desired physical release.

As it turned out, Mr. Laroche was a bit of a fabulist. A complete and total liar, a fraud, to be exact.

What you see is not what you get (Reality, Left and Fantasy, Right)
The date for sex with hints of bondage began at his flat, where Sylvie was told to put on a blindfold. Such fun! The lights were off when she entered the bedroom, and even though Sylvie wanted to feast her eyes on the chiseled features of her lover, Anthony refused. Darkness was required, and he was the master, so no lights to illuminate the scene.

The deed was done under cover of darkness, but Sylvie would not be deterred. She turned on the lights and there was Anthony in all his glory. All of his bald, paunchy, 68-year-old glory.

You can just hear her spewing, can't you.

She filed charges against him, possibly for impersonating a male model but more likely for tricking her into a sexual encounter that was not at all what she expected. Unlike Mr. Franklin's belief as expressed to his young interlocutor, Sylvie was not the least bit grateful.

Neither is she alone.

The so-called Anthony Laroche, not his real name, has been at this game for quite some time, and had complaints lodged against him several years ago, all with the same counts of fraudulent seduction. He had exchanged numerous e-mails and texts with women, who in return sexted him. The portfolio may include as many as 200 ladies who wanted to experience copulation with someone who did not look at all like the man who made sweet, sweet love.

As for Anthony, he denies that he committed rape, which is what French authorities have charged him with. The women consented, you see, and if they did not demand to see the product before making a purchase, well, it's caveat emptor out there in cyberspace. Prosecutors counter with the technicalities of rape law, in that the women were not informed beforehand that they were not going to get the young man whose photo they so admired. Trickery is not acceptable, and it is not up to the buyer to ask questions she would not know to ask after the seller has created a misleading image.

Present the desired image, and then hide the fact that you are not that person, so you can have sex with a variety of women of a certain age without the bother of dinner, flowers, or the rudiments of courtship. Across France, indeed across all of Europe, hundreds of old men are asking the same question. Why didn't I think of that?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Is It The Writing Or Is It The Coffee

Will it translate into exotic, rare and exquisite prose?
Many a novel has been penned under the influence of caffeine. Check the Twitterverse and you'll find countless references to coffee in the short blurbs posted by those who are bent over a keyboard, creating literary magic.

Does it matter what kind of coffee you are drinking? If you drink better coffee, can you be a better writer?

It is said that J. K. Rowling wrote the first of the Harry Potter series while sitting in a coffee shop, where the air is rich with caffeine fumes. The brain would be under constant stimulation, which is what you want when you're trying to pull a word out of the dark recesses of your memory. A coffee shop sells better beans than what you'd find at the nearest McDonald's, so maybe your difficulty in getting a literary agent's attention has more to do with the coffee that fuels your creativity than your actual writing.

In other words, your writing would be better if you mingled with a better class of coffee beans.

The time has come, to take your pens and paper or your electronic writing device of choice, and park yourself in the nearest Starbucks. Empty out your bank account before you go, however. You are investing in your literary career, and this particular fix is going to cost you.

Better beans, better words? Can you get any better than a pound of the black stuff that sets you back $80?

Maybe you have to keep to a budget and can't avoid putting some gas in the car so you can get to your job. You could buy a single cup of "Starbucks Reserve" at $7.50 and linger over it until it's gone ice cold. Watch your fellow Starbucks clients and try to sit next to someone else with the cash to buy a very expensive drink. Remember the power of the fumes. Lean over and inhale deeply, if you can do so without drawing too much attention to yourself.

What is so special about these beans?

In part, it's a rare offering. Only 2000 lbs were harvested, so you've got a case of supply and demand setting the price at auction.

Did the beans come from some special and unique area of Brazil, a small corner of the country that has some unusual soil qualities that affect the coffee plants and alter the composition of the fruit?

Does it matter?

As long as the best coffee around is available, why not try the treatment to make your writing the best around as well?

Besides, they have free Wi-Fi, don't they? When you get stumped you can take a little break and check your e-mail, to see if those literary agents have responded with a request for pages.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Relentless Tick Of The Biological Clock

Tick, tick, tick
The clock starts ticking from the minute we are born. Our lives are on a single trajectory, heading straight towards death. It matters, then, what we do in between those two events. Build a career? Run for public office? Give back to the community, contribute to the community, add a new person to the community?

For women, the clock ticks so loud that they may lose their senses. The desperation kicks in, with the relentless tick, tick, tick of the biological clock and the looming shadow of menopause growing larger. You can't wait to have a baby until you are ready. Your body is going to betray you if you wait too long.

Hairdresser Jenifer Perik heard little more than that clock ticking away. She is 42, and her fertile years are fast approaching their sad ending. It is a fact that all women know. Some are glad to see that day, to be released from worry about unplanned pregnancies or the hassle of birth control. Free at last, they will say. But what about those who just never got around to having a child, or who see the approach of menopause and realize that they are running out of time?

Tick, tick, tick.

The average man does not want to father a child as a favor to a wannabe mother because he's likely to be tapped for child support at some point. Maybe the mother-in-waiting has assured him that she only wants his sperm, but the law is the law and why take the risk?

Casual sex could solve the problem, but how do you go about picking up men of good genetic quality? You don't want an alcoholic or someone with a history of mental illness. Hook-ups might get you pregnant, but you run the risk of not hooking up with a guy during that brief window of monthly fertility, and there's another month gone and the clock just keeps ticking away.

Ms. Perik saw the solution to her maternal problem in a sperm bank. No need to screen the donor when it is done for you. Select hair color, eye color, build, intelligence, and whatever else you are looking for in a perfect father, and the material is sent to your door. It isn't all romance and candle light, but you can get yourself pregnant in the privacy of your own home. You get a baby, there is no need to form a relationship, and you'll never have to argue about child-rearing practices with a spouse.

Her biological clock was ticking and she wanted a baby.

Sperm does not come free if you go through a sperm bank. Ms. Perik could not afford the fees. $3,000 is a lot of money for a hairdresser. Maybe she could have saved up that much, but there was that biological clock ticking and she didn't have the time to accumulate that kind of cash.

Someone else had it. One of her clients, an elderly woman who paid by credit card.

One reason to have children is to have someone who loves us looking after us in our dotage, when we are easily bilked by those we trust. If your mind is going, it is a relief to know that your offspring will mind your affairs so that you aren't taken advantage of. Ms. Perik did not realize that her client had a daughter who paid the bills and reviewed the credit card statements.

So when a statement showed a purchase at a sperm bank, it was obvious that a crime had been committed.

Ms. Perik has been arrested for theft, to the tune of $6000. She must have realized that she would need furniture for the baby and maternity clothes for herself, none of which she could afford on her income, and the old lady didn't flinch after the first time the card was used, so why not a little more? That clock was just ticking away, so loud that Ms. Perik could not hear her conscience.

She is now free on bond. She is also seven weeks pregnant.

Let's hope that the stress of going to trial does not lead to a miscarriage. The clock is ticking and it's not easy to get yourself pregnant when you're in jail.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Not To Design Your Book Cover

Publishing has never been easier for those with the drive to tackle the process. Easier being a relative term, of course. You have to acquire some skill to properly format the book's interior, and that's after you have edited the manuscript until it is a highly polished gem. The title has to be catchy. There is marketing after you've completed those tasks, but there is one aspect that could trip up your book before it is launched.

Readers do indeed judge books by their covers.

Your novel needs a cover that will catch the eye, while at the same time offer some insight into the content of your story. Consider the romance genre, and the ubiquitous bare-chested, abs of steel male model featured prominently. You can spot a Regency romance by the image of an adoring couple in period costume, with the distinctive waistline favored by the Empress Josephine showing, rather than telling, what era the reader will plunge into upon purchasing that novel.

But let us consider the erotic novel, which is something you are most likely to find as a self-published oeuvre. The Fifty Shades phenomenon began in the self-publishing realm because traditional publishers are not inclined to handle pornography.

If you've written a bit of mommy porn, you want a cover that hints at the steamy contents within, but you don't want too much explicit art on the cover. You want subtle, to appeal to women who are not comfortable leaving a book out where the wee little ones can see pictures and ask questions and cause no end of trouble.

You want beautiful people, of course. Pretty faces are more marketable than your own plain features gracing the cover. But where do you find pictures of such youthful beings?

If you want to avoid a lawsuit, go find a young couple willing to participate or buy some stock photos. Do not go to the Internet and download whatever picture strikes your fancy.

An author of erotica threw together a bunch of words and then picked a title that was pithy and timely. A GRONKING TO REMEMBER traded on an American footballer's name that became synonymous with a post-score celebration. People searching for information about the athlete just might be directed to the novel, and who knows but some of them would make a purchase on a whim, to see what erotic fiction was all about and did their sports hero play a role in the novel.

Said author found a photograph of a couple and downloaded it for use on the cover.

The couple saw the picture, which they had snapped as part of a photographic montage of their experiences from engagement to marriage.

The book cover caught the attention of the media, and suddenly the engagement picture was all over, associated with a pornographic novel. That's more than embarrassing, and worse, once something is out there online, it's there forever. The humiliation just goes on and on.

How do you track down an author using a pseudonym? And after you've forced the author to pull the book, how do you make it go away so people can't purchase the thing?

The publisher in a traditional setting would get sued. Publishers have in-house graphic artists to do book cover design so they avoid problems like this, but in the world of self-publishing, there are no such legal checks unless the self-publisher is aware of the restrictions. Just because there is a picture on the Internet doesn't mean it's there for the taking.

The couple whose faces are forever associated with a gronking to remember have sued Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble, suing them as the "publishers". The defense claims that they are not publishers at all. It is the self-publisher who is the publisher. The online marketplaces are just shops that sell an item. They don't have any control, or legal responsibility. Amazon pulled the book from its list, but that is all that it can do. Jeff Bezos didn't buy the manuscript and design the cover, now, did he? Go sue the person who did the publishing work, not the messenger.

The case will be heard in the U.S. Federal court because the issue is one of those things that has cropped up because technology is moving faster than the legal system.

Who is a publisher, in this day and age? A group of judges will have to define the term. While we are waiting for their answer, don't post pictures online that you wouldn't want to see on the cover of smut. And be very, very careful when designing the cover of your self-published opus.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Free Speech For The Intolerant

The French satirical rag 'Charlie Hebdo' was attacked and the art world decried the senseless murder of cartoonists.

PEN American Center jumped on the Je Suis Charlie bandwagon as well, and decided that this year it would give its prestigious award to 'Charlie Hebdo'. The award goes to a worthy body involved in protecting free speech, and isn't that what the magazine was all about?

Or was the French journal just an outlet for anti-Muslim hate speech?

Six writers, members of PEN, have turned down invitations to the annual dinner where the award will be presented. Their reason? They believe that 'Charlie Hebdo' was just a big bully picking on France's minority Muslim population. The magazine is guilty of oppression in its own way, according to novelist Rachel Kushner. 'Charlie Hebdo' tries to force secularism, much like the Islamic fascists try to force their version of their religion down everyone's throats. It isn't so much free speech in the face of oppression as the other side of the intolerance coin.

Peter Carey suggests that the attack was not unexpected, given the level of French arrogance about their culture. They're all intolerant, those froggies, thinking that their culture is so feckin' superior. Sure the food is superb and when it comes to fashion you'll not find anyone more chic than a Parisian woman, but does that make France so much better than, say, Saudi Arabia?

Even the likes of Gary Trudeau, who could never be accused of conservatism, criticized the magazine for presenting what is little more than hate speech. 'Charlie Hebdo' attacks the powerless minority, he noted, forgetting that the magazine also goes after Judaism and Catholicism with equal vehemence. But that aspect touches more on Mr. Carey's remarks in regard to French arrogance about their culture. They have been so obsessively anti-religion since the revolution that they take great pride in their secularism.

It was the French, after all, who turned Notre Dame cathedral into a secular theatre after royal heads rolled into the gutter.

The artists and writers who produced 'Charlie Hebdo' were just French people being French, in France.

They weren't speaking truth to power locally. The French government was not cracking down on them. Not so much, at any rate.

'Charlie Hebdo' is not worthy of recognition by PEN American Center, according to the six writers who voiced a protest. In fact, the magazine is guilty of bringing an attack on itself. So if Pope Francis sends in the Swiss Guards to shoot up the place, we'll know why. An assault on the journal's offices by the Mossad? It would be due to French arrogance and a religious group getting mocked that brings on retaliation. There can't be speech that is completely free, if someone can define your version of free speech as hate speech.

Those who demonstrate intolerance are not entitled to say whatever they like. Someone might take offense.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The House Of Hawthorne: A Book Review

Happy families are all alike, said Leo Tolstoy in the opening of a novel about a most unhappy family. Unhappy families make for better novels because they are unhappy in so many different ways.

To read THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE is to read of a happy family, but the alikeness will draw in readers of romantic fiction who crave the reveries of great, passionate love and a couple devoted to each other. They are poor, then they are comfortably well off, and they never lose their passion despite the ordinary difficulties of life in the 1840's.

The novel approaches the tale of Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia Peabody through her eyes, the wife whose creative talents were suppressed so that she could be a mother. This is no feminist screed, but an historically accurate depiction of a choice made. Ms. Peabody was a gifted artist who put aside her brushes for motherhood, at a time when women were expected to retreat into the background and support their husbands.

There is no definable plot. Rather, the novel is a timeline of events that reel in the literary world of the Transcendental period. Thoreau and Emerson have their time on author Erika Robuck's stage, a 'Who's Who' of American letters set against a backdrop of turmoil as the country lurched towards the Civil War.

THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE leans more towards the romantic side of romantic historical fiction, and it can drag in the early going. Sophia's time in Cuba did not really add much to her character's development, and I was left wondering why so much space was given over to that part of the narrative.

The novel is a good choice for a summer beach read. The characters are not quite three-dimensional, and they don't do much besides live an ordinary life, but there is a place in publishing for books that exist only to entertain.

Disclaimer: This is a First-To-Read copy from Penguin.