Sunday, February 24, 2008

teaser from an orphan story

Dear Readers (anyone out there?),

I am waiting patiently for responses to several of my story submissions, sent to various venues months ago.

The following passage is from a story that I sent to a literary magazine produced in the English Department of another Canadian university (not the one where I teach). I sent it in July 2007. I haven't received an answer. When I sent a query letter in December, I was told that the mag is run by volunteers, so I should be patient.

The story, "Losing Deirdre," has never seen the light of day before. It is mildly erotic because of
the subject-matter. I leave you to guess how much is based on my colorful past, how much on other lives I have observed, and how much on educated guessing. If you would like to see the rest of the story, leave me a note.

Losing Deirdre - Part 1

by Jean Roberta. Not to be reproduced without author’s permission.

I haven’t seen Deirdre for years now, but our last night together replays in my memory from time to time like an old melodrama on TV. I keep wishing I could change the ending.

“How’d you do, babe?” was the first thing I heard when I entered the dark room. She always asked me that when I came in from a call.

Dee, honey, how could you sound so childish and so knowing at the same time?

“Not bad, not great,” I told her. “One-fifty.” We were in one of the little third-floor bedrooms in the old house Ben and Alexis had rented as soon as they had arrived on the prairie from the bright lights of Montreal to start what they called a top-notch escort agency. Deirdre was living in this musty little room, and I spent the night with her whenever I had a late-night call.

“Turn the light on, Jackie,” she ordered me, in baby-domme mode. “I want to watch you take your clothes off.”

“It’s three o-clock in the morning,” I complained. I wasn’t sure whether I was annoyed at the prospect of being pressured into more sex when I wanted to sleep, or whether I resented her for using my working name instead of Chris, the name my parents gave me.

Deirdre lay in bed while I stood in darkness in the middle of the room, pulling off my black dress, black satin heels, stockings, garter belt and matching red bra and panties. I knew she was naked under the covers, and I could see a faint glimmer of moonlight from the window on her smooth skin.

I wanted to see her somewhere far away from this house, to run naked with her in some prairie farmer’s wheat field where our slim bodies – mine pink, hers golden-brown – would look like part of the landscape and not like objects for sale.

“You’re so beautiful, honey, and I really like the way you dress.” Only an eighteen-year-old could say it like that, I thought, in this context. I wondered whether she really understood that I was old enough to be her mother.

“I wear what the johns want me to wear,” I whispered back. “Same as you.” Nonetheless, I crawled into bed where she was waiting for me with open arms, and I held her as tightly as ever.

Kissing and rocking each other back and forth, we generated heat between us. I suspected that she had been working herself up for several hours while I was out. Sex seemed to dominate her life to an unhealthy degree, or maybe I told myself that to avoid recognizing how my own life had been slipping out of my control. What an irony, I thought, that this is what we like to do when we’re not working. But with Dee it wasn’t work.

Her raven-black hair slid past my face. I thought of her native sisters standing on street corners, and I thought of my own seven-year-old daughter, who had once asked Deirdre to put makeup on her so she would look like us ladies. Oh, the guilt. But oh the hypocrisy of a culture in which everyone is judged by how they look, and every desirable thing is for sale.

There is nothing I could feel about my messy life, I thought, that won’t look like a cheesy cliché when I examine it later. But I really do want to protect the girls I love, for what that’s worth.

End of Part 1. To be continued on request.

political rant

I'm home to the snow & ice of mid-Canada from a sun-filled trip to Cuba (Feb. 13-20) with my partner, who does not wish to be described. Some notes on the experience are on my other blog at Livejournal, where I post as "Lizardlez."

Cuba is not a rich or glamorous country. Everyone knows this. We were approached by Cubans working at the hotel where we were staying (part of a package deal - for more info, look up "Sunwing Airlines") who wanted to practice their English and subtly complain about low pay & long hours. The hostess of a delightful bed-and-breakfast place in a cobblestoned village on the south coast of Cuba told my partner (in Spanish, their shared language) that everyone she knows wants to escape, immigrate, defect to the U.S. They seem to imagine that life there is just like in the movies.

Everyone wants to live in a place which does not exist, with a beautifully temperate climate and satisfying jobs for all, plus a social safety net to soften the blow of disease, accident, job-loss, unexpected bolts from the blue. Socialist utopia has never existed & probably never will, but much of the "bad luck" besetting the many is systemic and unnecessary.

Some time ago, someone sent me an email on why they (email correspondent) had never been a "liberal" because practice and theory are different things. Here is my response.

Why I have never been a Republican or a Conservative

I'm a woman of (ahem) a certain age, and I have seen too much to believe the hype from the Right. (I don't believe the hype from the extreme Left either, but this is not the topic of today's sermon.)

I live in Saskatchewan, a large rectangle near the middle of Canada which most people in large urban centers regard as The Back of Beyond. However, I watch the media when I’m not traveling to various cultural Meccas and sunny beaches. Everyone who lives anywhere can observe reality, as distinct from theory.

Conservative/Republican/Jingoist American Theory tells us that the U.S. is the only "free country" (as I was taught as a child in Idaho), where the Yoke of Tyranny has been thrown off, and a system of "checks and balances" allows the almighty People to control the government, rather than vice versa. Monopolies presumably can't take root in a system of "free enterprise."

Hoo ha.

Visiting any city in the U.S. from a place (such as Saskatchewan) with a tradition of grass-roots socialism is educational.

U.S. cities are great places to visit if you don't have to live there. The stores full of consumer goods (for those who can pay), the sights, the fashion, the music, the art, the restaurants, the architecture are all very hip. All you need is $$$$.

Goddess forbid that one get injured or come down with a serious illness without having adequate medical insurance. In the Land of the Free, you're free to die.

If you can't find a unionized, relatively well-paid job, you're also free to live on the sidewalk until the cops tell you to move on.

And of course, if you own anything, you are a target for those who don't, so increasing amounts of your income need to be spent on good security systems for your house, your car, your person. Even then, you can't be sure you're safe.

The movie Ghost Busters includes an explanation of the river of psychic green slime that flows under a representative U.S. city which looks like New York. Most folks don't actually see it, but they feel it and know it's there.

In the Land of the Free, you have the freedom to hate and fear: fear the Man (if you have nothing), and what he can do to you, fear the riff-raff (if you have good grounds for thinking they resent you and want your stuff) and what they can do to you, hate & fear those who don't look like you or live like you.

You also have the freedom to breathe polluted air and drink polluted water, thanks to the freedom enjoyed by Big Business to exploit the resources that God supposedly gave only to those with capital.

Those of us who live elsewhere know it doesn't have to be like this - at least, not this extreme.

But if you live in the Land of the Free, you assume that what you see is normal, no matter how bizarre or painful to you personally. This is because the "free press" tells you that this is as good as it gets and if you dream of anything better, you are a flaky idealist who believes in pie in the sky.

Is it really naive to believe that the richest nation on earth could fund its public school system adequately? (This is not a reference to curriculum, but to crumbling walls, broken windows, outdated and dog-eared books, and blatant advertising in schools by Coke and Pepsi because they are providing needed financial support.)

Is it naive to believe that REAL "family values" must include some responsibility for children on the part of fathers (including non-biological co-parents), and practical support for mothers who must work outside the home, as well as for their kids?

Is it naive to believe that an ounce of social-problem prevention is worth a pound of cure? (This means that even if investing in day-care, schools, the welfare system, libraries, training programs, job-creation and other social services looks like throwing money at the undeserving poor, it's better than having to spend ever-increasing amounts on the police and the prisons, not to mention the military.)

The real problem with Right-Wing Theory is that, in some sense, THERE IS NO PLAN. This is the meaning of "Laissez-faire," which (like other French phrases such as “mange de la merde”) sounds more appealing than it really is.

From a conservative viewpoint, leftist idealism is easy to laugh at because practice usually falls short of theory. When the well-intentioned theory is interpreted by a zealot who wants to run the world, the practice can be appallingly unsocialist by the standards of those who want the greatest comfort for the greatest number. This is not surprising.

It's still better to have a plan than no plan. Laissez-faire capitalism arose more-or-less haphazardly from the ruins of feudalism, and a good thing too. That doesn't mean it is the greatest economic means of advancing civilization.

"Let It Be" or "Let It Happen" means: let the robber-barons take over, let the drug lords take over certain neighborhoods, cities, nations, let a high crime rate force all potential victims to live under siege, let people die of hunger and disease as they did in the Middle Ages.

Is no design more intelligent than this? If none of the alternatives work, why does a certain degree of government planning for maximum general survival work in the Scandinavian countries and (probably to a lesser extent) the rest of Europe? Why does it still work (sort-of) in Canada, despite decades of attrition from the Right?

Due to the gap between theory and practice, I'm probably ill-suited to belong to any political party because, sooner or later, they all let me down - and not only me. But I can't accomplish anything by staying completely out of the political process, so I still look for the least-worst party in terms of who has the most sensible plan to prevent the rich from eating the poor. In an imperfect world, that's the party that gets my vote.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

new photo

Here it is - the photo I promised. Now you know, for better or worse, what I look like as of last week. This is a teaching outfit - sweater was a present & it has shiny copper threads, not clearly visible in photo. The earrings are from the 1960s - actually fake leopard fur in metal frames. Just in case you need to know this.

- Jean Roberta in snowy Canada, about to go to a beach in the Caribbean.

my good hat

Here I am a few summers ago - 2004? Not sure.
The climate where I live now does not allow me to dress like this for Halloween/Samhain.
Unfortunately, the wire brim of the hat became twisted over time, somewhat like the wearer. :)
A very up-to-date set of photos is coming to me from the photographer at Audio-Visual Services in the university where I teach. He took them last week, to go with my provocative comment on "tolerance" to be published in a local alternative newspaper, The Prairie Dog. Stay tuned.
At this moment, there are billowing hills of snow outdoors - the whole view of the town looks like an unmade bed with various things piled on it.
Tomorrow I will be taking a one-week trip to Cuba during my break from teaching. Adios!

Monday, February 11, 2008

summer photo

Here is a photo of me with my turquoise lizard tattoo, taken in 2006. I've had the tattoo since September 2002.
Why a lizard?
Because lizards are special to me. I grew up in the desert of southern Idaho on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, a land of cactus, sagebrush (very pungent after a rain), scrub cedar bushes, and lizards that liked to sunbathe on sheets of shale which were once mud at the bottom of a vast, inland prehistoric lake. (It even had a name, Lake Bonneville, bestowed when it was long-gone.)
Lizards maintain their cool. They are the kind of animals that are sometimes drawn as cartoons wearing shades and holding saxophones in their little claws. They are hard to catch. (I often tried it.) They survive in harsh climates. They often appear to be dreaming, then suddenly dash away from danger or shoot out a tongue to catch a fly for lunch.
In fantasy art, lizards are often dressed up as dragons, but they are appealing enough as they are. To human eyes they don't look like scary predators, but they are not easy prey.
They don't survive well in captivity because they need to catch their own live food. Their motto might be: Live free or die.
I always wanted a pet lizard because they weren't born to be pets. They were born to live in their natural environments, where they adapt to the temperature around them. (They are cold-blooded.) They look like miniature dinosaurs, and they seem to know a few old secrets which would be interesting to learn.
In 1977, I gave birth to a beautiful daughter and gave her a name from our family tree, one that felt as if it belonged to her. One of the nicknames for it is "Lizard."
When I got my tattoo, I was heading into my cronedom, said to be a woman's most powerful phase of life. The dinosaurs died out when they couldn't survive current conditions on earth. Lizards have survived for millennia. I want to grow old like that.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Welcome to good sturdy jeans, the blog of Jean Roberta, a writer of a certain age who lives on the vast, windy Canadian prairie and tortures the young by teaching mandatory first-year English classes in the local university. Heh.

Whoever you are, please feel at home in my parlour. If it's cold where you live, pull a chair close to the fireplace.

This blog is intended to be relatively clean and respectable (most modifiers are relative) in contrast with my erotic fiction, which can be found elsewhere.

Approximately 60 (I no longer count every one) of my sexually-explicit stories have been published in print anthologies such as Best Fantastic Erotica 1, newly hatched (like a baby dragon) by Circlet Press, edited by publisher Cecilia Tan, the Best Lesbian Erotica series from Cleis Press (BLE 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6 (one of Maxim Jakubowski's series of already-published material), two December-holiday anthos edited by Alison Tyler for Cleis (Merry Xxxmas, 2006, and Naughty or Nice, 2007), some fetish anthos edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Sexiest Soles: Erotic Stories About Feet and Shoes and the forthcoming Rubber Sex, both from Alyson Books), and many more.

If you want a complete list, just ask.

In January 2008, Eternal Press of Australia brought out my first single-author collection of erotic stories, Obsession, consisting of 14 stories in various sexual flavours and genres (fantasy, realistic contemporary, noir, historical). It is availabe only in e-form until summer 2008, when it is scheduled to go into print.

I also write reviews for a website, Erotica Revealed, run by Diane King of New York, where you can read about current erotic books before spending your hard-earned cash on them.
My reviews also appear fairly often on the sites Clean Sheets, girlphoria, TCM Reviews, Rainbow Reviews (for GLBT material), and in print journals The Gay and Lesbian Review (from Mass., formerly produced at Harvard), Batteries Not Included and Perceptions: The Gay/Lesbian Newsmagazine of the Prairies.

You can also find me in some other odd places in cyberspace - sometimes in other folks' blogs. I post to Live Journal as "Lizardlez." (And you might find a photo of me with my turquoise lizard tattoo.)

I like to jump across the gap between the world of academic lit-crit and the various worlds of sexually-explicit writing on the screen & the page. Academics, strangely enough, live in bodies like everyone else. Most human beings have minds, to use the term loosely. The perceived gulf between mind and body, a stale remnant of a kind of medieval Christian mindset, does not really exist.

Would you like to hear my spiel on the differences between the vebs "to lie" and "to lay"? Or my explanation of why "splitting an infinitive" has been traditionally described as a dangerous act of rebellion? (Incidentally, that's the name of a story about my alter ego, Dr. Athena Chalkdust.)
Or why the subjunctive voice in English is not simply a kind of outdated organ like the appendix? No? Well, maybe another day.

Feel free to check in again to read the rant, uh discussion du jour.