Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mormon Erotica

Greetings Gentle Readers! Are any of you still out there? I'm back after a 2 year hiatus, much of it spent writing my new romance novel, Mormon Erotica. Okay, so "erotica" might be a stretch. But there is some hugging and kissing, a little PG sex, and plenty of romance -- just in time for Valentine's Day!

Over the years I've had a love/hate relationship with LDS romance novels. Because I used to be a Mormon, I want to enjoy a good love story set in a culture that I easily connect to. Only the LDS, Inc.  formula is so disappointing:
Boy swears off dating because he's bored with the selection at church. Then he falls for a nonmember or inactive Mormon because she's so different. Only in order to marry her he has to either convert or reconvert her, thus changing her into the kind of girl that bored him in the first place.
Was that good for you? I think my take on the genre offers more satisfaction, not to mention reality. And I love my central characters: Jim Maxwell, a devout LDS single dad, and Sadie Gordon, a lapsed Latter-day Saint and author of Mormon "erotica."

Holly Welker writes: "Mormon Erotica, the new novel from Donna Banta is a joyous page-turner...this post-Mormon twist on the romance novel is a breath of fresh air." Read her entire review here.

Leah Elliot writes: "Mormon Erotica is a quick read. It is funny, and the container of humor tempers some deeply poignant reflections on a universally human dilemma that is more important now than ever: How do we live with and love all of the people in our lives through the full range of both our commonalities and our differences." Read her entire review here.

Check out this excerpt. Jim and Sadie, having just reconnected at an LDS wedding reception, sneak out to Starbucks:

“Starbucks is just up the street,” I said, once my bishop’s youngest daughter had left with her signed copy of Laying on of Hands. “Follow me?” I pointed to my Prius. “Same model as yours.”
As I drove I remembered that Sunday School story about a job interview for drivers on a dangerous route. The first applicant said he could drive clear to the edge of the road. The second said he could drive partially over the edge. The third said he stayed as far from the edge as possible. Shaking my head as I pulled into a parking space, I felt myself drifting toward the edge.
But once safe inside the establishment where my sister claimed no decent woman could be found, my anxiety eased. I bought us a decaf coffee and a hot chocolate and then showed Sadie to my usual table.
She took a drink of her decaf. “Remember that pompous lecture you gave me when I ordered the Dr. Pepper?”
“I remember you threw it in my face.”
“I was so mad at you.”
You were mad at me?”
“I also recall how we made up.”
I blushed and swigged my chocolate.
Sadie used her napkin to dab the edge of my mouth. “Whipped cream,” she explained.
“I heard you got divorced. How come?” I asked.
“You still don’t beat around the bush.”
“Still a perfect Mormon, Jim?”
“Nope again. I’m a divorced single dad.”
“How many kids?”
“I have a fourteen-year-old daughter, Julia.”
Sadie grinned. “Oh my, a teenaged girl.”
“Don’t get me started.”
“Still a right-winger?”
“Nope. In fact, my sister claims I’m an eco-fascist.”
She ran a slender finger around the rim of her cup. “Excellent. Still a computer nerd?”
“Freelance nerd. I design mobile apps. Still cheat at Scrabble, Sadie?”
“I’ve never cheated at Scrabble, Maxwell. You still think a Woody Allen movie qualifies as porn?”
“I liked Manhattan Murder Mystery.”
“How about Vicky Cristina Barcelona?”
“Haven’t seen it. Let’s move on to music. Still a fan of Men Without Hats?”
Sadie burst out laughing, and in a manner so infectious it drew smiles from the people around us.
After a long breath, she answered, “I’m a Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé kind of person these days.”
“Why’d you get divorced, Sadie?”
“We were both Mormons at the time and only married because we were desperate to have sex. After that, there was nothing to talk about.” Her neckline slipped sideways to reveal her bra strap. It was silky and beige like her dress.
“No back and forth over politics? Woody Allen?”
“He only watched sports.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. The sex was fantastic. We even kept it up after the divorce.”
My lips parted.
“But now he’s remarried. She models lingerie.”
All of a sudden I started sweating. I loosened my tie and undid my top button. “Kids?” I half-gasped.
“No. No kids.” Sadie leaned against the booth and the silky strap disappeared. “And I’m married to my work.”
“You don’t date?”
She shook her head. “You remember how much I hated those church mix and mingles.”
“But now you don’t go to them.”
“Yeah, I do. Only with alcohol. And it does nothing to dull the pain.”
I laughed.
“Besides, I’m still hopelessly attracted to Mormon men.”
“Really?” My pulse rose.
She shrugged. “At least I can write them into erotic scenes.”
My cheeks burning, I grabbed for my cup and nearly knocked it over.
“What’s your story, Jim?”
I took a long sip of chocolate, collecting myself as I swallowed. “After grad school I moved back here and met a pretty girl I liked. We lasted three years.”
“A pretty girl you liked? I’m surprised it lasted three years.”
“She wouldn’t let me touch her.”
Sadie stared at me. In this light her eyes looked more green than brown. “How’d Julia happen?”
“Whitney only let me violate her during ovulation. That’s what she called it, violation.”
“Sounds like she needed professional help.”
“She thought I was the one who needed help. Said I had a sex addiction. Kept prodding me to talk to the bishop.”
“Did you?”
All of a sudden I found myself making a conscientious effort not to look at her breasts. “Did I what? Have a sex addiction?”
“No.” She laughed and briefly squeezed my arm, sending a shiver of excitement through to my bones. “Did you talk to your bishop?”
“Sure. A couple of them, in fact. They sympathized with my situation, but couldn’t offer any advice other than to be patient with her.”
“What about Whitney? Did you ask her what she wanted in bed?”
“Gosh, yes. I even searched online for ideas. When I suggested some she went ballistic, claimed I was demanding she perform unnatural acts.”
Sadie set down her coffee cup and in a raised voice said, “For heaven’s sake, there’s nothing wrong with oral sex.”
The couple at the next booth smiled our way. I realized that someday I was going to have to reconstruct this conversation in order to understand just how we got to this point.

Want to know if these two can find lasting happiness together? Order your copy here.

Oh! And don't forget to vote in this year's Brodie Awards. There are some great contenders this year, including 2 of my own posts for Main Street Plaza, nominated in the "Best LDS Culture Piece" and "Best Book Review" categories. Vote here.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Signing Off On Ward Gossip

After six years and over 300 posts, I've finally decided to move on. It won't be easy! I've loved writing this little Mormon-themed blog. Even more, I've loved the responses I've gotten from so many readers - not only in the comment fields, but in private emails, snail mail (I received a lovely gift from a reader just the other day**), and in real life. I've made countless new friends via this blog and I am grateful and indebted to all of you for your encouragement and support. I'm even thankful for the occasional snarky reader who has kept me on my toes. It's been a great six years.

** the DVD and CD's, Gentle Reader/You Know Who You Are!

Ward Gossip started as a writing exercise. Since I was at work on my first Mormon-themed mystery novel, a Mormon blog seemed a natural companion. My early posts took the form of emails from the (fictional) Abbottsville 4th Ward. Later I added "other musings" to include articles from the (also fictional) "Salt Lake News" as well as some book reviews, obits, and my own op-eds. With a few exceptions, I've opted for humor, so that we might laugh at the things we once took too seriously.

My favorite subjects have been the rank and file Mormons, those obedient, ever-cheerful, perennial do-gooders who struggle in vain to live up to the Brethren's impossible expectations. Hapless and lovable, they never cease to inspire laughter.
 And so on.

Of course there are plenty of funny blogs out there to fill any void Ward Gossip might leave behind. For starters, there's the amazing blogroll in my sidebar. Also check out the nominees for this year's Brodie Awards. Voting ends February 5, 2016. Ward Gossip is up for 2 categories: "Best Parody" and (fittingly) "Best Exit Story."

I'm going to leave the site up for an indefinite amount of time, as a cure for insomniacs, also for the link to my 2 Mormon-themed mystery novels, as well as the links to the sites on my amazing blogroll. I may be taking a break from writing, but definitely not from reading! I'll keep the roll current, adding new sites as I find them. Also, who knows? Those zany Brethren in Salt Lake may pull something crazy enough to resurrect Ward Gossip from the dead. At this point that's hard to imagine. But stranger things have happened.

If you're on Facebook and haven't already done so, please send me a friend request. Or follow me on Twitter. I haven't been active there so far, but I see more tweets in my future. Since I intend to keep writing, I imagine I'll start another blog or website at some point, or maybe contribute to a group blog. If there's one that will have me.

But first I'm taking a breather ... and maybe fixing myself a cocktail! After all, it is Friday.

Tonight Mark and I will raise our glasses in a series of toasts. First to the Gentle Readers who have followed Ward Gossip - I am forever in your debt. Then to all the funny, Mormon-themed blogs. Next to the hapless and lovable Mormons who inspire them. And finally to laughter. Because, lord knows, we all dearly need to laugh.

If you would like to stop receiving these emails - today is your Lucky Day!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

LDS Youth Participate in Another Fake Q&A

Last night the LDS Church aired a "Face to Face" with Elder Rasband (Quorum of the Twelve), Sister Oscarson (General Young Women president), and Brother Owen (General Young Men president).

View here.

The 80 minute program was presented as an "unscripted" Q&A with young audience members either raising their hands in the local Salt Lake venue or remotely querying via email or social media.

However, after listening for only a few minutes, it seemed obvious (to me anyway) that the whole thing had been written in advance. Not only were the questions outside the teenaged vernacular:
"Brother Owen, how can I not feel so alone when I know those around me have so many different standards?" 
But the answers sounded like mini-conference talks replete with "great question, Andrea," the perfect homey personal experience - not too verbose - then, "and the moral is..." Clearly the answers had already been prepared to questions the leaders had already chosen.

Of course, what could I expect? Imagine the apoplectic fit a real question might have inspired:
"Sister Oscarson, I've been living with my dad and step-dad now for 5 years. They're really good to me. But since the church changed its policy about the children of gay parents, I feel pressured to move in with mom and her boyfriend. Do I really have to? It creeps me out when her boyfriend reaches up my dress."
"Brother Owen, I'm going on a mission soon. Only lately I've been doing a lot of masturbating. I'm not sure I can stop. Does that mean I won't get any converts?"
See what I mean? We all know that's never going to happen.

I'm reminded of one of the last church meetings I attended. It was a joint Relief Society/Priesthood meeting in suburban Dallas. Our stake president was the featured speaker. I found myself seated next to a gentleman I'd never seen before. Thinking he was either a new ward member or perhaps a visitor from out of town, I made an attempt to welcome him. He went out of his way to ignore me, to the point of rudeness. Then the stake president stood before us, and, after some brief introductory remarks, turned the time over to questions from the audience.

The rude guy next to me eagerly raised his hand and the stake president immediately called on him.
"President, how can we teach our youth the difference between worldly knowledge and spiritual knowledge?"
At that moment I realized what was going on. The guy didn't want to talk to me because he was a ringer. He had been put there to set up the stake president for the answer he'd already prepared on the topic he'd already chosen. I thought to myself, "How could a grown man reduce himself to participating in such a sleazy and transparent con?"

Today, some twenty years later, I finally have my answer. He was trained to do so in his youth!

I kept listening to that broadcast, hoping against hope that one of those apprentice shills would switch sides and ask a real question.
Elder Rasband, how can I not feel like a dope when I know my friends with different standards are at the school science fair while I'm here reciting your prewritten lines in this phony Q&A? 
Unfortunately, I knew that wasn't going to happen.

***Awards season is upon us again. Don't forget to visit Main Street Plaza vote for your Mormon-themed favorites in the Brodie Awards!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Utah Says No to Trump!

I hardly ever venture into politics here, but today am making an exception.

This morning's New York Times ran a story about Donald Trump's relative popularity among Republican voters. According to the article, of all the traditional Republican enclaves, Utah has the weakest showing of Trump supporters.

Now, I don't say this very often, but, WAY TO GO, UTAH!

I'm neither a Utahan nor a Republican, and therefore in no position to explain this dynamic. Hopefully some of my Gentle Readers will weigh in on this in the comment field.

Mark says it's because Mormons adhere to organizations and therefore oppose Trump and his rejection of the Republican establishment. I see his point, only I'm pretty sure there are a sizable number of Rand Paul supporters in Utah - and he's hardly a team player either.

Could it be that Utah Republicans are too smart to buy a used car from a flamboyant blowhard who looks like he should be plugging the ShamWow?

Maybe. - But then they will buy an old beater from a reticent navy-suit who looks like he should be managing a crooked hedge fund. They'll even throw in 10% of their income.

Could it be the hair? I have to admit, that lacquered combover almost makes the Mormons' genetic male-pattern baldness look sexy. Almost.

Perhaps I'm overthinking things. What the heck, it's the holidays, and on this rare occasion, Mark and I find ourselves on the same side as the Utah Republicans. At least for the moment. That's reason enough to break out the champagne - even if it weren't New Year's Eve.

Cheers and Happy 2016!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Crazy Talk Gets Even Crazier

Mormons have always gone crazy in defense of their church and its teachings. It's never enough for a member to grudgingly go along with whatever the Brethren come up with next. She/he is expected to embrace each new policy or pronouncement with orgasmic excitement.

Yes, Brethren, YES! 

Although, in the wake of the recent new church policy regarding the children of same-sex couples, the quality of "faking it" has cheapened considerably. Uber-faithful Saints who used to carry on like Sally with Harry are now coming off more like Princess Leia with Jabba the Hutt. 

And the crazy-a**ed arguments they're making! For example, this popular post from (Gay) Mormon Guy that has been floating around social media for the past month. In it the openly gay, (I'm assuming) celibate, believing Mormon blogger argues that the Brethren are being totally fair. After all, the children of gay couples are not the only aspiring members who must face estrangement from their families. Among his examples are the daughter of fringe Mormon polygamists, and the son of radical Islamists who threatened to kill him for leaving their faith. 

I'll give the former extremist Muslim kid a pass for cutting ties with Mom and Dad. But I'm not even going to try to wrap my head around the (gay) blogger's logic of comparing married same-sex parents to homicidal fanatics. If any of my more intellectually grounded readers would like to take a pass at it, I welcome your insight.

As for the polygamy argument, I keep hearing it from seemingly thoughtful Mormons, even - and perhaps especially - from those who are gay.

How can an admittedly gay man equate his natural desire to be with another man to some creepy old pervert's desire to collect underaged girls? (Or to homicidal fanatics, for that matter?) How does one reduce himself to this level of self loathing? For the Brethren? Face it, they're a bunch of clueless old white men.

How clueless? Consider these remarks from apostle Dallin Oaks at a recent BYU Christmas address. Thanks to Heather! I saw this first on her blog, Four Monkeys.

"A few years ago, I analyzed the Christmas cards I received at my office and home. There were many, so this was not a small sample. Significantly, my sample was biased toward religious images and words by the fact that most of the cards were sent by fellow leaders or members of my faith.
I sorted the cards I received into three groups. In the first group I put the traditional cards—those with an overt mention of Christ and/or pictures evocative of the birth of the Savior. Only 24 percent of the cards I received were of this traditional character.
In the second group were those cards whose pictures and visuals were not at all religious, but they did have the words “Merry Christmas” to identify the religious origin of the holiday. This was the largest group—47 percent.
In the third group—comprising 29 percent of the cards I received—there was no mention of Christ or Christmas and no religious visuals at all. These cards had words like “Season’s Greetings,” “Happy Holidays,” “Peace in the New Year,” or “Peace and Beauty of the Season.” A few were so daring as to refer to “Peace on Earth” or “Faith, Hope, and Love,” but none had any pictures suggestive of religion.

For Latter-day Saints, Christmas should be a time to celebrate the birth of the Son of God and also to remember His teachings. In reality, His life has had greater impact on every part of this world and its history than any life ever lived. His gifts to us are the greatest gifts ever given—the assurance of immortality and the opportunity for eternal life. Those are the gifts we should celebrate at this and every Christmas." 

See what I mean Gentle Readers? Nobody should be lying down on her back for some creepy old man who spends his quality time dividing his holiday cards into groups and then running statistical analysis to determine the standard deviation of the appearance of the words "Christmas" and "Savior."

Nevertheless, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that since Oaks' talk, Utah Valley stationary stores have been booming with business from shamefaced customers who've dumped their "holiday" cards for a new set of "Christmas" cards. And heaven help the poor schlubs who had already put theirs in the mail! -Sigh- You really don't need to act like you're enjoying it!

In that spirit, I wish you all Happy Holidays and Peace in the New Year! Thanks, as always, for reading.

I also hope that my above reference to Princess Leia doesn't dampen your enjoyment of the new Star Wars movie.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Loving that Appearance of Evil

It's tricky being a Mormon. They have to obey all these rules - or at least look like they're obeying them. That's the key. Looking the part.

Just about every Sunday Mormons are reminded to "avoid the appearance of evil." This gospel tenant is driven so deeply into their collective psyche that you'll find them rushing to explain even the slightest possible misperceptions.
Brother Benson, I know you saw me standing in front of the liquor store, but it was only because I was admiring an ad featuring a guy that looked like someone I used to play ball with. . . . Not that I'm gay or anything.
The problem is the emphasis on appearances doesn't stop at the chapel doors. During the week Mormons go out into the world, equally obsessed with how they look, especially when they're hanging with "the cool kids" - aka "nonmembers." This is why you'll see hipster-clad Mormons at Starbucks buying milk in cool looking cups or at LDS wedding receptions guzzling Martinelli's in cool looking champagne flutes. Say what you want about "evil." Bottom line, it looks really cool.

Speaking of Mormon wedding receptions, some years ago Mark and I attended one such cool looking affair in Dallas. The posh gathering featured a martini bar. Only, because it was a Mormon home, the caterers had to substitute mashed potatoes for the gin or vodka, gravy for the vermouth, sour cream for the twist of lemon, etc. Are you following me, Gentle Readers? They served mashed potatoes in martini glasses. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

As we were leaving this sophisticated soiree, Mark suavely turned to me and, in his coolest voice, said, "Make mine mashed, not baked." Then we went to a bar. I mean a real one.

In light of all this, the recent Utah Soda Wars should come as no surprise. (Read more here.)

Evidently there's been a rise of "dirty soda shops" staffed with "mixologists" who serve soft drinks laced with non-alcoholic flavor shots, offering Mormons the guilty pleasure of ordering what sounds like a cocktail. Competition is fierce, with 2 chains vying in court over the use of the term "dirty."

Care for an Extra-Dirty Second Wife? It's a combo of Mountain Dew, fruit syrups and half and half. Salud!

According to the article, these establishments have their share of regulars:
They know me, they know my drinks, and they get excited when I walk in,” she (a regular) added. “It makes me feel good.”
And, no wonder. It's like . . . everybody knows her name.

Dare I boast that I saw this coming? In my 11/17/11 post, It's Ward Cocktail Hour!, Abbottsville Stake President Dennis Newsome suggested cocktail recipes featuring his own alcohol substitutes. For example:

Long Island Iced Tea
3/4 oz Windex
3/4 oz clam juice
3/4 oz root beer
3/4 oz Mountain Dew
3/4 oz Karo Syrup
3/4 oz Mr Bubble
dash of lemon juice

Rum and Coke
1 part root beer
2 parts root beer

Gee, maybe I should sue somebody.

Or, better yet, maybe Mark and I will just toast the Mormons again over our ritual Friday night cocktails - made with real booze - not Mountain Dew or mashed potatoes.

May the Saints continue to keep up appearances!
Brother Benson, I know you saw me with that drink in my hand, but it wasn't a real cocktail, it was just my favorite Extra Dirty Returned Missionary. . . . Not that I'm gay or anything.