Monday, May 30, 2016

Pounded in the Butt by Superpowers

Sacchi Green

I think I’d prefer Bigfoot. But maybe not T. Rex.

I’ve never been much of a fan of superheroes. Nothing against them, really, and Christopher Reeve was fun as Superman, but the whole trope of a single (or even several) crimefighters with unworldly powers battling a single (or possibly several) twisted villains to save the world just doesn’t make much sense. The actual threats to our world cannot be condensed into a single “bad guy,” or overcome by a single “good guy,” no matter what other-worldly powers he may have.

Of course these stories aren’t meant to represent the real world, but rather to be distractions from it. I have no problems with unreal worlds, at least the fantasy varieties; I’ve written stories about magic-users, sorceresses, earth mages, green mages. But I can’t quite get my mind around the difference between fantasy stories and superhero stories, even though I know the difference is profound.

So why, one might ask, have I contracted to write a lesbian superhero novella for a publisher who has invited me to do so? I mean, I do think that it’s a great idea to have lesbian superhero stories, and I’d really like to explore the theme in certain ways, but I’m having a very hard time getting inside the head of a superhero character. I’m probably going to tell the story from the perspective of her sidekick/lover, in fact. I’m hearing her voice already.

I know the general plot, or at least the questions I want to deal with. How would someone, in this case an Army Lieutenant stationed in Iraq several years ago, react to having a superpower suddenly thrust upon her by way of a tiny carved ivory goddess figure that literally falls on her from the crumbling roof of a cave eroded into the bank of a dry Wadi? How would the Sergeant (hiding there with her from approaching enemy fighters) react? Wouldn’t they both think they were going crazy unless I make this a world where superheroes are already known to exist, which I’d rather not do? Does telekinesis, the power in question, even qualify as a superpower? There must be a considerable learning curve involved, at the least, and quandaries about how to use such a power, how not to use it, and how to conceal it from, say, military entities with their own ideas of how to use her. In any case I know I have to get them away from the military, mainly because the publisher doesn’t want much of a political nature in the story. I want my superhero to do things like free female Yazidi and Kurdish women, some of them soldiers themselves, enslaved by ISIS, and to save Boko Harum captives in Africa, but instead I’ll have to show her battling sex traffickers and similar stock villains, and then at the very end hint at further adventures involving freeing women enslaved by unnamed nasty powers far away.

I do know roughly how my first chapter will end. The enemy doesn’t find them because the Lieutenant uses her new power to move stones and dirt in front of their cave to obscure it. Once out in the open, she exercises her “shadow hand” cautiously, tentatively, the Sergeant urging her on as they both come gradually to believe in what’s happening. The Sergeant, though, has begun to think about what all this might mean, how her Lieutenant/friend/lover may be changed forever, and is caught observing her with a bit of a worried frown.

“What’s the matter? Do you hear them coming back?” A stone sharp as an axe head floated into her waiting hand.

“Nope. No problem. I was just thinking now you’re a superhero, you’ll need a new uniform. Like in the movies.  Sleek, skintight, low-cut here, high cut there…” Her gestures made the anatomical areas in question quite clear.

The swat on her shoulder would have staggered her if she hadn’t braced for it. Her jaunty grin was at least half relief that it had been delivered by an actual, familiar hand. Not but what the new situation might have other intriguing possibilities…

So there it is. I’ve contracted to write something that I don’t understand at all well, and I’m struggling with it. I’m accustomed to trying to balance on the edge between what I want to write and what readers will expect, but this time feels even trickier. What do people expect from superhero stories? How much or how little “real world” can I get away with? The readers probably want to get far away from the real world, and I can’t blame them. Do I have to keep to a simplistic good versus evil plot line? Just asking that shows that I’m in danger of “writing down” to my own faulty stereotypical view of the readership. Do I…do I have to go watch a bunch of superhero movies to see how they’ve evolved since the days of Christopher Reeve’s Superman? What have I got myself into?  

 Fortunately I have what should be plenty of time. And, on the bright side, at least I don’t have to deal with zombies.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Push And Pull

Under my Abi Aiken name, I co-wrote (with Rozlyn Sparks) a trilogy of BDSM Billionaire stories. I’ve mentioned those before on here, I believe. “Submission Therapy”, “Occupational Therapy”, and “Immersion Therapy”. The Aiken & Sparks team also co-wrote a trilogy of professor/student power-play stories, the “Sex Education” series.
Those were both a lot of fun, and it was through the writing of those six stories I came to realize what it is I like about the sexual kind of power play. It’s the mental side of it.
So many jokes are made in mainstream culture about “whips and chains” and “spank me, I’m a bad girl/boy”. That’s all well and good, but of course it’s working with uninformed clichĂ©s, and based only on what folks see in passing. And for me, there is an undeniable physical beauty in shibari, for example, but it’s not something I particularly need or want in my life or in my stories.
No, for me, the greatest thrill in power play is the mind game, paired with intimate physical contact. I tend not to write too many toys, tools or accoutrements with any power based stories. When I write them, my focus is almost exclusively on male dominance and female submission (though there is at least one exception), and I truly do envision it much like the creation of art.
My canvas is the skin of her body. My brushes are the hands of her Master. And my inspiration is the meeting of their minds and needs.
Once again in a co-writing situation, I have two short, sharp stories out in a series called Stolen Moments. I’m writing these with the sexy Sassie Lewis, who not only is a dream to work with, she’s also a hottie who I get to see in the flesh almost every week. Sometimes several times. 
These stories almost qualify as free-writing. They’re done in two voices (his and hers), and we write them in to-and-fro sections. Literally. One of us will start the story in a Private Message on Facebook, then the other returns fire. Back and forth, back and forth, and all in one session until the story reaches a conclusion.
These babies come out with no set plan, and usually with no setup. It’s raw storytelling, and the editing process is as short and sharp as the writing. We clean up the mistakes and cut away echoes, and there’s not a lot more to it than that. In fact, we have a third complete story written, but we’ve chosen not to publish it, simply because it was forced in the writing process. The raw naturalness was not there, so the work is not reflective of the series.
The Stolen Moments series are basically as they sound… brief encounters between two characters we choose not to name. Are they the same characters in each story? Are they married? And if so, is it to each other or not? These are all scene-setting elements, and integral to the nature of the stories, but the heart of each story is the power differential between the characters, and the way it comes across.
Again, it’s the mental side of power. The fact these two characters know each other intimately. Beyond simply physical intimacy, they understand each other’s weaknesses and strengths, needs and wants.
She has an innate need to submit. To reach an internal nothingness which then facilitates a physical, mental and emotional release, through orgasm. His power comes through in the way he understands that, and her, so deeply. He revels in his own ability to suppress his base wants and needs in order to draw out the session and heighten the pleasure for them both. For example, though he might desperately want to sink his teeth into the ripe flesh of her nipple, he will instead caress that skin with only his breath. It’s the clear need he implies by withholding which intensifies the moment.
Her power manifests in a different way; through her submission. Using that previous example, it will be the way she angles her body to bring his entire focus onto the stiff flesh of her nipple. Placing the temptation before him to see if he can resist. That’s one way she will direct a scene, but not the only one.
Essentially, they both want instant gratification. What they need, though, is to take the scene to a far more potent conclusion. And for these two, it can only be done through the push and pull of temptation and resistance.

From "Need", the second story in the Stolen Moments series:

It’s been years since I quit smoking but I still remember what it was like. Those mornings when I’d wake up and light up. The first deep pull on the cigarette would bring my body and mind to life. And it’s like that with her. A kiss is never just a kiss.
She switches from gentle to full force arousal in seconds. The sweet soft caress of her mouth quickly turns to ferocious longing, but for the moment I can't tell who's leading who. All I can feel is the luxury of her gorgeous full-figured body against me. The round solidity of her ass fills my hands, and the ready way she curls those thighs around me as I lift her brings my entire body and soul to life.
The heat of her cunt radiates through the fabric and kisses my cock through my boxer briefs. Damn her. I'm making all the moves, yet she's still fucking driving it. It’s that ancient ballet between the sexes, where she leaves all the right gaps and I fill them like poured water. Everything she does is an invitation. With just her eyes she can pull me from slumber to fully-fledged raging hard-on in a matter of seconds. And with her mouth... oh, god...
She claws my naked back and pulls my hair, and it all hurts but not nearly enough. I need to dive into her, swim across that bountiful flesh, dash myself against every bone in her gorgeous body.
I climb onto my bed, holding her up as I balance on my knees for a moment, before we both crash to the mattress. Her fleshiness is the perfect cushion and my solid weight pushes a sweet moan from inside her.

The first two Stolen Moments books, “Feel” and “Need”, are both available on Amazon, and through Kindle Unlimited.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Anonymous. Obsession.

by Giselle Renarde

In 2010 or thereabouts, I wrote a book called Anonymous. It could just as easily be called Obsession.

It's about Hannah, a woman who lost her executive finance job when the market crashed. She's looking for work, but there's nothing available at her level. Being unemployed is getting to her, and it's having a definite impact on her marriage to Nathaniel.

The first thing we find out about this couple is that Nathaniel wants to get with another man and Hannah wants to watch. It's a fantasy they revisit again and again. The first scene takes place during a power outage. When they've got no TV to entertain themselves, they escape into their fantasy life together.

You get the sense that they've been replaying this scene for years: imagining what it would be like. Asking, "What would you do if we had a guy right here right now?" Getting ridiculously turned on by the answer.

You also get the sense that, if Hannah had a job to occupy her mind and her time, their fantasy life might never have spilled over into reality.

Hannah and Nathaniel have one caveat to their shared desire: they don't want to invite a guy they know into the bedroom. Could get really complicated if they brought in a friend or one of Nathaniel's coworkers and things went wrong. Hannah's convinced they're looking for a stranger.

In fact, she wants someone totally anonymous.

Anonymous is a "careful what you wish for" book, in a lot of ways. Hannah's got too much time on her hands, and she uses it to set up some no-strings-attached stranger sex.

One night only.

No names.

Total anonymity.

Except the big event doesn't go exactly as planned, which puts pressure on Nathaniel and Hannah's marriage. This is a book in three parts (not a trilogy, just a story that's divided into three sections). Everything I've mentioned so far takes place in Part One.

To me, it's what comes AFTER the "getting what you want" bit that's most interesting. Hannah can't handle not knowing. She becomes obsessed with finding out the true identity of Mr. Anonymous. The power of that obsession drives almost every decision she makes. Her obsession takes over. So much other stuff happens in the second two parts of this book, but Hannah's never the same after that one night.

Obsession drives Hannah to take a job she normally wouldn't have. I wonder if it's detrimental to her life or not. I remember one reviewer saying she didn't feel that Hannah's obsession took away from her relationship with Nathaniel. She didn't find the obsession unhealthy.

I'm not so sure. But what do I know? The writer is the last person you should ask about a book. We have a very skewed perspective.
Anonymous was briefly off the market when its original publisher closed down, but it's BACK as of today and if you click real quick you might just find it at Amazon.

As an introductory price for the re-release, it's only $0.99 or free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. Here's the link: 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chrysanthemum: A Sketch

 I hold`the purple blossom to her nose.  She smells it, the high nostalgic aroma of the chrysanthemum and her eyes go wide with comprehension.  It is why I admire her.  It is why I adore her.  She reads my mind, or something in me that speaks.  Her intuition is impeccable.  Maybe its because of the very knowing that love dies.

I place my hand over my heart, sitting where she can see, just so that my intentions are clear.  I don't have to speak.  I think to put it into words would just insult her exquisite intelligence.

She tugs at her ropes.  They cling tighter, like the grip of a great snake, as they are meant to do.  The shrimp knot that pins her forward, makes her back bow, grips without cutting off the blood in her wrists.   That is the art speaking.  I leave the chrysanthemum on the tatami mat in front of her face, where she can see it, could even take it in her lips if she were to make such an extravagant, sacrificial gesture.  But she does not.  
The high bamboo pole reaches to the ceiling where it is firmly anchored.  I hoist her up gently. First her lush and naked thighs leave the floor.  One leg is bent in an L shape with the foot touching her hip and the other bent behind her back as though she were a Buddhist dakini goddess running in place.Her fingers are, each, clasped in individual knots like a kind of glove so that every finger is its own special prisoner.  That is loving detail. 

I pull the rope and the strain sets my heart to racing and I feel the first warning pinch in my chest.  It doesn't matter anyway.  I came here to die.  I pull, my body snarls a warning deep inside, I pull and she goes head down as her bow bound torso leaves the floor, and only her cheek touches the tatami mat under her.  I have to stop here, and behold the beauty of her breasts that lay upended against her chest, the  erect pink nipples that have not yet known a babe's suck tap tentatively at her collar bones.  I must stop.  I must stop and take a moment to brush my lips against them.  Her eyes close languidly even as the rush of blood pinks her cheeks and slightly reddens her forehead.  Her eyes open and wordlessly roll to the flower and back to me.

She opens her mouth.  Puts out her tongue.

Oh darling.  Darling girl.  You can't mean that.

I sit on the tatami mat and lay on my belly my face an inch from hers.  "I would die for you," she says.

"Its nice of you to say so," I tell her. But I deny her the glory of eating the toxic flower.  I regret the sound of my voice instantly.  The silence is sacred.  I place my awareness on my breathing, silence the mental chatter of my thoughts.  I place myself in the moment, in the room, we two, nude, not naked, nude which is different and deliberate looking across the abyss between us.  That abyss that we have crossed and recrossed and now feel ourselves most failing.  Our eyes meet across that tiny gulf.

I rise, my knees hurting, my head turning light.  For a moment the room is gray and I have to step my feet apart and pause, wondering if this moment will come to me anyway without the flower.

This room is paved with tatami mats.  The wooden walls are not sound proofed but we are so far in the solitary recesses of my estate, this pleasure cabin where we've performed our rituals many times, this place would hear no sounds of a starving or dehydrated woman crying for help should the one man who knows she is trussed and dangling for days and nights from the ceiling, lie dead on the floor from heart failure.  And this is imminent.  I will not leave this room with my spirit.

Such trust.  Can there be such a person? 

Her head has cleared the floor.  She dangles, the weight of her body tightening the cords that have twisted and bound her impossibly.  Her hair dangles down and and brushes against the rice straw of the mats.  She turns and turns, revolving slowly and peacefully.  I place my awareness on the breath and sit quietly on the mat watching her turn.  I take the flower in my fingers and smell its bright and defiant aroma.  I turn the tight sunburst blossom, which centuries ago graced the war banners of my clan.

For a blue heart, as they say, the chrysanthemum is enough to kill. To stop the heart, it needs only be eaten; to strand the helpless until all thought of art and beauty is banished for survival.  Hanging alone in a room with a dead man.  I hold the flower out to her again.  Her mouth opens.  She puts out her tongue.  She turns and turns with her tongue out.

There is only the sound of the breath going in and out of my nostrils.  Outside a bird has begun to sing or complain.  The sting in my chest invites me.

Is she bluffing?  Would she risk fever or worse to deny me my death?  Or is it only her way of ensuring she lives?

The bird goes on singing.  Her head turns.  Her face gets redder.

There is in me, that blossoming of which I had been hoping and feared was dead in me.  Compassion.  I feel pain to see her discomfort, even for art.  I let my thoughts dwell on this pain.  I wasn't sure I could feel the suffering of another and now I'm relieved to feel my connection to my humanity lives which I had thought had faded.  Or maybe she has revived it.

"You are the goddess of compassion," I say to the back of her revolving neck.

I eat the flower, swallowing its medicinal sourness.  How long will it take?

I crawl to her, my phallus erect.  I turn, stand up and spin her body around to face me.  Her thighs are held apart by the cords and her sex is displayed to me.  I place my face between her open thighs and inhale the aroma of her.  Like green tea.  I place my tongue flat against those lips that may yet give birth some day if I am, fast enough to stop this thing.

Her eyes are closed in pleasure below.  Would I have such courage?  Such self mastery?

I lick the flat of my tongue against those wet and delicate surfaces, lick the inside of her thighs where they join her sex.  I felt the crawling, tingling from my belly of distress approaching. 

I have to move quickly to the bamboo pole and let her down gently but quickly to the mat.  My heart is beating now in my chest and my face is hot.  She moves, lower and lower, and now settling on the mat as I feel waves of panic.  The body fighting to live oblivious to all else.

No.  I am not an animal.  Living is not enough.  Not in the face of art.

She lays along the floor limply, her eyes regarding the discarded stem of the flower that is killing me quickly.  The cords that bind her hands are tight.  I snatch at them with my teeth, feeling a new wave of panic, not for me, but for her.  The room is getting hard to see, and colors are fading to gray.

"Here.. Here .. " The sound of my own voice choking.  I can't hope to untie these cords.  These knots would take hours to do and undo, like climbing up and down a mountain face of strings.

There is a flower vase filled with chrysanthemums.  I crawl to it, lift it, smash it on the floor.  It flies to pieces and I pick up the shards.

This one will do.  I cut the cords and her hands are free.

The tatami mat on my face.  Lips on my cheek.  There. Goodbye dear.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Power of Nature

We had the first thunderstorm of summer last night.  The wind howled, the rain came down in sheets, lightning flashed, and thunder rumbled.  When I awoke in the morning, the clouds were gone, the streets were wet, and most everything was still as-is.  It was a storm, but it wasn’t a bad one.

Today, I mowed the lawn (once the summer sun had dried up most of the rain) and I found a baby bird in the grass, likely having fallen from his nest in the overnight storm.  The bird was still alive and seemed to be doing well — and a few adult birds watched me as I neared the baby, so I hope the parents knew it was there.  I worried about the bird, of whether I should try to put it back in its nest, but the nest was too high and if those adult birds were its parents, then it had mom and dad watching after it still.  While I had gotten through the storm just fine, my feathered friend had not done so well.

The storms here in central Canada have certainly worsened with climate change.  There have always been violent storms when I was growing up, but the frequency and severity of these storms has increased in the last ten years or so.

I still remember the first time I saw a storm so violent that it had snapped trees in half and torn others straight out of the ground.  It wasn’t a tornado — we don’t get them here — it was just a violent storm.  When I realized that entire trees had been knocked over, I had gotten on my bike and went on a ride through the neighbourhood, assessing the damage.

Nowadays, a snapped tree means nothing.  Just last summer, a tree across the street from my house cracked and then split in half during a summer storm.  A couple trees down the street had fallen over, destroying fences.  I drove past them, barely giving them a second glance.

I think it’s easy to ignore the awesome power of nature, especially when we are comfy and cosy in our houses and apartments.  We barely notice nature unless it does something unexpectedly destructive.  Right now, huge swaths of Alberta (a province here in Canada) are still in flames.  Forest fires are burning even closer to home, with several running rampant in my province of Manitoba.

But as I sit, comfy and secure in my house, I can’t help but think of that bird, of how one strong gust turned its world upside down.  That one gust could have even ended the bird’s life — I will check on it tomorrow to see how it’s doing, if it’s even still alive.

When a thunderstorm happens, I love turning off all the lights, opening the curtains, and watching the violence of wind and rain.  I love the sound of heavy drops pelting the roof and windows.  Sometimes the brutality of nature can make me worried, even when I’m safely in my house.  After all, houses are never completely safe — the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, make that clear.  The falling trees after a violent storm show just how close people are from getting hurt in a storm, even if they’re in their houses.

But even in the fearsome violence of nature, there is life.  Even now, in the charred remains of the forests of Alberta, insects are hard at work, creating new life in the devastation.  Pinecones have opened and will soon being the process of growing into trees.  Animals will soon return.  Even in nature’s darkest hour, there is still life and activity.  There is beauty in destruction.  There is life in the aftermath of the power of nature.

And the next time we have a violent thunderstorm here, I’ll put on a pot of tea and snuggle up with my lover as we watch nature put on its spectacle.  I will worry about the roof and the windows, about the possibility of hail or heavy rain causing damage, of me being like that baby bird — helpless in the face of nature’s power.  But I will also get a thrill from the brilliant flashes of lighting and the wall-shaking rumble of thunder.  I’ll snuggle up close to my lover and we’ll cuddle.  Like the insects in the forest fires of Fort McMurray, my lover and I will be a spot of life and calm in a sea of nature’s chaos.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Seduced by My Best Friend’s Dad (co-written with Sandra Claire). He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit

Monday, May 23, 2016

Addicted to Power

By Lisabet Sarai

A few weeks ago, on a Wednesday, there was a notice posted in the elevator of our apartment building. The metropolitan electricity authority had scheduled some major upgrades for our neighborhood, so on the following Sunday, electricity would be cut from 8 AM to approximately 2 PM.

My husband and I looked at each other, aghast. What would we do? Where would we go? How would we manage to live for six hours without power?

Our concern wasn’t completely irrational. I try to devote Sundays to my writing. He typically works on a variety of projects outside of his job responsibilities, most of which involve the computer. Plus we live in the tropics, where, especially in the hot season, being stuck in a place without air conditioning or fans is uncomfortable bordering on dangerous.

Still, what strikes me, looking back, is our extreme consternation. We weren’t exactly panicked, but our planning engines immediately went into high gear as we tried to figure out a strategy for dealing with this looming problem.

How widespread would the problem be? How reliable were the times (previous experience suggested not very...)? If we didn’t leave the apartment until Sunday morning, would we have electricity for the espresso maker and our showers?

I also started worrying about the food I had in the freezer. I altered my meal plans for the next few days to make sure I could use up the pork chops and the smoked salmon before they could spoil.

What files would we need to take with us? What applications needed to be installed on our laptops? Could we get by without our chargers? Or the USB DVD reader? Did I need my portable mouse?

Eventually, we decided to spend Saturday night in a hotel in another part of the city. We chose a place we knew would have a desk in the room and made sure it had wifi. We requested a late check-out, so we could devote the maximum amount of time to working. The best the hotel could do was 1 PM. At that point, we left our overnight bags at the hotel desk and set out on a quest for a likely coffee shop, hauling our computers with us. We didn’t want to head back to our neighborhood too early. What would we do if the electricity was still out? Sit around in the lobby and sweat?

Modern urban life depends on electricity, no question. Our reactions though... you might have thought we were facing an outage of days rather than hours. There’s no question we’re addicted to power.

It wasn’t always like this. When I was younger, I remember quite clearly that power cuts due to storms sometimes had a holiday quality. (Not the ones in the dead of the New England winter, of course...!) Bring out the candles and the flashlights. See if we can make dinner on the emergency Sterno stove, or the hibachi. Open a bottle of wine and celebrate an excuse not to work.

I’ll never forget when Hurricane Donna hit Massachusetts in 1960, causing a major blackout. My mom was so calm. She gathered my siblings and me around the candle-lit kitchen table and taught us to play bridge.

It was like camping, something I did a fair amount of in my youth. Back then I loved getting away from civilization, roughing it. I recall with some affection one summer at the Girl Scout camp where we stayed in big tents, with no electricity. I didn’t miss it at all.

Now, though, the notion of being without power (and without the Internet) scares the heck out of me. All I can think of is the email accumulating, the blog posts needing to be written, the adoring letters from fans that I can’t access... (Okay, I made the last one up.) I haven’t been camping in about twenty years. I wonder if I could stand the isolation.

Of course, I’m not alone in this addiction. In the Asian city where I live, everyone carries not just his or her cell phone, but also a portable power bank, just in case the phone battery runs out. (I haven’t sunk that low yet, mostly because I don’t use my phone that much.) Cafes and restaurants feature power outlets next to each table. I attend quite a few technical conferences and trade shows. These days every one provides stations where you can lock up your device in a little cubicle while you top up its charge.

I remind myself that millions of humans on the planet live without electricity and for the most part, survive without too much difficulty. Presumably I could do so too, if necessary. My clear addiction makes me quite uncomfortable. I’ve always liked to believe I am a flexible, adaptable sort of person, the kind of individual who can be creative in handling the unexpected. My frantic unease when facing last month’s power cut makes me question that belief, though.

Maybe what I need is a long vacation in some rural location off the grid. Going cold turkey, so to speak.

But I have so much work to do on the Internet, I really don’t have the time.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Henrietta Seeks Her Fortune

by Jean Roberta

When I was growing up, my mother read me bedtime stories, chapter by chapter. I didn’t understand Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass (I was a preschooler at the time), but later on, I loved Pippi Longstocking, the strongest little girl in the world. She was the heroine of three books, originally written in Swedish (1945-48) by Astrid Lindgren for her own little girl. Pippi is the daughter of a sea captain who has been stranded on a South Sea island, where he becomes king of the natives. (The imperialist implications of this apparently escaped most white readers at the time.) He eventually finds his way back to Sweden to find his daughter, and take her on adventures at sea, but she prefers to return to the house he bought her, where she has made friends with the neighbor children. The Pippi books were eventually translated into 70 languages.

For little girls growing up in male-dominated cultures, Pippi is the ideal fantasy character. She doesn’t have much formal education and no “manners,” as adults tell her, but she is cheerful, competent, open-hearted, and loyal to her friends. She loves animals. She tells tall tales to entertain her listeners, but she understands the difference between fantasy and reality, and will tell the truth if pressed.

Many of the female characters in my own stories could be seen as descendants of Pippi, even if they are no longer children and don’t have superhuman physical strength. My favorite character is usually the most recent one.

Several months ago, two editor/publishers posted a call for submissions for “Inclusive Cthulhu.” This concept was apparently cooked up by a group of writers at Balticon, the annual fantasy con in Baltimore, Maryland. Story submissions were to be “based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, but which would offend Lovecraft, who was racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist.”

The editors added: "Sex, violence okay if they fit the story -- nothing gratuitous."

The challenge of this call appealed to me. Thus was born an adventurous young woman character who tells her own story. She is a “colored girl” who grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, during Lovecraft’s lifetime. She wants to be a schoolteacher because this is one of the few (perhaps the only) respectable professions available to her. She gets the offer of a lifetime from a mysterious old lady to teach the semi-human children of a town named Innsmouth. Her widowed mother and the parents of her fiancĂ© are alarmed, and tell her she can’t go. Henrietta dreams about her late father, who was apparently killed during the Great War, and he encourages her to seize the opportunity. (Henrietta has a sex life with her fiance, Abraham, but it's not explicitly described. The climax of her story is elsewhere.)

Here eight-year-old Henrietta’s daddy teaches her about Cthulhu:

My Daddy would not like me to write about all the things that happened after I set out to be a schoolteacher. Not a bit. He always told me to keep my business to myself, and especially not tell white folks anything they could use against me. I loved Daddy when he was alive, and I still feel him with me, but it’s my story to tell. The colored have been keeping their mouths shut since the first Africans were brought to this country, and it hasn’t ever kept us safe.

I was named Henrietta because Daddy’s name was Henry, and my Mama told me I took after him. She also told me a good colored man is hard to find, and that was why I should always honor my father. When Daddy told us Geechee stories passed down from his grandmamma and her granddaddy before her, I knew Mama didn’t believe them, but she said she respected them. I knew Mama wanted to believe Daddy’s farthest-back ancestors lived in great empires in Africa, where they wore rich robes and gold jewelry, and Jim Crow laws weren’t even thought of. The stories Daddy told were like the ones in the Bible, according to Mama, meaning there were lessons in them but they weren’t really true to life.

My brother Cyrus was always too busy getting into trouble to sit still and listen to Daddy’s stories, so he mostly told them to me. I heard all about the Old Ones in the ocean that we all came from in the beginning, and how they can hear us when we stand on the shore and call to them, even though they lie at the bottom of the ocean in a trance, like Sleeping Beauty. Daddy taught me a kind of prayer to their king, Cthulhu, and I learned to recite it by heart:

Ph-nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

When I asked Daddy if that was in Egyptian or Zulu or something else, he said it was in the sea-language that no one ever spoke on land, and it’s supposed to sound like waves moving through water. He told me it means this: “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

The first time Daddy told me this, I thought he must have remembered it wrong, because I couldn’t see how some old sea-god could be dead and alive at the same time.

“Honey,” said Daddy, “think about all the colored people in America. We were great in the time before slavery, and we will be again, but we’ve been beat down like the Israelites in Egypt. This is our waiting-time, when we have to build our strength and dream about our future so we can be leaders and artists and scientists and healers again when the time is right. Sometimes we have to hide our powers to keep safe, but our powers have ways of coming out, like bubbles rising up through the water. Cthulhu is like us, like all of us together. He’s like Jesus too. You know how Jesus rose up and showed himself to the faithful after he died on the cross? Cthulhu will come back too, when we’re ready to meet him.”

“Did slave traders steal him out of Africa, Daddy?” I wanted to know.

“No, Hetty. He’s even older than Africa. He lived in the sea before the land rose up into different continents. We’re all his children, and he wants to know us, but we drove him away with our ignorance. He looks like other things that live in the sea, and most folks are scared of everything they’re not used to.”

Daddy held his hands near his face and wiggled them. “Cthulhu has baby octopus arms like this on his face, and he has skin like a snake, and wings like a bat.” Daddy looked so funny that I broke out laughing.

“Henry,” said Mama.

“Liza, we got ourselves a brave girl. She needs to know how to carry herself when she meets something she never saw before. Honey, even when you feel scared, you got to stand your ground and be respectful. You say: ‘How do you dooo, Sir or Ma’am? I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.’”

Later on, grown-up Henrietta has a chance to follow her father’s advice.

After I sent this story, “Innsmouth Blues,” to the editors, I waited for weeks. Several days ago, I sent a message to them, asking if any decisions had been made. (The original call said that the anthology would be launched at Balticon 2016, which is scheduled to start in a week!)

Yesterday I got a response, saying that the selection process took so long (delayed by unforeseen events, which tends to happen) that the book won’t be ready to be launched at this year’s Balticon. However, my story was “conditionally accepted,” and I will hear more from the editors very soon.

I am thrilled, and I look forward to seeing how other writers have interpreted the concept of “inclusive Cthulhu.” I want to meet the characters that would offend Lovecraft while living in his imaginary world.