Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Geisha means Artist

In The Valmont Contingency, Tasha Ocasek’s mother is a master geisha, who runs a school in the traditional Nipponese arts on the planet Honshu. Tasha spent the first eight years of her life with her mother, and has kept up her studies of the samisen, a traditional instrument played by plucking strings. She can also correctly apply the highly stylized makeup mostly worn by apprentice geisha, who are usually known as maiko.

I want to make one thing very, very clear: a geisha is not a prostitute or a courtesan. Geisha means artist, and so women who work as geisha dance, play musical instruments, wear traditional clothing, hairstyles and makeup (although they usually only bother with full makeup for important events), and perform the Tea Ceremony.

Hiring a full geisha to perform for an evening is very expensive, sort of like hiring an opera singer, or a concert violinist. Visiting a geisha‘s tea house is the equivalent of going to a highly accurate Renn Faire. It isn’t anything like hiring an Escort.

This is not to say that the traditional cultures of Japan and China did not include prostitutes and courtesans, because they did. And those courtesans and prostitutes wore full kimono, elaborate hairstyles and full stylized makeup. Confusing, right?

One quick way to tell the difference is that a geisha will always have her obi (kimono belt) tied in back, requiring someone to dress her and undress her. She’s not going to shed that very expensive traditional kimono until she’s done for the day. A yujo (prostitute) or oiran (courtesan) ties her obi in front so that she can undress and dress herself.

A note of caution: Sometimes respectable middle-class women tied their obi in front as well, particularly if they were working. You don’t want to mistake a hard-working farmwife for a woman of pleasure — it could cause all kinds of trouble.

Victoria’s Secret recently got in trouble for advertising a “naughty geisha” outfit, which appeared to be a mesh body suit with fabric in a few strategic places. As far as I’m concerned, they should have gotten in trouble, because a naughty geisha would wear a translucent kimono with a wide obi providing strategic coverage — you know, like Tasha’s Red Kimono, not something that snaps in the crotch.



Valmont Contingency Excerpt–First Kiss

Garrick gave up. She was scared and frustrated, and he didn’t want an implosion. He’d already been through one of those and, honestly, didn’t care to repeat the experience.

Ripping damn, he wanted to help her. “Would you feel better if you slapped me?”

She huffed. “You haven’t done anything to warrant it.” Then she frowned. “Lately.”

“Fine,” he agreed. “I’ll do something tacky and rude, you can slap me for it, and then we’ll move on.” Without waiting for a response he dragged her against him and sank his fingers into her hair, using the silky mass to pull her head back.


He covered her mouth with his, swallowing whatever else she was going to say.

Her entire body went stiff and he congratulated himself on a job well done. In another second or two she would shove, he would let go and brace for impact. Any second now. Any…

She melted.

The stiffness turned into soft curves, her palms slid up his chest and her lips parted. Her tongue flicked out to touch the inside of his lower lip and the really weird thing happened. The top of his head blew off, taking most of his brain with it. Rational thought was a dim memory and all those “baser” instincts it overruled were now in control. The drive to breathe, to eat.

She moaned quietly, deep in her throat.

The drive to mate.

He had both hands on her backside, pulling her hips tight against his to ease some of the throbbing while she pushed her fingers into his hair. She wrapped one of her legs around his, her bare toes rubbing the back of his calf.


Somehow she’d said his name even while he was trying to lick her tonsils. Her voice was deeper than he would have expected, not as breathy, more…male. Male?

“Captain, this is the bridge. We have a Reich distress call originating in Republic space.”

Ripping hell on a platter. It was Shak, not Tasha. Brain matter reappeared and told him in no uncertain terms exactly how stupid he was, even when everything between his ears was functional. On the other hand, disengaging from that full-body kiss was quite possibly the most physically demanding thing he’d ever done—enough to make him pant from exertion. Exertion. It had to be exertion, because the alternative was a direct violation of half a dozen military rules that he had insisted go into the navy contract.

Tasha mewled in protest, a noise he hoped the comm hadn’t picked up as he tried to control his breathing enough to talk.

“Captain here. What’s the nature of the emergency?”

There was a tangible pause, almost as if Shak was trying to figure out what was going on. Garrick wished him luck. “Engine trouble,” was the eventual response. “Intercept or transmit to Glitzer?”

Well, that would explain what a Reich ship was doing this far over the border. They could have been drifting for a sepcyke. And Direwolf had the ability to help with that kind of emergency. A heavy sigh pushed its way out of his lungs.

“Intercept.” As if he had any choice. And it would keep him far away from Tasha. Direwolf was a tiny ecosystem in the middle of space and he was in control of it. She was dependent on the ship for the oxygen, pressure and heat that kept humans alive in space. She had to be able to trust him not to take advantage of that dependence.

“Bridge out.” Which meant he had five minutes to finish whatever was going on in here before Misha would expect him to show in the ready room.

Garrick glanced down into enormous indigo eyes that were just a little dazed-looking. His ears felt warm. “You were supposed to slap me, remember?”

She blinked at him a couple of times. “Your name is Rick?”

“Yeah.” He started, gently, to pry her off. “That’s me.” Buddha on a stick. He’d been trying to lick her tonsils and she hadn’t known his name. He was a lower life-form than slime mold.

“Oh.” She seemed to realize she still had limbs wrapped around him and let go. She stepped back and looked at the floor, the bulkhead, anywhere but him. “So you’re going to board another ship?”

“It’s my job.” And taking advantage of attractive women who were completely dependent on him was emphatically not part of that particular job. Even if it felt extraordinarily good.

“What if some of them need medical treatment?” She actually tried to dig a toe into the flooring, which looked adorable if almost painfully cliché.

“I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.” He pulled her chin up with a knuckle. “Look, you’re still short of sleep. Twelve hours over six cykes isn’t enough. Nap. If I need you, I’ll call you. I promise.”

Oh god, she was biting her lower lip. Then she nodded. “I’ll try to nap.”

He needed to get away from her for a moment or he was going to dive back into her body, and the guilt from doing it once was bad enough. His ears felt like they might be considering spontaneous combustion.

“You want me to tell Shak he’s getting a new roommate?”

She looked confused. “Who is Shak?”

“Second-shift commander. The guy on the comm just now.”

She blinked several times in succession. Either she was batting her eyes at him, or she was trying not to cry. “No.”

He didn’t have time for this right now, no matter how vulnerable and appealing she was at the moment. Especially given how vulnerable she was at the moment. “Then we’ll talk about the rest of it when I get back, all right?”

She nodded again, somber.

He felt like enviro sludge, but he nodded back. “In the meantime, I have an engine to fix.”


I’m very nearsighted…like, I need my glasses to find my glasses nearsighted. As a result, I’ve never been able to wear a mask without walking into furniture, walls, people, large pets…you name it and I’ve probably smacked a shin on it without corrective eyewear. And I’m not a big enough nerd to wear glasses over a mask.

In The Valmont Contingency, both the hero and heroine use masks. While Garrick doesn’t hide his face, he does hide his name and identity while out on shakedown / privateering patrols. It’s a reasonable precaution, given the kind of people he deals with and his family’s net worth. I’ll discuss Tasha’s mask in my Release Day post on the Carina Press blog.

I’ve noticed that the characters in my stories are never just one thing, just as the people in my life are never just one thing. My supervisor (at the day job) is a software QA manager. He also plays bass guitar in a band. Spooky Man is retired on disability, but he’s also an animal seducer — doesn’t matter what species, they all seem to adore him.

In my stories, the characters often need to disguise or hide part of themselves to protect friends, family or their own future. In Blade’s Edge, Taryn needs to hide that she’s a twin, because it would cloud the line of succession in her small country.

In Open Mike at Club Bebop, the hero has a military handle he uses when in the net, but he keeps it separate from his physical identity for several reasons, including the facial reconstruction after the “friendly fire” incident that nearly killed him. And the fact that he still does clandestine cyberwork for the government.

Once upon a time, I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. As part of developing a persona for recreating history, members are encouraged to research and adopt a Medieval- and/or Renaissance-appropriate name. I still have friends who know me primarily by that name.

Even Val Roberts is not my legal name, but a shortened version of it, in case I need to sign hundreds of autographs at a time one day. Hey, it could happen. Technically, then, I have three identities, although I seem to be able to limit my characters to two identities.

But what about you? Do you have a mask, or an alter-ego that you don’t reveal to everyone? If you’re a superhero, don’t answer that. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for your nemesis discovering your secret.

Be careful out there. Things are not always the way they first appear.

News from Real Life

Last Friday I bought a new car.

I did my homework to figure out exactly which model I wanted, I was pre-approved for a loan from my credit union, I had detailed my trade-in and removed all personal possessions from it, I knew what price point I wanted. I was ready.

It still took four hours to go through the negotiation and buying process (paperwork). It might have taken longer because I didn’t use the dealership for financing, even though all the financial gurus say not to.

It took another half-day to get the new car registered and the insurance switched over. I don’t remember all this extra work when I bought the Subaru, but that was fourteen and a half years ago.

The new car is a slightly used 2012 Ford Escape XLT, with more freaking buttons in the dashboard and steering wheel than some airplanes I’ve flown in.

I think I have to know Morse code to reset the trip odometer, but it locks/unlocks by itself and nags you when the oil needs to be changed. The first time it locked the doors while it was moving, it startled me to the point of almost driving off the road.

It also has an automatic transmission, my first ever. I don’t really like the automatic transmission, but I guess 99.5 percent of humanity is too busy texting, shaving, eating and/or putting on makeup to learn how to control their vehicle by properly using a clutch.

Yes, that was a slam at people who can’t drive a car with a manual transmission. You will not survive the coming apocalypse, as zombie hordes can manage automatics. So there. Ha! (Yes, we still have a car with a five-speed, so we’ll be able to get away.)

Spooky Man has accused me of being twitterpated with the new car. If I am, it’s his fault; he chose the car, because it has the most comfortable passenger seat of all the models on my short list. I am happy with the purchase, even if the process can be exhausting.

God willing, I won’t have to do this again for a decade.

Follow-up note 9/17/2012: I figured out why it took so long to write up the purchase agreement. A credit union I used to belong to 15+ years ago sent me a letter explaining why they turned me down for a loan. I called them, because I didn’t apply for a loan with them. Turns out the dealership did — after I had told them I had my own financing. Sigh.

%d bloggers like this: