Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Hallowe'en!


All pictures by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)
It's All Hallows' Eve, the nights are drawing in ... so let me tell you a ghost story. Two friends are sitting up in a deserted house, waiting for the ghost to appear...



I had to hand it to him: Morgan was never lacking in confidence. As for myself, my curiosity was piqued, certainly, and with it my sense of adventure. And if I have rather more imagination than my friend, I was determined not to let it get the better of me. I rose, throwing the stub of my cigar into the fire, and started to stroll about the room, stretching my legs. We’d uncovered only the two chairs we’d dragged to the hearth; now I twitched the dust sheet off a couple more pieces of furniture, discovering a high-backed oak settle and a coffer that turned out to be empty.
    ‘Looking for ghosts?’ asked Morgan, spreading his legs indolently.
    ‘In hostile territory, secure your immediate surroundings,’ I replied, quoting the cadet officer who’d taught us both at Winchester. We shared a grin. I bundled up another sheet and added, ‘Hello!’
    It was species of large chaise longue or day bed I’d uncovered: very heavy looking, carved of the black oak so typical of Welsh farmhouses. The upholstery was of Indian cotton, but looked clean enough. ‘Bags the bed here!’ I said smartly.
    ‘Too nervous to go upstairs?’ Morgan asked teasingly. I shot him a pointed look.
    ‘It will be cold as Erebus up there, and I don’t suppose the mattresses will be aired.’
    He nodded. ‘Well, I intend to sit up. If we stay down here, we can take turns to watch and to sleep.’
    ‘Sounds fair.’ I turned to the nearest wall and pulled down the sheet draped over a frame there. I was expecting to find a painting: what I uncovered was a mirror, its glass a little spotted at the edges, its depths grey. I paused, struck by the play of firelight on Morgan’s face. His handsome aristocratic features and sandy moustache contrasted with my blunter, darker countenance and my pensive expression. ‘Why is it that the ghost seeks out the Master of the house?’ I asked suddenly.




    ‘Mm?’ He looked up from inspecting the swirl of brandy in his glass.
    ‘Is it revenge?’
    ‘Isn’t it always revenge?’ He laughed shortly. ‘The story is that there was this girl … Hm. I was told her name but I forget the details – Alyce, was it? She was a daughter of border gentry around here. Not sure how long ago, but I believe it was around the Civil War. Something like that. She grew up a proper little hoyden, allowed to run wild, but very beautiful too. She was wilful and wouldn’t marry any of the men her father lined up for her, but one day she was out riding – on her own, mind you, and astride the saddle – and she met one of the neighbours, the Lord of Levingshall. My ancestor.’ Morgan smirked, and watching his reflection in that glass his expression struck me as oddly unpleasant. ‘Now, Lord Price – he wasn’t a Morgan back then - was a very handsome man and quite the charmer. She fell for him, head over heels, out there in the greenwood just like in the old songs. He laid her down on the grass so green and lifted her skirt and with a hey-nonny-nonny…’
    At that moment there was a draught down the chimney and the fire flattened, shadows leaping across the room. I spun to face my friend in mock alarm. Well, perhaps it was not all mockery. He’d stopped, lips parted over his next word, eyes glinting. He bared his teeth in a grin.
    ‘Well, let’s say he taught her a few things about riding she hadn’t learnt at home. Gave her a good churn with his cream-stick, as they say out here in the country. The lucky lass thought she was in Paradise. And when she slipped off back home that night she couldn’t help thinking about him, about how kind he’d been to her and how helpful and how handsome … And how big was his prick.’ Morgan patted his crotch fondly. ‘The upshot was that next day she got on her horse and rode from her father’s lands to his, all the way to the house here, desperate for a repeat performance. But when she got to Levingshall she found the place was in the midst of wedding preparations: Lord Price was to be married that day to another lady.’
    I pulled a face, bracing myself.
    ‘Of course, if she’d have had the least sense she would have scuttled off quickly and kept quiet about the whole thing and salvaged some dignity. But the silly wench had just lost her maidenhead and was wildly in love and she made the most terrible scene, demanding that he marry her instead, and then begging him, and then cursing him for betraying her – which he hadn’t done, never having promised her anything. Lord Price laughed her out of the place. Alyce jumped on her horse in the end and rode away from the hall, to the bridge, where in her rage she threw herself off into the waters. It was spring and the water was icy cold from the hills: servants dragged her out but she was already stone dead. They buried her in unconsecrated ground of course, being a suicide as well as a whore.’
    Poor girl, I thought.



    ‘A month later, Lord Price was found dead in his bed, cold as ice and wringing wet - and a look on his face like he’d seen the Devil himself. Luckily he had brothers, but the next one went the same way before they worked out it wasn’t safe for the landholder to stay in his own house.’ He sighed. ‘It’s come down to us through cousins and younger sons. No one in the family wants the damn place, and though the rental income isn’t bad it’s no fortune.’
    ‘I can see your problem. You’ve inherited a bit of a white elephant, haven’t you?’
    ‘I hope not. I sincerely hope not. And with luck we shall know by the morning, eh?’
    ‘Mm.’ I wasn’t sure what species of luck he was courting here.  I turned back to the mirror and considered recovering it, rather disliking the shadowy room reflected in the tinted glass.  Common sense – or pride – got the better of me though. Discarding the sheet, I turned to the fire for something to keep me occupied, but the blaze had steadied and was burning bright and warm. ‘I’ll go get another basket of logs, shall I?’
    ‘Shh!’ Morgan held up his hand.
    I froze. For a moment there was silence except for the pop and crackle of the flames. ‘What?’ I ventured at last.
    ‘Shh! That!’
    This time round I heard it: a low squeak. In the time it took me to turn and face in the direction of the noise I’d identified it as the sound a wet fingertip makes upon glass. I took a deep breath. The interior shutters in this room were closed and barred, but I knew from the front elevation that the tall, rectangular windows were made up of leaded diamonds of glass.
    Quietly, with a look of grim satisfaction, Morgan opened his gun-case and bent to the weapon within. Breaking it, he slipped in the first cartridge. ‘Open it,’ he said in a low voice.
    I barely hesitated. Dropping the steel bar that held the central panel, I pulled the shutter wide open. A multitude of diamond panes reflected the firelight at my back, but the cold draught was immediately felt. The night outside was moonlit, and filled with the soughing of the unseen river. Bushes pressed right up to the house; beyond them I could make out the grey wash of a lawn.
    Squeak.


    ‘It’s a branch rubbing on the glass.’ I glanced back triumphantly at Morgan and caught him stood with gun readied but pointed down and away, for which I was grateful. He cracked a grin.
    ‘Of course it is.’
    I reached out to grasp the shutter again, but stopped mid-motion, puzzled by something half-visible through the shrubbery. ‘I say – what’s that on the lawn?’
    ‘What?’ Morgan grabbed the oil lamp and started forward, but I waved it away: the more light around me, the less I could see outside the house.
    ‘Out there – something white on the grass.’
    Side by side, we peered out through the thick, bubbly glass and the criss-crossed branches, trying to bring into focus the pale object lying out there at some indeterminate distance. I wasn’t even sure it was an object: it might have been a patch of light or a litter of stones. There was no telling how big it was or even if it was moving.
    ‘What the hell,’ Morgan muttered, really irritated.
    ‘We’ll get a better view from the landing window,’ I suggested. We would be higher than those damned shrubs up there, and able to look down on the lawn.
    ‘Good idea.’ Turning decisively, he strode from the room and I followed, bringing the lamp. It was a good thing I did: the hall was in darkness otherwise and the big oak staircase would have been near impossible to negotiate because the moonlight did not fall further than the half-landing. The ancient treads creaked beneath our feet as we ascended. Shoulder to shoulder again, we stared out onto the back garden lawn.
    There was nothing out there. The lawn was a sweep of unbroken grey, the trees beyond as black as India ink.
    ‘Can’t see a damn thing,’ Morgan complained. ‘Are you sure there was something out there?’
    ‘I thought so.’ I felt chilly all of sudden, though I attributed it to moving from the only room with a lit fire.
    Behind us, the front door knocker crashed. We both jumped like someone had run a galvanic current through us, and spun round to look down the stairs. The ground floor was in impenetrable shadow.
    ‘Who is it?’ Morgan called. ‘Who’s there?’
    There was no answering shout, but the door knocker slammed again.



You can read a later  (And much ruder) excerpt from Cold Hands, Warm Heart here


You can read the whole story in Dark Enchantment
Amazon US : US Kindle : Amazon UK : UK Kindle

Monday, 29 October 2012

Eyecandy Monday - a special gift

Today's Eyecandy Monday is a very special one, because for the first time I've had a friend contact me and say "Can I be your Eyecandy?"

And I went "Oh oh oh YES! That's HOT!"

Isn't that a wonderful picture? It was taken by Mighty Aphrodite, one of many companies specialising in "boudoir" photography. Ordinary women are quietly finding courage to bare all for the camera. And they're discovering, through the camera's eye, that they are beautiful and desirable. Which is an incredible gift.

Most women hate their own bodies. Self-criticism is just something you grow up with, as inescapable as teenaged acne. But if you're lucky, and you have a bit of help, you can grow out of that too. It just might take until you're in your forties ... or fifties ... like my friend above.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

All is revealed


. . . though not just yet!

This carpet-o'-nerdy-stuff on my kitchen floor is the preparation for the start of a very special photo shoot I did yesterday for the Geek Love book.

It took seven hours.

Results are pending, while the photographer-who-may-not-be named (she has a clause in her day job contract saying she "may not bring the company into disrepute"!!) selects, crops, tints ... and photoshops out that unfortunate insect bite.

I'm . . . not sure if I should be scared. Or proud. Or whether I've just taken leave of my senses.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Geek Love - running order


And that, Oh Best Beloveds, is how I went about the process of sorting the accepted stories for Geek Love into a final running order: torn-up post-its stuck to a board. Very high-tech, hey? I swear I tried doing it in a desktop document first . . . but for some reason I just couldn't wrap my head around things that way.

The main thing with running order is variation. Anyone reading through from front to back should be presented with a kaleidoscopic cavalcade from across the range of themes and styles.

The stories divided roughly into two groups: the "realistic" and the "speculative fiction" (sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, superheroes). So I started by alternating those. Then I had to take account of settings: the several stories with office settings for example, and several about gamers, needed to be spread out. The cluster of f/f stories had to be separated  of course (to stop it turning into one giant lesbian orgy, ahem), so I also alternated hetero stories with ones themed around alternate sexualities (And it gets pretty damn alternative in places. I'm talking insects . . . no, not incest! Insects.). And then there are special rules for the beginning and end of the book . . .

I'm amazed it worked out, but somehow it did. Pretty much perfectly, I think.

So this is it:

1.     Black Gold  - Kristina Lloyd
2.     Goodness, Her Tail  - Camille Alexa
3.     The Journal of Mary Freder - Peter Smalley
4.     Raid Night - James Sutter
5.     The Hope of Cinnamon -  M. Christian
6.     Electric - Wendy Wagner
7.     The Secret Life of Ramona Lee - Michael M. Jones
8.     The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is Extinct - Bill Noble
9.     Saving the World - Shanna Germain
10.   Downtime - Tanya Korval
11.   The Pornographer’s Assistant - A.C. Wise
12.   Opening Juicy Lucy - Craig Sorensen
13.   A Great Old Time - A. L. Auerbach
14.   Binary - Preston Avery
15.   Morphosis - Jak Koke
16.   Who Am I This Time? - Andrea Trask
17.   Voyeuristic Beauty - Elise Hepner
18.   Fuck the World - J. A. Shirley
19.   At the Faire - Andrea Dale
20.   Grinding - Janine Ashbless
21.   Command Prompt - Ed Grabianowski
22.   Pages and Play Things - Harry Markov
23.   Player Characters - Lucia Starkley
24.   The Purpose of Tongues - Kirsty Logan
25.   Ho Pais Kalos - Molly Tanzer
26.   RJ-45 - Alison Winchester
27.   F-RPG - Vivienne Ashe
28.   Porn Enough at Last - Jesse Bullington
29.   Magdelene - Sommer Marsden

And in my not-so-unbiased opinion, they're bloody brilliant.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

"This book is utterly shameless"


Tilly Hunter has reviewed Named and Shamed and doesn't hold back!

"A no-holds-barred descent into the most filthy and degrading sexual acts imaginable, with each fresh round of shame for the heroine soon being trumped by something even more debased. Fantastic!"

Full review here

Thank you Tilly!


Buy at Amazon US : Buy at Amazon UK
Also available on Kindle (but without the illustrations)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Eyecandy Monday

LARP dryads do not look like this. Ever.


So I spent the weekend running round in the woods, smiting monsters, trying to rescue distressed maidens out of trees (boy did THAT go badly), and managing on 3 hours sleep a night. I ache now, though my biceps are like rocks and I appear to have lost 5 lbs - probably all in sweat.

I do not ache as badly as Mr Ashbless, however, who upon seeing me bearing down upon him brandishing my staff, decided to run away instead of standing and dying like a snake-man should (Mr Ashbless' monsters always try to survive ... the wimps.) Haring off into the PITCH DARKNESS, he ran off the edge of the path and face-planted in a ditch full of brambles.

There was blood. He can't walk today  :-(
*sigh*
 And the moral of the story is - if your wife wants to smack your ass, it's safer to just let her.

But if you prefer to see my more decorous weekends, do pop over to Jennifer Denys' blog, where she spills some of the beans on what erotica writers chat about over tea and cookies :-)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Winter is Coming . . .


. . . so it's time to dust off the charity-shop furs and go smite some undead!

Friday, 19 October 2012

New Roses for old!

One of the great things about e-books, it turns out, is that you can update the cover art anytime you like, to make it look more cool or contemporary or whatever. This is a sneak preview of the new cover for my vampire novel Red Grow the Roses. (old cover is still up if you click through, at time of posting)


You like?
I love!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Daddy or Chips



I have a bone to pick with the English Language. Yes, the language of William Shakespeare and Milton and Shanna Germain: it's deeply inadequate and it dicks me off.

Consider the following perfectly viable and meaningful statements:
  • I love chips
  • I love my Dad and Mum
  • I love my wife
  • I love my mistress
  • I love my child
  • I love my dog
  • I love Jesus
  • I love my friends
  • I love my country
  • I love my garden
  • I love skydiving
  • I am 80 years old and I love my partner of 40 years
  • I am 16 years old and I love my boyfriend of 3 months
  • OMG I love Gerard Butler soooo much!

Now, not all those statements are actually true in my case (I have no particular fondness for potato products, for example), but even if they were, only a small child (or, I suppose, someone with serious developmental issues) would ever think that the word "love" as used in those sentences describes the same emotion in every - or indeed any - case.



This is a "daddy or chips" situation. "Love" is used to describe a whole slew of emotions, related only by denoting a positive attitude to the object described. Yet what's the alternative? "Adore"? "Respect"? "Need"? "Enjoy eating"? . . . You run out of synonyms very quickly. We just don't have an adequate range of words to describe what we currently lump under "love."

We'd need dozens of new words, I suspect. And there would always be nuances within each one of those new words. Is the emotion you feel for a child who has just won the school prize the same as for the one who lies in bed all day playing on his Nintendo DS and swearing at you, or the same as for one who is dangerously ill in hospital?

But the thing is, we all muddle by just fine with "love" in conversation or writing because we look at the context. If someone says "I love kittens," we do not assume that that has a romantic or sexual content.
Well, usually. (Sometimes the context of "love" can surprise us.)

Now here's the thing. I think we have a similar "daddy or chips" problem with  "Fantasise," even in a purely sexual context. We assume we know what the word means when someone says "I have sexual fantasies about...".

How about:
  • I fantasise about fucking my boss in the office

If I said that, you would assume that I watch my boss, I make excuses to see him, I would like to fuck him, and that if I was given the chance then I would do it.

But what if I said:
  • I fantasise about fucking a minotaur.

Do you think that if, by some miracle, a minotaur turned up in my living room one day, my reaction would be "Let's get it on!" Seriously? Because it's not a secret that I do have minotaur fantasies, but believe me if they were real creatures, I'd scream and run and shit my pants just like anyone else.

From the Royal Opera production of The Minotaur

The minotaur fantasy is a fictional fantasy. It does not relate to the real world. It exists only in the interior world of my sexual imagination.

"Ah, but," you might say - "the one about the boss does relate to the real world. If you got the chance, you'd go for it."

HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW?

There certainly are sexual fantasies that involve degrees of wishful thinking, planning, and intention. But just because I fantasise about something that might actually happen DOES NOT MEAN THAT I WOULD ACTUALLY WANT TO DO IT IN REALITY. Just like the minotaur, that fantasy can also be completely fictional. It stays in a nice safe place, gets pulled out at the appropriate moment (when I'm heading toward orgasm with my rabbit and need something to trip me over the edge, for example) for joyous contemplation, then gets put away again and ignored.


 This, I swear, lies at the heart of all the breast-beating and hair-tearing  when it comes to the mainstream success of Fifty Shades of Grey and other BDSM or non-consensual fantasies. "How can millions of women," the well-meaning social observer weeps, "enjoy these sick sexual fantasies? Aren't they betraying their gender and themselves? Whatever happened to decades of feminism? Does it mean they really want to be beaten up, or raped?" And at worst some dickhead will nod sagely and say "There, I knew it - send them back to the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. That's what they really want."

Since when did What you get off on for the minute before orgasm equate to What you really want in life?

I blame the English language. We need separate words for fictional fantasies and intentional fantasies, because otherwise outside observers have no idea what context to take them in.

Worse, we may become confused about our own fantasies. Something pops into our head during sex and we find it hot, and then we may become frightened or guilty or disgusted at ourselves. "Is this the real me?" we ask. "Am I really this sick pervert?" And then it starts to affect our behaviour in non-sexual contexts. And that's bad.

And we start worrying about other people's imaginations. "Are you fantasising about her again, instead of me? Are you looking at porn again? Why aren't I enough for you?"
 

If we could only accept that there is a part of the sexual imagination that is a separate sphere - sacred space, if you like - that is entirely private, where anything goes, which causes no harm and has no influence over our moral, rational, grown-up lives ... well, then, we would save ourselves and each other a whole lot of grief.

Accept your sexual fantasies. Acknowledge them. They are your business and yours alone. They can be used for pleasure or catharsis, to face up to deep deep fears, to shock and confront, or to explore parts of one's soul. They are fiction. And if you give them sanctioned, separate space to play in, they will not rule you.



So, Mr Shakespeare ... why didn't you give us more words for Love?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Eyecandy Monday - bums revisited



By special request, I'm following up last week's feminine bottoms with some male ones. Oh, the work I put in for you guys!










And of course I cannot leave out the classic...


Friday, 12 October 2012

Frank Papé


Frank Cheyne Papé (1878-1972) was a sort of honorary Kinky Victorian/Edwardian. He contributed to some Golden Age fairytale books, but hit the height of his fame as an illustator in the 1920s when he illustrated the books of James Branch Cabell and Anatole France - yet his style harked back to an earlier era.

There are comparatively few of his illustrations freely available nowadays, as he fell into obscurity and even the details of his life are unclear. But I love his detailed draughtmanship, the way he draws upon non-European dress and styles, and his sense of sensual menace.

And he could be pretty kinky:


Here's a picture of a woman frying up her husbands genitalia and serving them for tea!


But mostly his eroticism is subtler:

From James Branch Cabell's Jurgen


Endpapers from Anatole France's Thais




As I said ... Mostly...
;-)



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

I got mail!


Oh oh oh - look what came through the letterbox! (Actually it didn't, it couldn't possibly have done. I had to answer the door. Wonder what the delivery guy thought of me still in my dressing-gown at 1pm? Also, wonder if said dressing-gown stayed decently shut as I wrestled the box indoors . . .?)

Yes, my lovely lovely Arabian Nights romantic adventure Heart of Flame, available up to now as an e-book,  is about to be released in paperback too! It's due out on November 6th, but Samhain Publishing are, as ever, efficient and on-the-ball.

Did you know, this is going to be the first of my book I'm going to be able to give my mother a copy of? Usually she says, "Can I read this one?" and I say, "You won't like it." (Except in regard to Named and Shamed, when I said, "You'd never talk to me again. I am not kidding. Just . . .  NO.")

But Mum loves Clan of the Cavebear and that lot, and I reckon the heat in Heart of Flame is probably at a similar level. So there you go: I look forward to her review.
Not.
My brother, btw, refuses to read ANYTHING I write. He says he doesn't want to know what's going on in my head. How very wise!

Hmmm. Do other erotica authors get reviews from their family? 


Pre-order Heart of Flame at Samhain : Pre-order at Amazon US : Pre-order at Amazon UK

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Michael Sabbaton


It's got nothing to do with erotica, but I want to tell the world how much I enjoyed Michael Sabbaton's rendition of H P Lovecraft's The Temple and The Call of Cthulhu at Harrogate Theatre. Try imagining a one-man dramatisation of those two tales: a submarine captain trapped among the corpses of his crew in his powerless U-boat at the bottom of the ocean ... and the perilous piecing together of a worldwide cultic conspiracy ...


If you ever get the chance, go see. He's just brilliant!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Anthologising Blues


Helping create the Geek Love anthology has opened my eyes to a number of things. Not least the incredible difficulty of choosing which stories go in the final book. Lets just say I appreciate the work of other editors out there way more now!

Think about it. You put out a call for submissions. You want erotic geek stories, and you're determined to pick a fabulous selection. You're aware that your readership is likely to be a discerning one. So you just pick the best stories, right?

Wrong.

First, in any anthology you need variety. Your readers aren't clones, and won't all want the same things. You're going to have readers who like guys, and readers who like gals. You're going to have readers who love hardcore BDSM, and ones who skip past anything other than vanilla. And in a more general way, you need variety of voice - stories told in first person, stories told in third (and perhaps even second). Stories told from a male point of view, and stories told from a female. Hetero, gay, lesbian, and group sex. Poetic, literate, emotionally moving tales - and raunchy, in-your-face, I-need-a-cold-shower-after-this tales.

Variety of setting. Fifteen different stories set in a smalltown American comic book store, no matter how awesome each is on an individual level, will make for a turgid read. So you say: let's have some of everything right across the geek landscape! - tentacles and space opera, futuristic and fantasy and fairytale, bookish and scientific and techie and comics and superheroes and steampunk and MMORPGs....
Oh, and - apparently - coffee shops. That was a new one on me.

This is assuming that you get subs in each of these categories. You're at the mercy of your writers here.


That's when the problems really start. Because you've only got so many pages to fill.

  • What do you do when you've got a completely brilliant story that you just love, but it's not erotica? 
  • Or what if it's red-hot erotica, but not geeky? 
  • What if you have five different Cyberpunk tales, each a masterpiece, but only one about My Little Pony fans* - does a better but commonplace story lose out to one with a unique theme?
  • Does one long story lose out to two short ones of equal callibre, so that more authors get a chance to showcase their work?
  • Do you accept multiple stories from a single author, thus showcasing a reduced number of writers?

Every choice hurts. I'm pretty good at being mean to my fictional characters, but I hate being mean to real people.
I know this: we will be rejecting some GREAT stories. Stories that completely deserve publication. Stories that it has left me feeling gutted to say "no" to. But ones that for one reason or another, don't fit in the anthology.
And it's the editors' job to keep an eye on the big picture.



*Not a real-life example.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Northumberlandia

There's a new Earth Goddess on the block - and I've been to see her!


Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North, has just opened to the public, only a couple of hours from my front door. She's the largest human landscape form in the world: 1300 ft long, and 112ft high at the forehead. She was designed by Charles Jencks and cost £3 million to build, as part of the restoration landscaping of the Shotton Coal Mine. I was totally unsurprised to learn that the county council had refused the planning application ... but then it was allowed on appeal to central government.

Heh.
Let's hope she gets on with the Angel. You don't want those two having a dust-up... ;-)

This is what she looks like from the air (pic from official website). I think she's beautiful - and will be even more so when the bare patches grow over with the seeded grasses and wildflowers. She's apparently visible from planes flying in to Newcastle airport, and trains heading up the east coast to Edinburgh.


She has magnificent boobies!


Here's me standing on one, and trying not to get blown off by the vigorous Northumbrian breeze:


And here's her face:


And a hand:


I imagine that on Solstices you won't be able to move for tripping over pagans :-)