Monday, October 15, 2018

Lifting a Woolen Veil

I think of Lifting the Veil as part of a wedding ritual in cultures where marriages are arranged and in theory the groom would not ever have seen the bride’s face until the veil-lifting. The superstition of bad luck if the groom sees the bride on their wedding day before the ceremony may come from this.

That said, I don’t currently have anything further to say about the wedding aspect. I could see some future story line developing, but the paranormal or ghostly interpretation of lifting the veil as some of you have done seems much more intriguing. I was tempted to turn to the only ghost story I’ve ever written, but the atmosphere of that one just doesn’t fit. A ghost that maliciously manifests when a dog digs bits of its long-buried body out of the wall of a collapsed dugout house from pioneer days seems too, well, gritty to have anything to do with veils. A different interpretation could deal with the solving of mysteries, but I haven’t done much of that sort of thing, either, although the body in the wall does involve a mystery to be solved. The heroine, who has herself escaped from a contemporary illegal multi-wife commune in Utah, eventually figures out that the ghost is that of the long-past pursuer of two runaway sister-wives passing as teenage boys who came this way many years ago, passed a winter in the dugout, then escaped for good when the earth caved in on their former captor. As I said, more grit than veil.

But another, more mundane interpretation could involve trying to deceive someone, “pulling the wool over their eyes,” and being discovered. Never mind that veils tend to be more diaphanous than most wool. So I’ll resort to that sort of thing, with an excerpt from the same story I quoted last time, when a Mongol General appointed by the invading Khan to be governor of an Armenian province encounters the Lady who already governs it by birthright.
From “A Falcon in Flight” in Hot Highlanders and Wild Warriors, edited by Delilah Devlin.

This Mongol was less ugly than expected, Ardzvik thought. Perhaps even handsome if one became accustomed to his shaven head, bold, high cheekbones, and tilted eyes beneath eyebrows with the graceful swoop of a hawk’s wing. Muscular, as well, which would please Leyli, and a fine rider, though Leyli’s interest in riding did not always involve horses.
Ardzvik sensed the shift in Leyli’s mood. One form of tension had yielded to quite another. “So, sweet sister,” she murmured, “are you still of a mind to slay this Governor should you get the chance?” She would not permit Leyli to do any such thing, of course, bringing the fury of Batu Khan’s forces down upon them, as Leyli knew quite well.
“Yes, I will kill him if I can! For the sake of poor Mihran! But…not, I think, right away.” Leyli allowed her milk-white mare to fidget under her, enough to draw the Mongol’s attention away from Father Kristopor’s diplomatic speech of welcome. The man had already surveyed the mare with all the admiration due her, and Leyli too, though less overtly. Now, as the girl peered flirtatiously through lowered eyelashes and fiddled in feigned nervousness with her long golden hair, it seemed that he could scarcely wrench his gaze away.
Ardzvik’s own high-bred bay mount had been assessed favorably as well, though she herself elicited a puzzled frown. Just as she had intended. Despite Father Kristopor’s disapproval, she was dressed soberly in garb so simple that she might have been mistaken for someone of much lower rank, in contrast to Leyli’s azure robes gleaming with gold brocade. All the easier to assess his reaction to her half-sister’s charms before Ardzvik had cause to care. Not that such a thing was remotely possible.
She had not much cared that “poor Mihran,” a minor prince of Georgia sent officially to court her, had lost his heart and whatever virginity he might have had to Leyli instead. Ardzvik was sorry for his death during the fall of Georgia, but not on a personal level. Better she should never care over-much for any man.
Father Kristopor closed his speech with an offer of the hospitality of the castle as lodging for the Darugha and his men. The interpreter did his part, and the Mongol said a few words in response. The priest signaled for Ardzvik and Leyli and their retinue to advance. They rode forward out of the shadow of the ancient stone church at a stately pace.
This encounter had been staged in the town’s center as a diplomatic compromise. The ruling family need not go as supplicants to the Darugha’s great golden tent, nor he with his men as conquerors to the gates of their castle. The Lady of Aragatsotn was a vassal, not a slave.
The interpreter, a handsome young man with Persian features, spoke toward the space between Ardzvik’s dark head and Leyli’s fair one. Good. Father Kristopor had obeyed her order to be deliberately vague as to which was the ruler and which was not. “His Eminence Yul Darugha thanks the Lady of Aragatsotn for her offer of the hospitality of her castle. However, it is his custom to sleep only within his personal tent.”
Ardzvik felt the gaze of Yul Darugha sweep over her, linger on her horse, then return to her face. She met his keen eyes, saw that he had not been deceived after all, lifted her chin proudly, and spoke not in Armenian but in the basic Turkic tongue most often used between tradesmen in the various countries of the lower Caucasus. “If Yul Darugha pleases, we would offer a feast in his honor tonight, to be held in the gardens of the castle.” It was well known by now that the nomadic Mongols were ill at ease confined within rigid walls.
With no pause for instructions the interpreter began to decline this invitation, too, as expected—the Governor had not been known to dine with any of such noble families as remained--but a rich, deep voice startled them all.
“Yul Darugha will be pleased to accept.”
That voice penetrated all the way into Ardzvik’s bones. For a moment she did not comprehend the words, though they were spoken in the same tongue she had used. So the interpreter had been merely a formality! With an effort she inclined her head briefly. “We shall be honored by his presence, and that of his men.” She looked up to see a hint of amusement on the Governor’s sun-browned face. Without another word, to her disappointment—why did she wish so to hear that voice again? To feel it?—he turned his dun horse and moved away toward the camp outside the town with his two dozen soldiers following.
“Father Kristopor said the man would never accept the invitation!” Leyli trotted at her side as they turned toward the road to Aragatsotn Castle.
“Yes, he did.” The priest had looked more pleased than surprised. Ardzvik would have words with him later. “So now there is much to be done.”
(And a bit later)
 “Take me to see your horses,” he said abruptly. Ardzvik heard movement at the table they had left, along with Leyli’s ever-resilient voice raised in laughter, and understood his request. She led him quickly to a gate that gave onto a path leading downhill to a cluster of stables and a fenced field. A dozen horses grazed there, while others, including those of the visiting Mongols, could be seen on a plateau slightly lower on the mountainside.
Leyli’s white mare came up to the gate at once, snuffling hopefully for treats. Yul Darugha ran a hand along her neck until she moved petulantly away since nothing edible was forthcoming. “A pretty creature,” he said, “like her mistress.” He looked to where Ardzvik’s blood bay advanced and retreated, wishing to come to his mistress, displeased by the stranger’s presence. “But yours, Lady Ardzvik, is the nobler beast by far. A touch of the Arab for grace and beauty.” She nodded assent. “I knew at once,” he went on, “that the rider of such a mount must be the true ruler here.”

Yes, I admit it, this story is from one of those books with a naked male torso on the cover, so if I’ve ever given an impression of being entirely concerned with quite a different genre, I guess I’ve lifted that veil. But just briefly. Probably. That’s the only time I’ve ventured into quite that territory. So far.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Bridge to the Other Side

by Jean Roberta

I’ve come to realize that I am old enough to be the grandmother of most of my students. (Or to use a word that’s widely understood here in Saskatchewan, their kokum: Cree word for grandmother.)

The generation before mine is mostly gone. If my mother were still alive, she would be 100 years old on October 28, 2018.

I remember reading somewhere that the settler culture of New Zealand is largely British (like the settler culture of other English-speaking countries), but the land itself is profoundly different from Britain: there’s nothing south of it except a huge expanse of ocean, and Antarctica.

I can relate. I’m past 65, but I still go to a university to teach every weekday, as though I were still a generation younger. In reality, there is not much of an older generation left, and not much future career ahead of me. I’m looking at retirement (probably sooner than later), followed by a flow of unscheduled time which will end with the pristine chill of death.

Many of the people who were important to me in the past (including writers and rock stars as well as people I actually knew) have passed on. I feel as if there is an invisible nation beyond the veil, and there are times when I’d like to visit them there.

I haven’t had any uncanny experiences lately, but I don’t doubt the presence of the unseen. For one thing, the animals in my house (three cats, two dogs) sometimes react as though they were seeing, hearing, smelling something that most humans can’t.

I’m still fond of a Young Adult ghost story of mine which was published on-line several years ago in Glitterwolf (LGBT magazine), edited by Matt Cresswell of the UK. I would like the story to appear in public again, but it’s hard to place because so little of my writing is suitable for a YA audience that I have to send it to venues that are new to me, and vice versa. In this case, I assume I am reaching out to people who have never heard of me, and might not approve of me if they did.

The teenage narrator of my story, “A Bridge to the Other Side,” dreams about her late grandmother, and then she discovers that ghosts reach out to her once they know she can see and hear them. It’s no coincidence that one of these unhappy spirits was a girl who committed suicide after being raped in the girls’ lavatory, which she now haunts. Of course, no one believed her when she was alive, just as no one is likely to believe the living girl who wants to comfort her.

And then there are the hungry ghosts of past and present wars!

Here is the opening scene:

The tall woman in the lavender suit looked so alive that at first I didn’t recognize her. She moved with confidence, and didn’t seem to carry any weight on her shoulders. Her hair was ivory-blonde with silver highlights, and it glowed like a halo. “Under your bureau, Ellie,” she told me.
She looked like a high school principal, or a businesswoman. Her bright blue eyes wouldn’t let me look away. Why was she in my bedroom?

She kept looking at me, and pointed to the floor.

Freaky. My Grandma, Mary Ellen Cloud, had come back to earth to tell me to clean up my room – or else what? Reform school?

I was so upset that I fought my way out of sleep, as though coming up for air. As soon as I opened my eyes in my own room, I saw that Grandma Cloud wasn’t there.

Somehow I understood what she had told me in my dream. My lost earring was under my bureau, and if I found it, I could wear it to the school dance.

When Mom had handed me Grandma’s pearl necklace and earrings in their long wooden case, she had said, “Don’t lose these.” And then an earring went missing while I was planning what to wear to the dance with Tommy. I searched my room like a detective investigating a crime scene, with no results. I didn’t see any point in telling my parents, since they would probably take away what was left, and tell me I wasn’t responsible enough to own valuable jewelry.

I jumped out of bed and grabbed a metal clothes hanger from my closet. Then I crouched down on the floor, and used the hanger to sweep the space under my bureau. I could have cried when the earring showed up in a ball of dust, trailing a dirty white gym sock. Grandma knew where it was all along. She was watching over me.

“Thank you,” I whispered. I’m so glad you’re on my side, Grandma, I thought.

She didn’t warn me about the dance, though. Apparently I had to find out some things for myself.

It was the spring of 1965. Big hair, empire waists and Queen Anne heels were in, and I couldn’t imagine how they could ever go out of style. My parents didn’t force me to dress like a square because they thought my interest in sewing was a sign of self-reliance. Even still, my taste made them as uncomfortable as the rock songs I listened to on the radio.

I had sewn myself a dress that was meant to stop traffic. It was a lightning-flash of sapphire-blue satin that showed off the curves of my breasts, then flowed from the high waist, finished with a bow, to the tops of my new black pumps. My hair was a rich brown mass of cotton candy, shellacked with hairspray, and my eyes looked huge and dark against my pale skin and eraser-pink lipstick. Grandma’s pearls were the finishing touch.

My reflection in the mirror reminded me of the latest fashion spread in Teen Queen magazine. I hoped my boyfriend, Tommy Atkins, would be too dazzled by my beauty to notice anyone else, but not too dazzled to see how much more I was than a face and a body.

It was a lot to expect from a Connecticut boy. I wondered if I would have to move to Greenwich Village, New York City, after graduation to find intelligent friends and a man with enough soul to appreciate everything I had inside.


I’m not sure if this story can still be accessed in Glitterwolf (Issue 6, July 26, 2014). If it’s nowhere to be found, and if you would like to read the rest of this story, just send me an email request, and I will send you the story as a Word doc (or copied-and-pasted into an email, if you prefer).

Thursday, October 11, 2018

How Do You Celebrate the Holidays Following the Death of a Family Member?

a post by Giselle Renarde

Thanksgiving has never been a big holiday in my family. It isn’t as big here in Canada as it is in the states. I’d venture to say it also means something different. It’s mostly just an excuse to eat turkey. At least, that’s always been the case in my family.

My mother is a terrible cook, but she always cooks for us (myself and my siblings). Over-cooked, under-seasoned food is part of our tradition.

If we’re very lucky, my mom’s sister invites us to join herself and her husband for Thanksgiving. They’re amazing hosts and excellent chefs, the both of them.

We got lucky this year. We received a very unusual invitation, as far as Thanksgiving dinners go.

My family is in mourning at the moment. You know this, if you’ve been reading my posts of the last few months. In case you’re not aware, one of my cousins died unexpectedly of an overdose. What I’m learning, from this death more than any other, is that grief can weigh heavily on a family for a long time… potentially forever.

My late cousin’s immediate family—my aunt, uncle and cousin—are not okay.

Thanksgiving was the first time I saw them since the funeral. My mom’s sister planned a gathering with them in mind—with grief in mind. In a way, grief was the guest of honour. It sat among us, silently drawing our attention in its direction as we conversed.

The host of this gathering, my mother’s sister, was incredibly thoughtful in her approach. Knowing that the holidays are a hard time for those in mourning, the evening she planned was the total opposite of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

There was no turkey, no stuffing, no sit-down meal. In fact, we didn’t even eat indoors. We ate in the garage. It was lit by fairy lights and candles (fake ones, so we wouldn’t burn the house down). No meticulously laid-out table. No gleaming cutlery. No cutlery at all. We ate with our hands. It was all that sort of food.

My mother’s sister, who planned the gathering, told me she’s been learning that different people prefer different atmospheres. Some people like the darkness, especially during a mourning period. They don’t have to worry what they look like. And my aunt, uncle and cousin—they’re not looking so great these days.

When I got my aunt alone, I asked her how she’s doing. Some days are better than others, she said. Some days are terrible. Some are okay. She’s more concerned about her daughter and her husband. My uncle blames himself for his son’s death. She looks at her family, at her daughter and her husband, and she sees that they’re thinking… they’re thinking…

And I know exactly what she means, because I noticed the same thing. When we were all sitting around the living room chatting—with the lights on—I often looked at my uncle and my cousin, and I noticed them staring into space. No, not staring into space—staring into a space. Into that space occupied by grief.

As I said, grief sat among us. It was just more visible to those who felt they should shoulder the blame for my cousin’s death. The looks on their faces… well, it reminded me of a friend of mine, of when she used to have frequent PTSD blackouts. You’d look at her and she just wasn’t there. Her face seemed vacant.

One more reason the darkness at dinner was so welcome to so many of us. In the dark, there’s no one policing the look on your face, no one noting what you’re eating or not eating. Perhaps nobody would be judging you anyway, but in the dark there’s no false perception of being judged.

So, how do you celebrate the holidays after the death of a family member? Like this. In the dark. Maybe some people would prefer to cling to traditions, but for others, traditions bring on a wash of associations that are too much to handle when a family member’s death is still so fresh.

This will be a year of firsts, for my family. Thanksgiving was the first first. Next will be Christmas. I don’t know if we’ll dine in the dark for that, but I wouldn’t mind if we did. I wouldn’t mind one bit.
Supporting someone who is grieving deeply is so difficult, and most of us feel lost. We have no idea what to do and we’re scared of saying the wrong thing. I want to help my family, and in many ways (and for many reasons) I feel like I don’t know how. That’s why I’ve decided to donate all my October royalties from sales of my Erotic Older Women books to a non-profit in my city that does peer grief counselling. I might not know how to help, but they do, so please help me help the bereaved by purchasing:
Older Women, Wild Desires
Older Women, Lesbian Desires
Older Women, Kinky Desires
Or all three in one collection: Erotic Older Women

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bodhi Tree

(My unveiling is that I've been going through a pretty rough patch, but I'm getting on the other side of it these days.  One thing about rough patches - you can really write your ass off.  I'm studying poetry craft.  This is a poem I wrote recently while sitting under the shady tree where I meditate, on an especially rough morning)


I'm going to miss you someday
when all this is over.

I may make pilgrimages to visit you
and spread out the meditation cushions
just like old times, these times
mornings like this one.

The morning will come when I will hardly remember.
But not just yet.

Mornings like this one
where I sit beside my sinking self
close the eyes, and let the blue pain roll
like glorious waves of soul
as sharks try to be dolphins.

 I will remember, like a war holiday
and uncap a beer and pour some of it on the ground
over your roots bickering old buddy,
let the brass band play
as the great parade of the newly liberated marches by.

Those three young trees over there,
I used to meditate there at first.
Each is more beautiful than you will ever be.
But three trees is too many.
How can you love three trees?
Like having three wives.
No, one plain looking tree is enough.
I have one tree, not much of a tree,
to love well.
Better to love one well.

I will miss you, though I will not miss these moments.

like dead leaves passing under an old bridge.
I will be cheaply sentimental
when they have lost their knives.

I sit beside myself in your shade
which does not judge me
which is why I love you.

Look - that bird has my wings. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

#Liftingtheveil An Inspiring Encounter

What an intriguing topic. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with. For my post I want to share an inspiring encounter from some years ago which found its way into one of my novels, Chameleon (2015)

As authors we’re often asked about inspiration for a particular story or character, and as often as not I find it quite difficult to pinpoint. Characters tend to be drawn from all over, a blend of people I do know and others I just made up. Scenarios are the same, often rooted in the familiar but not too specific. There are always libel laws to consider after all.

Chameleon was different though. The inspiration for the core concept came from an experience I had in Turkey about twenty five years ago. I was with a group of friends somewhere in Eastern Turkey, off the normal tourist beaten track. For some reason I can’t recall I was sitting on a wall in the shade of tree, all alone. I don’t recall where the rest of my group was – perhaps a mass trip to the loo. Turkish tummy can do that.

All around was arid desert. Not entirely unspoilt, there was a road heading off in both directions and our car was parked beside it, but not a soul to be seen. I was enjoying the solitude, scanning the far, dusty horizons and perhaps contemplating a dip in some hotel pool later on when a movement way in the distance caught my eye. Or perhaps it was something glinting, I’m not sure. As I looked though I saw a speck appear over the horizon, where the road met the sky. It grew bigger and became two specks. They grew, and I saw they were heads, the heads of a woman and a donkey.

The pair ambled into view, unhurried, shimmering in the distant heat haze. The woman was cloaked, completely covered against the sun. The donkey carried her, as well as a large basket on each side of the saddle. Together they swayed, perfectly in tune with each other, following the road across the desert.

As they came closer I could see more detail, the heavy, woven wool cloak, just a pair of sandals peeking from beneath. It was impossible to tell how old she was, though I had the impression she was young. She could have come straight from the set of Ben-Hur. It struck me that in some respects nothing much had changed here since biblical times.

She must have seen me at the same instant I saw her, so we had plenty of time to study each other as she made her steady way toward me. As she drew alongside she glanced at me, and we made eye contact. I nodded and raised a hand. She returned the greeting, then carried on her way. As I watched her retreating figure I wondered where else in the world two people from such different cultures and backgrounds could meet, cordially pass the time of day, neither one in the least surprised to see the other, both with a perfectly good reason to be alone in the middle of the desert that day.

For the purposes of my story the answer to that question was Morocco. Marrakesh to be exact, in the foothills of the Atlas mountains. The first contact between the lead characters is an almost exact retelling of my own encounter years earlier in Turkey. I thought it made the perfect opening scene between them.

A chance meeting, two strangers whose paths cross—in the same place at the same time, yet a world apart.
When mining engineer Ethan Savage spots the cloaked, veiled woman riding a donkey in the Moroccan desert, he can be forgiven for thinking that in some respects nothing much has changed in two thousand years. She wouldn’t look out of place in Biblical times. They pass, nod, smile politely and go their separate ways, two strangers a world apart.
But when, moments later, she rescues him from his crashed car, the first words she utters make Ethan realise that appearances can be deceptive. His little Berber peasant is not what she seems.
Shifting effortlessly between her traditional roots in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and her professional life as the Totally Five Star hotel doctor, Fleur is a human chameleon, able to adapt and blend into any environment. At first irritated then amused by the handsome stranger, Fleur knows the assumptions he’s made about her. As their paths cross once more at the luxurious hotel, she realises he, too, is not all he seems. This sexy Englishman holds the key to her most secret and sensual desires, dangerous yearnings she’s kept locked away for years. Now she has a choice to make.
Ethan is only in Marrakesh for a few days, then he’ll be gone and she’ll never see him again. No one will ever know, so surely it will do no harm? Can she pass up this opportunity? And once she’s trusted him with her body, experienced all he can offer, will she be able to return to her old life? Or will the sensual chameleon need to reinvent herself once again to fit into his world?

Here’s the excerpt of that first meeting:

As he bent to place the bottle back in the car, something caught his eye. A glimmer, a slight tremble of motion in the distance. He squinted back along the road as it snaked away across the hillside, shading his eyes to focus. Something glinted, shimmered, right out there on the horizon. He walked around to the boot of his car, where his field equipment lay stowed, and opened it to grab his binoculars from his rucksack. He raised them to his eyes, adjusted the focus and blinked in surprise as the hazy vision solidified.
A head. A woman by the look of it, heavily cloaked, emerging slowly over the horizon. Her pace slow, sedate, rolling slightly. Ethan watched, puzzled, but soon understood the reason for the curious gait. Another head, this one grey with long ears pointing straight towards the heavens—a donkey. As they crested the hill, Ethan saw that the cloaked woman sat astride the animal, perfectly in tune with its leisurely pace as the beast ambled placidly along the ribbon of tarmac. Neither the woman nor her mount appeared to be in a hurry. As Ethan watched through his binoculars, a pair of shoulders appeared, also shrouded in a heavy cloak, the fabric enveloping her small figure. She didn’t appear to be guiding the donkey. She had tucked her hands inside the drapes of her clothing, perhaps for protection from the searing heat. Her feet, too, were swathed within the cloak. The ethnic details in the brightly coloured fabric crystallised as he watched. He suspected the multihued woollen fabric to be hand-woven. When the pair came fully into view, Ethan could make out panniers swaying on either side of the beast, one with a small, rolled up carpet peeking from it.
As they made their slow, unruffled progress down the road towards where he stood, Ethan dropped the binoculars onto the passenger seat, preferring to watch them with the naked eye. He stared, unashamed, as they drew nearer, taking in every detail of this pair, so incongruous almost anywhere else yet so perfectly placed here in this unchanging landscape. Ethan strolled to the rear of his car, resting his hip against the boot. He made no pretence of disinterest, not so much as a passing nod. His fascination was total.
The woman and donkey would not have looked out of place in Biblical times, and it struck Ethan that in many ways not much had changed here in over two thousand years—at least on the face of it. He watched as the woman reached up to rearrange her cloak slightly to cover most of her features, the traditional modest feminine gesture so common hereabouts. Now she gave off no clues at all, there was no way he could surmise what might lie hidden beneath the heavy shawl. Long minutes crawled past as the pair covered the distance separating them from Ethan. He regarded them solemnly during the whole of their journey.
At last, they were close enough for him to make eye contact. On impulse—and because it seemed impolite not to—Ethan removed his Ray-Bans and met the woman’s gaze. She looked him in the eye, direct, unafraid. And certainly not so much as hinting at the timid modesty he might have expected. Her eyes were dark, lined in the local kohl, but her Berber heritage was evident. Despite having no other clues to tempt him, Ethan found her eyes oddly beguiling. Intrigued, he would have liked to know her, to chat perhaps. But that would never happen, not here. In this magical, timeless place, worlds passed within inches of each other, beings such as she and he might co-exist, but their lives did not touch, would never touch. They were a million miles apart.
The woman and donkey drew alongside, and Ethan greeted her in the way that seemed natural to him. He nodded, offering her half a smile—polite, distant, acknowledging her presence in this remote place, and his. The woman inclined her head slightly, the movement almost imperceptible but enough. Just enough. As she passed, she dropped her gaze from his, returning her attention to the road in front of her as the donkey carried her onwards.
The innate submission in her response to him affected Ethan powerfully. His cock twitched and leapt to attention with a degree of enthusiasm that even he felt was unseemly in the circumstances. With his erection straining the front of his faded jeans, Ethan turned, following her with his eyes as she moved away from him, relieved that she could no longer see him, as the effect she’d had on him would have been difficult to conceal. From the back, she appeared even more mysterious, even more inscrutable—a small, still figure swaying gracefully with the motion of the donkey.
Ethan shook his head slightly, intrigued, mesmerised, though he couldn’t say why. Where else in the world could two people so different in every respect meet, pass each other, nod a greeting, neither one in the least surprised to see the other, and both with a perfectly good reason to be there?
What was it about the small woman that fascinated him? He knew nothing of her life, nor she of his. They would never meet again, and he doubted he’d even recognise her if they did. Still, he stood transfixed, watching as she slowly receded from his sight.

Buy Link   Chameleon

Monday, October 8, 2018

Mortal Remains - #death #surrender #immortality

dream image

By Lisabet Sarai

I went to bed last night wondering what I could write for this cycle’s topic, “Lifting the Veil”. I woke this morning from a vivid, disturbing dream that seemed like the answer to my unspoken question.

In the dream, I was about to be dismembered, literally sawed into pieces. I’d somehow fallen into the clutches of some cabal who quite calmly informed me of their intentions. I had no idea why they wanted to do this, what they hoped to accomplish, or why I had been chosen (though there was some sense that other people had been subjected to the same fate). Immobilized, strapped to a table, I didn’t even try to escape. It’s as though I’d accepted my lack of choice.

Despite this tacit acquiescence, I was terrified. It seemed they planned to hack away at me while I was awake and alert. I pleaded with them to give me some sort of drugs or anesthesia, and they agreed. At first I just felt a bit foggy-headed, all my sensations muffled in cotton wool, but soon I began to sink into unconsciousness. As I slipped away, I imagined what awaited me. Were these the last thoughts I’d ever experience? Was I about to be obliterated, erased? Or was there some spark, some spirit, some essence of my being that would endure after my body was nothing but a pile of bloody meat? I didn’t know the answer. Even if I did, there was nothing at all I could do. I had to let go.

I’m not the type to brood, but when you’re in your sixth decade of life and your partner is in his seventh, it’s hard not to think about death at least occasionally. It could come at any time, for either of us. Am I ready? Is anyone, ever? (Actually, I think some people are. My ninety four year old aunt told me before she died that every morning she woke up thinking, “Well, I guess I’m still alive.) Am I afraid? As in the dream, I am probably more frightened by the possibility of pain than of oblivion.

I do believe (with varying degrees of certainty depending on the day and my mood) that there is a dimension of energy or spirit beyond the material world, that indeed spirit engenders and shapes physical reality. Death might destroy the ego, the self, personality and memories, but our life energy must be recycled. I try to convince myself that death is just another stage of existence, that what awaits on the other side of the veil might well be revelations impossible to grasp when we’re shackled and smothered in our meat selves.

Some days I am more successful in fostering this enlightened view than others.

I really don’t know where my near-nightmare came from. I might have been influenced by this article I read just yesterday:

In case you’re too busy to follow the link, the topic is RAADFest, the Revolution Against Aging and Death convention, part of a movement to use science to defer or reverse the effects of age. The ultimate mission? Immortality.

It’s easy to snicker when you read this article, but who knows? The human life span has more than doubled in a few centuries, and seems to still be on the upswing. Of course immortality has been staple fare in science fiction (not to mention paranormal erotica) for a long time. I recently finished Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, a scifi novel bursting with provocative ideas, including some notions about immortality. A technology is developed to “scan” a person’s mind, upload and store the entire sum of his or her thoughts, memory and personality, and later reconstitute the “person” as a disembodied intelligence running on a computer. In particular, this technology makes it possible to “reboot” you after you have physically died. The process is far from foolproof, and can be highly disruptive, emotionally, to the person involved. Probably the most traumatic aspect, when your scan is loaded and activated, is dealing with the idea that you’re actually dead.

But what does that mean“actually dead”—when extinct animals can be cloned from historical DNA? When new organs can be 3D printed (already possible for some sorts of tissues)? When stem cells can be teased into any sort of body part needed? We’re used to thinking about death as a sharp line, “The undiscovered country, from whose bourn, No traveller returns”, but maybe things aren’t that simple. Ghosts. Vampires. Clones. Sentient androids. Energy beings from space. Who knows what the universe holds?

Another strand in this tangle involves the eroticism of death. Most of my stories tend toward the sex-positive and sunny, but when I pen a paranormal tale, I often find myself spinning into darkness. I’m drawn to the experience of surrender. Could there be a more profound surrender than releasing oneself to death?

I have a story releasing on the 17th that explores this idea, mixing it up with a bit of magic. My protagonist in Underground craves the experience of orgasm as she hovers at the edge of death. She spends long, frustrated years looking for a lover who can satisfy her needs, until she meets the mysterious Z at an exclusive sex club reputedly frequented by beings with occult powers.

He places his silver blade between my breasts, a sweet reminder of the blood he might or might not shed. The chill metal sucks warmth from my skin. His mouth dances over my lips, my straining nipples, my fresh-shaven mound. With every contact he draws the life from me, leaving exquisite languor in its stead. My limbs grow heavy. It becomes impossible to move, even if I wanted to. Meanwhile, profound pleasure circles and settles in my pelvis like a purring cat.

I open myself to him, mind and body both, desire overwhelming any residual instinct toward self-preservation. His luminous body is a magnet, attracting my essence. He drinks deep, taking what he requires.

To give him everything is my only desire. 


Maybe working with this story kindled the strange dream. On the other hand, I’ve been aware of the emotional link between BDSM and death for years. Here’s something I wrote almost fifteen years ago, which captures this connection better than most of my tales.


They meet, infrequently, to perform the ritual. She waits for him to arrive, heart slamming against her ribs, stomach twisted with nervousness. When he enters, they embrace, awkwardly. It has been so long. She attempts lightness, a joke, a jibe, pretending that she does not know why she is here. Then he gives the sign - a mere eyebrow, arched in a question - and her protective humor slips from her along with her clothing.

The ritual demands much of them, the steps choreographed, but always with room for improvisation. First he binds her, with rope, or silk, or leather, ceiling-hung with thighs spread, or splayed across the bed, or bent double over a hassock. Sometimes he will position her limbs and bind her to stillness with his command alone.

Then he teases her, dabbles his fingers in her wetness, lovingly mocks her sluttishness. She melts at his slightest touch, sinks liquid and helpless into the ritual spirit, moaning just as he intends. She could drown in his rich voice, nuanced and full of power. He pinches her nipples into aching peaks, captures them in clothespins, or cinches them with rubber bands. All the while he strokes her pussy, calls her his pet, muddles the pains and the pleasures besieging her.

Next, he beats her. Here the ritual has many variants, but all with a single purpose: to invoke the purity of her surrender. She writhes under the lash, twists away from the hairbrush, whimpers as his bare palm reddens her buttocks. She does not wish to resist him; her only thought now is to please. But the pain is difficult to endure. Breathe, he says, soothing, encouraging, even as he scourges her. Open yourself. Yield yourself to me once again.

His voice is the key that unlocks her. Some barrier shatters and she floats free, each stroke of the whip an ecstatic kiss. His mind moves with hers now, sharing her agony and her joy. His breath comes in gasps like hers. His organ is granite. Now, come to me, my love, he whispers, entering her front or rear or spraying her marked thighs with his burning seed. She obeys, sliding into climax as he slides inside her, white hot fringed with red streaks of the pain.

Transcendence. Communion. Completion. They do not speak of it as they dress. There is no need for speech when the ritual is complete.

They meet infrequently. Sitting alone, on the plane or the bus taking her homeward, she savors the gaping, twitching sensations in her rear hole, the sharp echo of her stripes as she shifts in her seat, the slickness, still, in her sex. His voice echos in her mind.

Theirs is an old love. She thinks of him daily, imagines his life, her chest swollen with bittersweet aching. He thinks of her less frequently, but when he does, he gnashes his teeth, driven almost to madness because he cannot possess her. Then he recalls her sweet pliancy, her willing debasement, and his lips curve in a smile as he strums on his cock.

The ritual renews them. When she lies in a dentist's chair, or on the surgeon's table, when she wakes in fear in the night, she remembers him. Breathe. Open. Surrender. She relaxes into the fear, trusting as she trusts him.

She is sure that she will think of him, that way, when she surrenders herself into the arms of death. And then, perhaps, their meetings will be more frequent, and the ritual will be perfected. 


Despite the terror, my dream held hints of this epiphany. I would like to believe that when the time comes, I will cross the threshold in grace and trust, not in fear.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Reading to Each Other

When I was in Oregon at my sister’s on holiday, I rediscovered the pure pleasure of reading to each other. I’d been raving to her about Naomi Novik’s fantastic Temeraire series. At my recommendation, she downloaded the first book. One afternoon while sitting on her deck trying to catch a breeze in the hundred degree plus heat, I asked if she’d like me to read to her. To my surprised she said, “oh, I love to be read to.” That was all it took. I was off. 

I know I’ve already fan-girled about Temeraire all over OGaG, but reading it out loud, reading it TO someone and seeing their first time response to the wonderful scenes I know are coming was like experiencing it all brand new. 

That got me thinking about reading out loud. It’s something I’ve always done on my final rewrite of my own novels because things that don’t sound right often don’t read well to readers either. Plus, once again, it’s a way of seeing my own work afresh – always helpful. 

Taking that one step further, ever since I got over my initial terror of that first time, I’ve loved to do readings from my novels for an audience. A huge part of the fun is making whatever I read, even if it’s only five minutes worth, come to life. That’s even more fun when what I’m reading to my audience is erotica, and I know I’m making them a little bit uncomfortable. Like all writers, I want people to love the stories I tell as much as I do. I want my characters to be as alive to them as they are to me. I want them to be as gripped by the plot as I was when I wrote it. I discovered, as I sat on the deck breathing in the delicious high desert air, that I absolutely loved being able to bring Temeraire and Lawrence to life for my sister’s entertainment. And, as I totally expected, she was gripped. 

For the next week, we giggled about sneaking some quality time with the dragon. When we weren’t reading, we often discussed the plot as it unfolded and I gave her little teasers about what was to come. Our afternoon coffee time quickly became afternoon reading time, and I discovered I was just as enthralled with the novel as I had been when I first read it. If anything, knowing what was coming as I did only excited me more – especially when I couldn’t wait to see my sister’s response to the plot as it unfolded. By day three, she got bold enough to take her turn at reading to me. We were halfway through the second novel before I left. 

The pleasure of reading out loud to each other shouldn’t come as any real surprise. For centuries people who could read read out loud. Up until the 17th century, reading was not the silent pleasure it is today. While I’m the first to say I could curl up with a good book and never leave my cave, I’m also the first to say that I have loved being read to since I was a child. As I said, the art of reading to others came much later for me when I began doing readings from my own books for an audience. Reading as a communal experience, reading as an almost magical ritual of bringing a story and its characters to life, should not be a lost art. It’s too much of a bonding experience, too much of an imaginative journey. I’ve even had a number of couples get in touch with me to let me know that they have had some seriously sexy bonding time reading The Initiation of Ms Holly, or The Pet Shop together. Some were even enthusiastic enough to roll play some of the characters. 

While I can’t actually read out loud to you on OGaG, I am as always, happy to share with you my most recent reads. 

The Truth about Rumpelstiltskin

I have a habit of finding an author I love and reading everything they have ever written. And since Naomi Novik is a goddess to me, I was elated when Spinning Silver was released. The novel did not disappoint. If you enjoy fairy tales revisited, you’ll love Spinning Silver. Like everything else Novik has written, Spinning Silver is gripping from the first paragraph right on to the last as she shares the truth about Rumpelstiltskin through the eyes of Miriam, the money lender’s daughter, whose power to “spin silver” draws the attention of two of the badest baddies in Slavic fairy tale and myth. 

Paranormal Panspermia with a Reverse Harem Twist

Oh I adore series! Give me a ten or twelve book tale and I’m in heaven. I just finished book three of Pippa Da Costa’s Messenger Series, The Nightshade’s Touch. While the beginning was a bit slow, mostly with a little too much recap from the previous novel, I’m so glad I stuck with it. If Fae in space, or protofae excited me, imagine how thrilled I was to discover protovamps as well. And when Kesh Lasota, the main character, is in a stormy, hormone laced, chemistry-driven battle to save the inhabited planets with the help of one of each, how can it not be a fun read. 

More Fae the YA Way

At the moment I’m reading Holly Black’s The Cruel Princewhich came highly recommended from the Sarah J. Maas fan pages, which I spend a fair amount of time on. Am I the only one who finds that quite often YA is more sophisticated and more gripping, and often more sexy, than what’s out there for “grown-ups?” I have a theory that those of us who aren’t nostalgic for our angsty teen years, those of us who were happiest to leave our own coming of age far behind us, may very well enjoy today’s YA because it doesn’t try to paint those years as Happy Days and the best years of our lives. Maybe we enjoy it so much because we get it. And reading about someone else navigating that minefield of coming of
age to come out on the other side, gives us hope. It certainly does me. 

The Cruel Prince is the story of Jude and her two sisters, whose parents are murdered by a Fae warlord, who then steals them away to live among the Fae and learn to survive in the dangerous Fae Court. Talk about a serious minefield for teenage angst! To find her place in a world in which she doesn’t belong, Jude willingly delves deeply into her own darkness, but what will it cost her? I’ll keep reading and let you know. 

Whatever you’re reading, enjoy. And if you get the chance, read it out loud to someone else and enjoy it even more.