Righting Erotica

This Novel's Got Legs---And, Well, A Few Other Things.... (By Jean-Christophe Destailleur [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

This Novel’s Got Legs—And, Well, A Few Other Things…. (By Jean-Christophe Destailleur [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

As I work on the my current work-in-progress (WIP)—the sex scenes—I realized that once I got past what I was actually writing (graphic as they are), that they were all “words.” And as such, I was (am) trying to put the best words forward. I am trying to make the best scenes possible—as I do with any of my work.

Words are words.

Yeah, some of this stuff is unnerving…but that’s what I want them to be.

Unsettling.

I want you all unsettled by what you read.

I want a little squirming going on.

That is what these scenes are about…on a “mechanical” level. They’re about “in-the-dark” behavior from everyday people. About behavior we might only think about…or do in the dark corners of our lives.

Admittedly, it’s one thing to think about some of this stuff, and (for some) an entirely different matter once written.

After all, writing something gives it permanence, right? Like voicing a thought?

Thoughts are hidden, our own. But once we voice them…write them out…its like they take on a whole new meaning. The phrase “Think before you speak,” comes to mind. And how we look at someone differently once they’ve spoken…the unspeakable….

Actions we only do in private are known only to ourselves…unless voiced or written. This is the kind of ground I’m treading.

I don’t read erotica, so I don’t know what’s acceptable, so maybe I’m really off base, here, with my thoughts. And those who do read erotica may think nothing of what I’ve done.  I’m sure my efforts are most likely quite tame in today’s erotica world…and that’s okay (though I consider what I’ve written not-so-tame at all to me….). Once I got into the writing of this novel, I liked that the erotica became what I thought of as “a different kind of erotica.” Granted, when I’d first written this novel, back in 1997, erotica most likely wasn’t what it is today…but I’d still like to think my work will hold up to itself (um, yeah, there is a pun here, you just don’t know about it, yet…) in today’s world.

I “just” want to be able to portray what my characters are going through in such a way that it…justifies the story…evokes powerful emotion…that you see a part of yourselves in them. That you squirm a little at what you’re reading…insidiously become one with the story…the scenes…the characters.

Okay, even the sex.

So, to that end, once I get past what it is I’m actually writing…I’m trying to write the scenes as best as possible. Use the best words. Invoke the best, most powerful imagery. To make each scene properly fit the story. The plot. The characters—

I’m trying to make the erotica right.

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Surrendering To The Role

It’s funny how things in life work.

If we’re observant.

I don’t know how many of you really notice all the “coincidences” and synchronicities that abound out there, but I do my best to remain open to them…and I notice a lot of them in my life, so they have to exist in others’ lives. In fact, I believe they exist in all our lives.

After posting my Short-Lived Modeling post, one of my brothers tweeted a snippet from an interview with Bill Duke—which I added to the comments of my modeling post. It totally applies to the acting class I described there…but the more I thought about it, it also applies to writing.

Sorry about repeating some of the discussion from previous posts, but in my current WIP I’ve written about how I was initially embarrassed about the work, because I had to write graphic sex scenes. “Had to,” mind you. That I had gotten over that and was finally really “taking ownership” of the work in all of its psychic entirety. And this is true…but while going back over it (again and again…), I’d begun to question whether or not I’d truly surrendered fully to the story itself.

You see, in my life, even in my way of thinking—to which only I am truly privy to the actual images and thoughts I think—I never use certain words and rarely use others (you’re gonna see the “C” word, the “P” word, et cetera and some “very uncomfortable scenes”…)…yet in this WIP I have to. Or should, but in one or two instances actually found myself “pulling their punches,” goddammit.

And that bugged me!

Because I feel that this novel will severely kick ass, and if I lessen anything about it, I’ve cheated the story.

As I reworked this stuff, I kept thinking to myself, WWSK do?

WWSK?

What Would Stephen King Do.

He’d go there, I told myself. He would. But he would do it so it would fit the story, in that it wouldn’t seem like just some foul-mouthed punk trying get people’s “rocks off.”

So there are scenes, there are words that will offend the easily offended in this novel. There are scenes and words that will certainly raise the eyebrows of those who know me…because, yes, I’m “going there.” And I’m trying my damnedest to do it in the “best fit” for the story.

Because, in the end, it is all about the story.

I have to fully surrender to the story.

I have to “go there” and shock and anger and enlighten and entertain, and do what this story needs me to do without short-changing it a single shilling. I cannot cheat the story, cannot cheat the characters. I began this book in 1997 and it’s been on my mind ever since.

Should I publish it?

Ever?

What will people think about me if I publish it?

I just can’t care about that last one, the story is that important. But, also because of one other thought that continually echoes in my head, largely because of my wife:

How will you feel if you don’t publish it?

To be truthful, I don’t know that she ever voiced these particular words…but she uses similar wording for similar situations…

Do you really want to spend a portion of your life to get this [INSERT ITEM]?

Do you really want to spend a portion of your life doing this [INSERT ITEM]?

How will you feel if you don‘t do it?

So, now, I’m making up words my wife might say!

But, for the past 16 years these thoughts have whirled about in my head like an angry wasp. And nearly everyone I’ve bounced this stuff off of all say the same thing: if I feel so strongly about the story, I should do it.

Of course, I knew this.

But, you see, I was partially worried about how I would be perceived, much like Vladimir Nabokov agonized over, when he published Lolita. Now, my novel is nothing even close to what Mr. Nabokov wrote about, but I found the synchronicity of my discovery about his anguish too “coincidental” to ignore (I only found out about this last year, when I was “agonizing over” whether I should or shouldn’t publish this WIP).

And another thing:  when I made the decision way back in 1997 to write this novel, I considered this (also as I’ve previously stated elsewhere): I wanted to write something that would stretch my abilities as a writer. I’d written all kinds of paranormal and supernatural material. Graphic violence, that kind of thing, yeah, I “went there” in a pretty gnarly story or two that will most likely never see the light of day…but I’d never written about sex, and I thought, gee, sex is such a beautiful thing, in and of itself, why are we all so uptight about talking about it, reading it, et cetera? And I don’t mean the crass and degrading porno versions of it, but the loving, caring organic beauty of the act between people?

Not that I knew exactly what I’d be writing about…because, I didn’t, truly didn’t know what I was going to write about (I don’t outline)…but when I came up with the log line for what I was about to attempt to write, I knew there had to be some sex scenes involved. And, once I became engrossed in the actual writing, well, it became evident pretty fast that yeah, I really couldn’t avoid “going there” in getting this story out.

So, the thirty-eight-year-old me decided, I needed to write this book, to get past the embarrassment of writing about something that (at the time) did, indeed, embarrass me. To be the kind of writer I wanted to be, the kind that writes from the heart, the gut—that surrenders to the role—I had to be able to “go there” as stories demand.

I had to be able to get the job done.

Do my job.

And, I figured, if I could write graphic sex scenes…then I could write about anything!

I didn’t and don’t want to be known as a writer of erotic fiction (I do have four other novels out there)…though there is nothing inherently wrong with writing erotica (the genre genuinely doesn’t bother me), that is just not my goal. What I would like to be known for (in so far as all this goes) is that I’m good writer. I get the job done. I entertain, I make people think. Get them to see the other side to Life and the things people do or don’t do. That my readers get lost in the stories and forget they’re reading.

That they can see themselves or others they know in my work.

That is my endgame, that is whey I’m “going there” in my WIP, why I will (hopefully!) make readers cringe, be a little uncomfortable, get angry, cry, or whatever when they read this novel (I get all these ways writing this WIP, so if I do, surely others will, as well!)—which, again, I know I’ve repeated myself some in this post, this is the most mainstream effort of mine to date. I simply have to surrender to the role of this story—

There’s just no other way.

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My Short-Lived Modeling Career

Frank Noir, ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

Frank Noir, ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

All images on this post are copyright by Michael Drejza* and F. P. Dorchak, 1987/1988.

As I began working on my current work-in-progress (WIP), I thought about a part of my life that definitely influenced the manuscript: years ago…in another life…in a galaxy far, far away…I’d attempted…a career change.

Modeling.

Or, I should say…I studied modeling…. I studied under the John Casablancas (JC) Modeling and Career Center, in Denver, Colorado (don’t know if this is the same place I studied at, but it having started in 1983 implies that it is….), and received my “Fashion Modeling” diploma on Nov 13, 1987. I learned about cold readings, applying makeup, being on-camera, doing auditions and commercials, photo shoots, runway fashion modeling…even a little acting. It was a great time.

It was the 80s.

I was interested in two different tracks at that point in my life and thought I’d explore a little: one was the acting world…the other the writing world.

I remember when I signed up: I was 26 years old, weighing in at 185 pounds, at 5 feet 11 1/2 inches (rounded this height down in the resume, for some reason)…and was promptly told I should lose 10 pounds. Right, that wasn’t gonna happen—and never did. I later learned all about how film “adds” 10 pounds to people (so when you see these “twiggy” models, try to understand just how really thin they really are), but I was already as lean as I was gonna get. Anymore was high school weight and that just wasn’t gonna be any kind of healthy. I worked out (still do) and there was no way I was gonna shed an additional 10 pounds. Heck, I was looking to add muscle, not lose it….

F. P. Dorchak Acting/Modeling Resume (John Casablancas , D

F. P. Dorchak Acting/Modeling Resume ©1987 (John Casablancas , Denver)

As I’d mentioned, JC training involved everything from applying makeup to performing ramp fashion shows. It also taught acting basics, and I remember having had a great time the second time through (yes, attempted this course twice), whereas the first time through, I wasn’t “as psychologically ‘loose,'” you could say. The first time I’d gone through was a year earlier (1986), but my work schedule had been too rough, so I had to back out. The next year, however, I stayed with it.

Back to the acting class. In it the instructor would eventually have us students stand up and he’d throw character types/situations at us and we were supposed to “act” them. After the initial attempts, it was rapid fire. As I mentioned, the first time through (1986) I was extremely self-conscious and psychologically “stiff.”  However, the second time through it was so funny, because as we did this the instructor had people again stand, and kept those of us standing who were able to “perform.” I was one of those—and it actually kinda surprised me. But he would again rapid-fire throw out characters and situation to portray, and he quickly got faster and faster with his requests, weeding us out until only two of us were left standing.

Myself and another guy.

He literally only allowed seconds to perform his requests before he hit us with another. It went something like this: “You’re a farmer…construction worker…astronaut…grieving mother…gay politician…circus clown….” This went on for some time and it was like channeling the Divine (for me, anyway), because I didn’t even have to think about how to act or what to say…it all just flowed (channeled?!) through me. In fact it seemed the same for the other guy (the instructor even had the two of us playing off each other). Once it was all done I was amazed at how easy that had been…and I seem to remember applause erupting from our fellow classmates….

Frank Noir Contact Sheet ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

Frank Noir Contact Sheet ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

Another event that had an impact on me was our graduation project, a ramp or runway show.

In order to graduate, we had to split up into groups of four—two guys and two girls—so we could “play off” each other…we had to not only create the ramp show, but perform it…and in front of a live audience. We had a limited amount of time to do it (and had to do it there—no take-home work!). But, once we were ready, our audience was ushered in.

Who was our audience?

F. P. Dorchak Fashion Modeling Course Diploma (John

F. P. Dorchak Fashion Modeling Course Diploma ©1987 (John Casablancas , Denver)

A very large, very kinetic, excited, and fun children’s group!

They were all giggly and smiles, their faces bright with anticipation,  and they were ushered into a very small area not much larger than a good-sized living room that was part of the building’s own wing. This wing had large windows around it. There were so many children that the instructors had the overflow go outside and watch us from there, hands and faces pressed into the plate-glass windows. It was actually quite cool, with a lot of “fun” energy emanating from the kids (I remember their ages on the order of maybe 5 or 7 years old up to pre-teen?). Once we started it was nonstop children whooping it up, shouting, and applauding!

It really was a blast, and I was surprised at how much fun I had not only with my group, but also in “playing it up” for the kids! Winking at them, making direct “model” eye contact, displaying full-on “ramp attitude,” that kind of thing. So much excitement and joyfulness from the kids!

Leather Jacket Frank Contact Sheet ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

Leather Jacket Frank Contact Sheet ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

After graduating from JC, I went on some “Go-Sees,” or “calls” for commercials or anything else that requires a body. I remember one of my go-sees was for a beer commercial…whiiich I didn’t get. Another was for a Moneycard commercial. Nope, didn’t get that, either. While it had been fun doing these things that were so outside my military world…I had also started writing every day. I’d always written (off and on) since I was six years old, but also in 1987, I had begun treating writing as a business…doing it every day, logging my expenses, my submissions, all of it. So, as this energetic 26 year old I was: working full-time shift work, working out nearly every day (weight training, running, hiking, two styles of martial arts, swimming, biking, handball, skiing, tennis…), studying modeling/acting, going on go-sees, and writing. And, if I remember correctly, was getting about 4-6 hours of sleep.

Something had to give.

I ended up having to cut back tremendously on my workouts, but also realized this modeling gig was getting a wee bit expensive in terms of both time and money, what with having to have “a wardrobe,” keep a current and running portfolio (i.e., go to professional photographers and get shots—like the ones on this post—done), and to keep having to drive places (usually outside of town), yada-yada-yada. Writing…writing was cheap [in terms of materials]…but I also found that I had more of an affinity for the written word.

Leather and Sweater Frank Contact Sheet ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

Leather and Sweater Frank Contact Sheet, ©1988 (Michael Drejza, Photographer)

So, I withdrew from the whole modeling/acting world. I’d learned a lot about myself—and the industry—and it was definitely a fun experience…then, some years later (1997), I searched for a new writing project. I’d wanted to write about something that would stretch my writing abilities…would push my growth as a writer…and the idea I came up with merged with my modeling training. It was way outside the typical plots and “world views” I inhabit in my books, and, though a bit nervous about it…because of all the (at times, graphic) sex…I took it on. It’s a powerful story, at least to me, and I rank it as probably my best effort—even above ERO, which, so far, has been my personal favorite. This new WIP will startle—even piss you off, perhaps—and it will be something readers will either love or hate. Depends on your…sensibilities…but it won’t just “sit there.” That’s my humble prediction. I’m still planning to release this novel this year (2015, for future readers…), but it’s not going quite as quickly as planned…though it is moving along….

Over the years, I’ve often wondered about my classmates from that 1987 graduating class, so I contacted the Denver John Casablancas agency. I’ve left two voice mails and one e-mail, but have not heard back from them. If I do, I will update this post. I’m hoping I can find out how some of our more successful from my class have fared!

Incidentally, in my top photo I was wearing a really cool purple tux—yeah, purple—and the bow tie was a really neat mixture of purple and silver. It was quite striking! I’ve included some other material from my portfolio, like contact sheets. Below are some of my portfolio shots. A couple of them are from slides, so their resolution is not the greatest. Untouched photos.

This was definitely a fun time, but I’m glad I never fully got into it. The writing life is more suited to me, my personality. I’ve since dipped my toe into the acting world once more, and let’s just say…I’m glad I never “went there.”

Writing is where this “me” is meant to be…where I want to be…and I’m glad I made the choice I did….

All images on this post are copyright by Michael Drejza* and F. P. Dorchak, 1987/1988.

*I believe Michael Drejza was the photographer; he’s the only name I have on a receipt for some of the work.

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Dover Police Officer Singing Shake It Off, By Taylor Swift

If this doesn’t speak to the Human Condition, what does? Doesn’t matter who we are, what clothes we wear, or what we do…people are people.

Enjoy!

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What I’m Working On For 2015

What do you do in the wee hours of the night...and is it something you're proud of? (By Mark J Sebastian (Jackie Martinez (#31827)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

What do you do in the wee hours of the night…and is it something you’re proud of? (By Mark J Sebastian [Jackie Martinez (#31827)] [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been working on another project that I’d started back 1997, then also put off for many years. But not without trying. I’d actually had a bite on it from Joelle Yudin, then Assistant Editor at William Morrow, who found my project “quite intriguing” in her 2003 letter to me. Alas, she could not interest her colleagues, who (I found out later, when I actually called her) found it “too small.”

So, you see, things get rejected not just because they suck.

“Too small.”

Yeah, that was “The Problem.”

I’m still keeping the title under wraps, but this project has been one of my favorites, and ranks up there with ERO. It had been forwarded to Joelle from another, who I’d originally sent it to; the man (Michael Morrison…who has moved up the rungs since this incident, I’m not sure was the original intended editor, but it had been he who had forwarded my query to Joelle) had been kind enough to forward it to Joelle to get her thoughts on it. I thank both of them for their efforts: thank you, Mr. Morrison and thank you, Joelle!

This project is about failed relationships. It’s the most mainstream effort I’ve ever written.

It also sports some hefty sex in it. I can’t really call it “erotica,” because I didn’t write those scenes with the intent to cause sexual feelings or arousal. That was never the intent (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that…). It was about the story and what the hell was happening to my protagonist.

I used to call it “my embarrassing book,” because I’ve never written nor read “erotica,” but I’ve finally gotten past that. I’m finally taking ownership of it…as in “own it, dude.” I figure, what’s “worse”: writing about nasty violence or writing sex scenes?

But, it’s not about the sex…in that I didn’t write the sex scenes in and of themselves…they were “just” integral to the story…what happened to the protagonist that further exacerbated his spiral of failed relationships. There’s more to it, but, the entire “thrust” of the book, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that the main character just can’t seem to get his life together because of what’s going on with him and his family…what’s going on in his head.

It is also a love story.

But I wanted to let you all in on this, because it is taking up all my writing time, and other things in my daily life are temporarily taking up more of my time, so my blogs are suffering. So, it’s not that I’m not doing anything…I’m just focusing all my efforts on getting this work out there next year—earlier rather than later are my hopes. So, please, bear with me on the lack of substantive posts. You can, however, check out my Pinterest board for this WIP, at http://www.pinterest.com/fpdorchak/next-work-in-progress/. These are all images that pertain to this effort. As you can see, photography, modeling, traveling, the Northeast all figure prominently in the novel. I hope you’ll “follow” and periodically check back.

But…be warned. I pull very few punches in this novel. When I tackled this project, I wanted to tackle something I felt was “out of my range,” something that would help me grow as a writer, even if somewhat “embarrassing.” I didn’t want to shy away from the subject matter…wanted to tackle it head on, no matter where it went. So, yes, this novel took me places I was (at first) hesitant to go…but to have “pulled those punches” would have killed the story. Believe me, I considered it. So…I did what any writer worth their salt would do to a compelling story that wouldn’t leave them alone…

I wrote it.

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