Effort vs. Destiny in Long Term Relationships

By Gamal Hennessy

Many romantic relationships suffer from an expectation of fantasy. We understand that health, wealth and personal growth require effort over a long period of time. But our intimate relationships, especially when it comes to sexual expression, are often caught up in concepts like “soulmates”, “true love”, and “happily ever after”. Social psychologist Jessica Maxwell calls this phenomenon sexual destiny belief. She contrasts it with the idea of sexual growth and suggests one is superior to the other when it comes to improving our long term partnerships.

Results suggest that those who are higher in sexual growth beliefs—who think sex takes work—are more satisfied in their sex lives and overall relationships. On the other hand, those who were stronger in sexual destiny beliefs, those who saw sexual problems as a sign that they and their partner weren’t truly soul mates, were more likely to lose faith in a relationship when sexual difficulties arose.
— Jessica Maxwell: How Implicit Theories of Sexuality Shape Relationship Well Being

The implications are clear and they make perfect sense. If we’re willing to learn to improve our minds, or exercise to improve our bodies, or work to improve our finances, then it only makes sense that we need to improve our sexual expression too…

And building a better sex life with your partner is more fun than going to work anyway…

Have fun.


The Best American Erotica 1993: A Book Review

By Gamal Hennessy

From my perspective, Susie Bright is a luminary in the genre of erotic fiction. Not only has she written, edited, and published several books on the subject over the years, her writing guide How to Write a Dirty Story has been an inspiration for all six of the novels I’ve written. I’ve wanted to read her first anthology The Best American Erotica 1993 for years, so when it went on sale on Audible, I downloadedit as soon as I could. Unfortunately, my experience was less than ideal.

The book does have positive qualities. First, there is a wide array of authors who contributed short stories to this collection and the range of erotic expression is very diverse. LGBT, straight and BDSM flavors are all mixed and represented here. Characters of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and economic realities all get time in the spotlight. And the range of sexual expression is also broad. Some characters fully explored their passions, others lost their chance just before they could attain satisfaction, and some struggled to repress or deny the only thing they couldn’t stop thinking about.

But all the stories shared similar flaws. The stories had little or no turning points, no crisis choice that the characters had to make to expose their true nature or alter their condition. They were unchanged from the beginning of the story to the end, and the sexual experiences they had (or didn’t have) did nothing to bring about change in their lives. What they did was on full display. Why they did it or how it defined them was always left out.

It doesn’t have to be that way in erotica or any other genre. We only have to look at the short stories in Delta of Venus, Night in a Moorish Harem or Erotic Interludes to see that sexual expression can be the catalyst for change in a character’s life. Of course, not every sexual encounter alters our existence, but when every story in a collection lacks that element, the whole book suffers.

In terms of the overall presentation of the audio book it’s also a mixed experience. The readers of each piece were very good and their voices matched the nature of the narrator well. However, most of the sex in this book skews towards the nonconsensual. There is diversity here too, as the scenarios range from lack of consent to rape and sustained torture. If you don’t enjoy those types of stories the book might be hard to get through.

Overall, I appreciated the diversity of Best American Erotica, but the stories themselves didn’t satisfy. The series continues for several more volumes, so perhaps the first one can be seen as a viable proof of concept.

Have fun.

A Touch of Honey Teaser Sample Part One

by Gamal Hennessy

Teasers, trailers and samples are an expected part of modern entertainment. Movies, games and TV shows try to build up excitement by offering a sneak peak of new releases. Well, whats good for them is good for me. I want you to get excited about my new novel A Touch of Honey, so all this week Im offering a sample chapter to get you ready for the release on March 17th.


Part One

"So I'm hoping you still have the flash drive you acquired from Cruz Maritime."

Baker opened the cuffs and dropped them into his lap in one smooth motion. Nikki rubbed her wrists to project an image of pain. They didn't really hurt, but she needed to do something with her hands to stall for time. She held his gaze for an extra beat to reinforce her sincerity then shook her head and lied.

"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just a bartender at a strip club, at least I used to be, before you got my attention."

Baker nodded. "I understand what youre trying to do. You want to stick to your cover story as long as possible. Youll deny everything that doesn't fit your legend. That's your first line of defense. It's interrogation resistance 101. But if you were going to work that angle, it would have made sense to act more frightened back in the alley." Baker smiled as if teaching tradecraft to an eager student over drinks. "Let me play along. Ill tell you a little story and pretend to put things in perspective for you. Does that make sense?"

"It's your car."

"Actually, this is a company car. I prefer to drive something much nicer than this on my own time." 

Nikki shook her head in spite of herself. "Whatever."

Baker smiled back "Whatever. Approximately nine months ago, a woman named Nikki Siriene attended a Christmas party in the resort city of Mar del Plata, Argentina. The host of that party was one Manuel Cruz, former President of Cruz Maritime. In the days following that party, Nikki became an intimate acquaintance of both Manuel Cruz and his wife; a French painter named Dominique. What do you think of that picture so far?"

Nikki's jaw clenched as she forced out a response. "A high profile international threesome sounds pretty hot."

"It was, but it got hotter." Baker shifted in his seat to face her. His interest and excitement in the story filled the whole car. The memories he exposed forced bile into her throat. "You see, Manuel didnt know Nikki had been sent to spy on him." Baker let those words hang in the air for a moment as if to savor them. "Prior intelligence suggested Cruz Maritime might be smuggling illegal weapons into Mexico. It was Nikki's job to steal the data that could prove or disprove that suspicion."

A Touch of Honey will be available for all major book platforms on March 17th, 2015. If youd like to get my first novel Smooth Operator for free while youre waiting, just click on this link to get your e-book. 

Have fun.


My Top Ten Books for 2014

Many successful writers advise other writers to read more than they write. I enjoy reading, so I accepted the advice without much fight. I set out to read thirty books in 2014 and according to my tracking on Good Reads, I managed to get through forty books this year. A few books were horrible, several were excellent. To look back on my year, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books for 2014.

Keep in mind this list is for books I read this year, I’m not worried about when the book was released. I also don’t care about format. I read a combination of print, e-book, graphic novel and audio book. I’m concerned with content, not medium. The list includes fiction, non-fiction, how to and humor because I try to be well rounded...

10. The Curriculum by Stanley Bing (audio book): This humorous crash course in business combines concepts in his earlier books (How to Throw an Elephant and What Would Machiavelli Do?) It’s not a funny as the first two books, but it offers more practical advice with it’s laughs.

9. Elektra: Relentless by Rob Rodi and Sean Chen (graphic novel): This book has all the elements of a great Marvel Knights book. It’s a self -contained, character driven story that focuses as more on the humanity of the supporting cast than the “hero” who is almost a force of nature.

8. Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis: Most people see comics as a hobby for nerds and children. A few people see the potential for money with all the movies and TV shows. Word for Pictures focuses on the business and the craft of creating comics in a way I haven’t seen for more than twenty five years.

7. Call for the Dead by John Le Carre (audio book): This turned out to be my least favorite book from one of my favorite authors. Le Carre retains all his skill in creating setting, characters and an intricate spy plot, but the ending he chose seemed forced and unsatisfying.

6. Handbook of Practical Spying by Jack Barth: This light hearted book from the International Spy Museum in Washington manages to offer a lot of real world advice, some historical context and without being dry or convoluted. It’s a painless introduction to modern tradecraft.

5. Being Wrong by Kathryn Shulz (audio book): This exploration of the physical, mental, social, and historical sources of mistakes is disturbing and enlightening at the same time. It doesn’t cover every aspect of error, but it covers enough ground to make you wonder how we haven’t managed to destroy the entire planet by now. 

4. Graveyard of Memories by Barry Eisler (audio book): This is the origin story for the iconic assassin John Rain (soon to be played by Keannu Reves). It contains all the elements of a great Eisler story (meticulous tradecraft, psychological insight and lush settings) but the formula for the story will be familiar to anyone who has read a Rain story before. It’s like listening to your favorite band play live. You know what they’re going to play, but you’re still amazed when they play it. 

3. Sexual Intelligence by Marty Klein: Most sex help books focus on technique or trying to get you back to some golden age of performance in your past. This book focuses on your present and future sexual expression by helping you get past technique and into physical and emotional connection. It rejects performance for pleasure and covers a wide range of sexual situations and examples. The main problem with this book is the people who read it probably don’t need it and the people who need it probably won’t read it.

2. Write, Publish, Repeat by Johnny B. Truant: It’s hard for me to listen to the podcast this book came from (The Self-Publishing Podcast) because the three hosts are friends who work together and spend two thirds of their time on the air self-promoting or meandering off topic. But these three writers have a deep understanding of the business and craft of independent publishing and what it takes to be successful. A lot of my ideas and inspiration to write came from this book when I read it the first time and it is even better the second time around. If you ever thought about writing a book, read this book first.  

1. Talk Dirty to Me by Sallie Tisdale: In a lifetime of reading books, only a handful will be transcendent. Talk Dirty to Me is one of those books for me. This intimate philosophy of sex explores the subject from fundamental questions of attraction, desire and expression and unpacks issues like pornography, prostitution, sexual identity and sexual repression in a thoughtful voice free of shame or blame. Talk Dirty to Me is a book that I’d like to read several more times. It’s not only my favorite books of 2014. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in ten years.

So what was your favorite book of 2014? Comment below and let me know.

Have fun and Happy New Year.


Rape Culture as a Weapon of Collective Control

Amanda Taub of Vox has just published a piece entitled "Rape Culture Isn't a Myth". The post explores the definition and history of rape culture as well as it's impact on the every day lives of women and men. 

The overall result of rape culture goes beyond the damage done to individual victims. It becomes a method of control to limit the freedom and progress of all women by forcing them to trade security for opportunity.

Rape culture pressures women to sacrifice their freedoms and opportunities in order to stay safe, because it puts the burden of safety on women’s shoulders, and blames them when they don’t succeed. As a result, certain opportunities are left unavailable to women, and still others are restricted by expensive safety precautions. That amounts, essentially, to a tax that is levied exclusively on women. Over time, the cost of that tax adds up to opportunities lost and progress not achieved. When women give up social and economic opportunities in order to stay safe, that affects their progress overall, which in turn affects society’s progress overall.
— Amanda Taub

Rape culture, like racism, is difficult to extract from society because it is a tool of power and power is a fundamental goal of human interaction. As Robert Greene details in his book The 48 Laws of Power, those who have power in a particular setting won't give it up without a compelling incentive. Self-interest trumps morality on both the individual and group level.

The problem with this collective logic lies in its misguided goal. The control of women through threats of violence hinders rather than promotes human progress. We are acting against our own self-interest when our social, legal and political institutions punish women for the destructive sexual greed of men. When women have to live in fear, we limit their potential and our own progress. So until we find a social tool more powerful than rape culture, our society will continue to suffer.