A heartfelt mahalo! (thank you) to readers who have purchased my new ebook collection, OPIUM DREAMS, PACIFIC STORIES, Volume III, a sequel to my previous collections HOUSE OF SKIN PRIZE-WINNING STORIES, and CANNIBAL NIGHTS, PACIFIC STORIES, Volume II.
First off, Huge Olas! and Kudos to Kathleen Valentine, of Valentine Designs, for the extraordinary cover. The author's voice is still the most important part of a book, but a beautiful book cover is what first draws readers. (If you're wondering why the peacock feather, you have to read the title story.)
Like my earlier collections, OPIUM DREAMS comprises tales set in islands across the Pacific ocean, portraits of men and women struggling with the same universal issues as people around the globe: Survival, dignity, identity. This volume speaks more of love in all its dark, tragic and even hilarious manifestations. Three of the stories deal with adultery.
Ah, ADULTERY... How many of us marrieds or have-beens have feared it, confronted it, even indulged in it? It can turn betrayed wives into salivating she-jackals, or calm, cold-eyed killers. Still, betrayed husbands seem to fare much worse. An adulterous husband is usually only temporarily reverting to the 'pack,' scatter-shooting his seed, and whooping it up. (80% of them come home, begging for forgiveness.)
But an adulterous wife suggests the blunt force of a loose cannon, an uncontrollable entity, her hormones and pheromones running amuck. And worse, it suggests an impotent husband, a man who can't please his wife, can't get it up, or keep it up. Women are erotic forces of nature. We embody sex all over - eyes, lips, breasts, butts, vaginas - whereas male sexuality seems tied up in that one organ...and here is precisely where a wife's adultery hits men. Their sense of masculinity is shattered.
(Call me crazy, but that kind of vulnerability should make us love them even more.) In the end, sex is always trouble. We are lost in the collision. Logic and conscience evaporate. That's why sex often gets a bad rap. It's too pleasurable, too powerful. And so we seek love, that milder form of lust. It steers us away from our genitals. We ascend to a more spiritual level, and give our baser drives a break.
A few words about love and lust in my collection, OPIUM DREAMS:
In the story "Night of the Worm," set in Western Samoa, a philandering husband who annually trysts with white women tourists, is suddenly threatened when his ungainly wife attracts the attentions of an Englishman, who falls in love, teaches her to waltz, and endows her with a 'majesty.' Only with the threat of permanently losing her, does the husband finally see her beauty and her worth. ***(A few years ago, I lived at the Vaisala Hotel in Western Samoa, and watched a similar story unfold.)
"Opium Dreams," a semi-novella, is set in an earlier century in Hawaii, and is a meditation on father-daughter love, or the lack of it, and how an unloved daughter plunges into opium addiction and suicide. It is also a glimpse into the 19th century opium-dens of Chinatown in Honolulu, how immigrants fleeing starvation in China ended up as addicts whose bones were used for fodder in the canefields.
A parallel story is that of a paniolo, a Hawaiian cowboy who has killed his beautiful wife for committing adultery, not understanding that polygamy was part of her Cowichan culture. His life is reduced to years of grief and guilt, until he is redeemed by the love of a boy, and a stranger.
"Maoritanga" is set in Aotearoa (Maori word for New Zealand). The portrait of a Maori woman mired in grief for her brother who dies in combat in the Gulf War, and how that grief drags her into years of drift, prostitution, even murder. Only the love of her clan resurrects her, and restores in her a sense of 'Maoritanga," Maori pride.
***(For several months while visiting Maori friends, I lived at a hotel in Auckland, New Zealand, patterned after Manners in the story. It was a haunt for young prostitutes from Asia and the Pacific Islands who had run away from home. The story is based on events that occured while I was living there: A Maori friend who lost a brother in the Gulf War, the murder of a pimp, the suicide of a young girl, and a playful shark that kept reappearing near the town of Te Kaha.)
"Bullets Over Hollywood" is another story of adultery. A mix-blood Hawaiian discovers her husband's mistress, tries to burn down her home, shoots up her teenage children's beds, and flees back to the islands, where she hides out with a friend who dwells on her own ex-husband's adultery. This is not just a story of betrayal. It is also a tale of a woman who has lost her identity through marriage and motherhood. Only a tragedy - a horror every woman dreads - saves her marriage, and helps her rediscover herself, and her ambitions. ***(Based on a true story, and the life of a dear friend.)
"The Speed of Light" takes place, not in the Pacific, but in the state of Georgia. A handsome mix-blood Hawaiian enters a small, bigotted Southern town and, forced to live on charity, infuses people's lives with poetry and magic. As he begins to die, people come to understand who, and what, he is. In that realization, they learn tolerance and acceptance. And a particularly bigotted and homophobic redneck learns what love is. ***(This story is based on the life of my beloved cousin, Will.)
It is easy to write about love. And very hard. We search, and find it, and lose it, and search again. The human comedy. Cliches abound. Still, our stories are important, and unique. Because love, the search for it, the failure of it, and especially the loss of it, is how we progress and mature, how we attain an inner nobility. An aristocracy of the heart.
As Elton John says in his new memoir: "Love Is The Cure."
I hope you enjoy OPIUM DREAMS!