Category Archives: Jewish fiction

Marriage, sex and death

Or should it be sex, death, and marriage? Hello from the depth of my creative cave.

I’ve been offline for a long time (sorry) trying to dig my way through this novel about Abigail, her husband, Ben, and his brother, Daniel, all of whom are caught in the love triangle that is a Levirate marriage (or yibbum as it is known in Hebrew).

It’s been slow going – unfortunately, I’ve thrown out somewhere in the region of 50,000 words – but I am now beginning to believe again that this novel will come to an end and will be published sometime this year.

In terms of actual progress, I’ve written around 60,000 keep-able words of the draft; I’ve killed the husband, Ben; and I am creating a tension between Abigail and Daniel that is starting to get momentum.

Image by Christiana Rivers https://www.zengardenproductions.com/christiana
Image by Christiana Rivers https://www.zengardenproductions.com/christiana

There is sex, but this is more than a novel about sex – it is about people and their decisions, their lives, their relationship with Judaism and community and family. Who am I kidding? It is also about sex and how it can drive us, blind us and generally muddy the water when it comes to life.

One of other big challenges is working out just how Levirate marriage laws apply in contemporary Orthodox Judaism – and what that means for the plot. It has not been as simple as I had initially imagined it would be and I am going to have to seek halachic guidance from a rabbi. But more on that later…

If you would like to hear about the book’s release (and any associated deals I might run), please join my mailing list. I promise you won’t be spammed, in fact, I am naughty for not having sent out an email in …forever!

Stay well, Shosha xx

 

Top image from www.StillsByHernan.com

‘I Will Watch You’ out now in paperback

imageIt’s taken a while, I know, but at last my short story collection is now available in paperback. Hurray!

Ebooks are great, but if you’re anything like me, it’s good to have something you can hold in your hands – and, perhaps more importantly, something you can read on Shabbat!

The stories are currently only available for order through Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or through the various European Amazon sites. But in a few weeks they will also be available via other online stores, so stay tuned!

And you will see from the image here that I have tried to make the cover as discreet as possible – making it appropriate for reading while commuting (I dare you!) or for cursory glimpses by your in-laws.

If you are interested in buying a copy (thank you!) just be aware that this is a slim volume because the stories are all fairly short. With that in mind, I have set the price as low as possible.

I have also made the ebook free on Amazon for five days from December 31 so you can download a copy from Amazon at the same time that you pick up your paper edition (!). And, of course, fear not, the ebook will remain free on this website if you miss the Amazon sale.

As always, please consider leaving an honest review of the stories on your local Amazon site – it really helps – or drop me a line if you have any thoughts you’d like to share.

Wishing you a safe and delight-filled end to 2015.

Shosha x

 

 

Friday night dinner: what happens when the guests go home?

‘Let’s Bench’, my most recent short fiction piece, was published by Jewrotica last month.

If you haven’t yet read any of my other stories, or if the only ones you have read are the original two on this site – ‘Fringes of Memory‘ and ‘Before the Canopy‘ – then you will see that my latest tale turns up the heat (although for those of you who have read ‘I Will Watch You‘, you will know this is not the only example I have of explicitly detailed sexual encounters).

The story looks at what can happen when a guest is inappropriately flirtatious with his hostess and how that affects the sexual dynamic between a husband and wife. In this case, it leads to what has been elegantly termed: “jealous arousal”.

If you would like to read some more about the story’s evolution, then take a look at my latest email to my mailing list (where you can also read my ponderings on erotic fiction).

But better yet, why not read the story?

Screen shot 2015-03-03 at 7.23.13 AM

 

The new year in focus – smiling into 2015

The end of the calendar year is a curious thing. It might not be very Jewish to celebrate New Year’s Eve (NYE), but it’s quite hard not to notice it. Franky, I feel a compulsion to mark the changes in our measurement of time –  from one year to next – because as long as we use the Gregorian Calendar, New Year’s Eve has temporal resonance for Jews as much as anyone else.

Of course, marking the event this year has been made more complicated as year New  Year’s Day 2015 coincides with Asarat B’Tevet. But those for whom this would be an issue (ie those who celebrate NYE with vigour AND who fast on Asarat B’Tevet) are likely to be few. I’m not overly concerned.

When I was younger I threw myself into the annual celebration with enthusiasm, but experience has informed me that the quest to capture that much anticipated magical moment of time in the midst of a whole lot of other people who are seeking exactly the same thing means that there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. I’m not saying those moments didn’t happen – they did, once or twice – but after a while I realised that the moment I was most likely to experience was anti-climax.  And that’s ok for a while and then you realise you’re better off staying home.

And so we did; this year, as for many years, we marked the event at home. We persuaded some friends to brave the five minute walk to our house to join us in the last half hour of the year to share a bottle of Tishbi red wine, the burst of revelry somewhere in neighbouring streets alerting us when the clock ticked over. It was a moment without expectation and it was genuinely pleasant.

While many people within the Jewish world may feel an awkwardness in relation to NYE, I am in favour of any event that makes us stop and think about our lives from a perspective that is not just daily (or hourly). The measurement of time gives us a framework by which to view of our existence from a distance. Like Rosh Hashanah, the secular year beginning offers an opportunity to contemplate what we have done over the previous 12 months. Unlike Rosh Hashanah, the introspection of NYE is less concerned with measuring how we have conducted ourselves and is more focused on glancing back at how the plot of our lives unfolded – and our hopes regarding what the next turn in the narrative my take.

On a personal level, 2014 was a challenging year which ended with kindness, providing me with a quiet sense of optimism about 2015.  I hope it will be the year in which Shosha Pearl unleashes her wings and begins to fly.

May 2015 be a year of good storytelling, but more importantly, may it be one of chesed, ahava and shalom (kindness, love and peace) for all.

 

Preparing for launch day

Shosha Pearl www.shoshapearl.comShosha Pearl has a face. It’s taken a year and a half of being an online reality, but at last she has a face and I think it’s pretty cute! Don’t you?

Recently, I read a fantastic book on self-publishing, Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success), the first part of an amazing self-publishing box set. Apart from learning much from the authors, the book has given me a kick-start back to work after my illness. It reminded me that the only way I am going to be a self-published author is if I AM a self-published author. In other words, if I do the work.

The other great lesson I absorbed was that you are really only as good as your next work: write your book, get it out into the universe, but don’t stop there. If you want to quit your day job and spend your life doing what you love, you have to treat it with the same commitment you would any salaried position. You need to Write. Publish. Repeat.

So, I have been back at my keyboard, going on journeys I didn’t expect, with destinations as yet undetermined. A short story I wrote last week has morphed into something unidentifiable; another is waiting to be submitted for publication after the release of my story collection, ‘I Will Watch You’. Of course progress is slow when jobs, families, homes and life take priority over creativity. These little steps forward can only happen if I manage to get out of bed an hour or so earlier (not easy for a night person) and type away without reserve. But I am doing it…

I Will Watch You cover image small Shosha PearlAt the same time, I am also finalising the ‘I Will Watch You’ collection and making it publication ready – this has been a long time coming considering the modesty of the work. The cover is now done. As you can see, it’s very pink, but we wanted to make it eye-catching so as to avoid burial amongst the crowds at Amazon. (You like?) I have a few short textual elements to insert, but the biggest task ahead is the formatting of the book for Kindle as well as for other platforms. This is the challenge that is making me nervous.

(Note: as you may have already noticed, the final version of the cover eventually changed.)

But once all that is done, the book should at last be delivered by the end of January 2015 (please G-d!). In anticipation of this, I have spent time over the past few days reworking the website. I have taken on board the experience of people who have visited the site and adjusted things accordingly – which is why the short stories are more visible on the front page. And I am trying to keep the conversation going on my blog which will (hopefully) soon evolve into a conversation with subscribers, hence the new sign-up widget on the site (please sign up, it really will be worthwhile!).

The little time that I do have for this creative endeavour is producing more – and better – outcomes than I could possibly have hoped. Shosha Pearl is a vehicle of creation who feels like she has found her moment. And now, Baruch Hashem, she has a face too!

Frankly, it’s all so very exciting. Please stay with me on the journey.

What’s all this nonsense about halachic erotica?

I like to make a bit of a deal about how I created my own literary sub-genre: ‘halachic erotica’ (halacha is the Hebrew term for Jewish law). It sounds indulgent – and perhaps it is – but I allow myself to dwell on it for a number of reasons:

1. It’s true. I really did make it up and I am proud of my creation – in a nachas rather than ga’avah kind of way. (In other words, I am proud in a parental pride kind of way rather than the ‘I’m so great, look at me’ way.)

2. Talking about the stories in literary terms works to distract the minds of people whose stunned expressions betray their confusion/horror at hearing what I write about. These expressions articulate the shock people feel when they learn that these sorts of stories exist – and then five seconds later, the sense of bemusement that they had never before heard of their existence (mention Jewrotica and you get much the same response). Often, it’s as if they are offended at the possibility that they’ve been left out of a communal circle of confidence. Explaining that I made up this outrageous form of Jewish fiction seems, somehow, to make everyone feel more comfortable about a world in which halachic erotica exists – and their place in this newly reconfigured reality.

3. It’s like putting a ribbon around a gift. Giving these stories, which I try to make beautiful, their own special genus seems appropriate. Just as I try to create something that is a pleasure to read, so too do I want to honour them -and the characters that emerge from them – by giving them a formal place in the world. This might seem trite, but it’s how I feel.

With few exceptions, the stories that I write are about the intimacy that exists between a Jewish woman and her husband. They are about the sacred sexual power that desire and love can have for couples. They are about longing, tenderness, passion and obsession – states of being that are common to couples of all creeds and colours, including religiously observant Jews.

When I started on this creative path the lighting was dim. I knew I wasn’t going to write about anything that conflicted with mainstream halacha and I guessed that a lot of the stories would involve frum types, but I didn’t know much more. It’s been a surprise that the stories that have come to life from my keyboard so far have focused exclusively on religiously observant Jews – although from a distance this seems an obvious outcome. I am curious to know how things will develop over time.

In the meantime, it is exciting to watch these little tales of lust unfold before me. They contain elements of the unexpected that surprise and delight me as their creator – and I hope there will be readers who share my pleasure in glimpsing briefly into the lives of these characters.

Rich, poor, Jewish or not; we all share common human drives and desires. I enjoy showing that religious Jews, like the rest of the world, enjoy sex, share desire and dream of sexual reward. The only differences are the cultural and religious frameworks that govern how much of the broader sexual landscape they are exposed to (eg porn, popular discourse) and, to an extent, how far halacha will let them go.

 

The decision to publish is like eating the last of your favourite chocolates

Really! It means you can’t hold on to the anticipation any longer: you don’t have that moment to look forward to – and there is a chance that everything could be downhill from here.

Although we live in hope.

I made the decision to publish my short story collection about four months ago. Once I realised this was an option, I became very (very!) excited – and not just because it offered a legitimate distraction from my novella, which had been causing me – and continues to cause me – confusion. It also provided an opportunity to do something with  stories that I was proud of, but which, until then, I had not really known what I should do with.

A woman with a mission, I edited and re-edited and then sent my edited stories to be beta-read by friends, family and colleagues. All this was completed within two months (about seven weeks ago). But then, inexplicably, the momentum stopped and my manuscript sat waiting. And it waited.

I chose my cover art two months ago. Time after time I  revisited the image bank to check that I liked the picture, to see if it still worked – I did and it did. But still, I did not buy it.

Then yom tov happened. So nothing else happened.

One of the amazing things about Tishrei is that after all the yammin tovim, I invariably feel like I need to make up for lost time. And no doubt I do. So, this week I finally began to appreciate that my short story collection was never going to exist in the world if I didn’t get it out there. I heard my own call to action.

Two nights ago I bought the cover art. I was exited (you like?).

Beautiful pic, no?
Beautiful pic, no?

Last night I emailed the image and instructions to a friend who is arranging for a designer to put together a cover (thank you!). It was a difficult email to write, but I am grateful for the enthusiastic response my friend sent me. My shoulders loosened and the thrill came back. Excitement.

Today, in an unexpectedly brave move, I sent my manuscript to an editor. Now it is real.

I am that person who hoards their favourite chocolates for so long that they turn grey (or worse, green!) – and then has to throw them out. I am that person who puts aside a gift voucher for a special occasion, but leaves it so long that I wind-up wasting it on something I don’t particularly like because it is about to expire (or worse, it has already expired!).

Delayed gratification is delicious. But delay too long and it gets moldy.

So this week Shosha Pearl, the writer of halachic Jewish erotica, started taking her project seriously again. I’ve popped the last chockie in my mouth and it is oozing delight all over.