Monday, October 29, 2012

Distracting Fate

by Kathleen Bradean

I have almost zero ability to believe in anything. The Christmas just before my fourth birthday, I announced to my parents, "Let's get this right. There is no Santa." They begged me not to tell my older sisters because it would ruin their holiday.  I don't believe in fate or luck or karma or any of those other things that make you think that eventually life might be fair, bad people will suffer and good gets-- I don't know, glittery orgasms on demand or something. And yet, I can't bring myself to talk about anything good because I know the moment I even breath a word of it, it's doomed.

Chalk that up to a Baptist upbringing. I had (have) dour down to an art. Fun was (is) something to approach cautiously, as if it might suddenly lunge with sharp, snapping teeth. (Ask anyone who has seen me deliberately try to have fun. Awkward and painful are the two words that immediately come to mind.) Somewhere, there's a picture of my sisters and me on Easter Sunday. I must have been four or five. My sisters are smiling, happy, caught giggling as if they'd been tickled. I'm staring into the camera, my frown a long bow, perfectly arced with tension and ready to let fly. I'd probably just made the connection between death and candy. Or worse, having to go to church before I could have my basket. Everything good always came with a heavy price. That's the main lesson I took away from my childhood.

For that incredibly fucked up reason, I don't often share good news. I wouldn't want to tempt Fate. I horde my joy, bury under the floorboards like the narrator in Poe's Tell-Tale Heart. What's that beating sound, Fate? Not a pending contract for two books in a series. Not two short stories placed in an anthology. Not even a different publisher asking me what I'm working on and wanting to see that novel as soon as I've finished it. Nope. That's not what you hear at all. And I'm not sitting here thinking this might be *whisper*success. So move along, Fate, and feast on another person's tentative happiness. I got this covered. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In a Krogers PT II: This Really Happened, This Will Happen

An hour passes and she hasn’t called. It’s getting late and I’ve about wrapped it up. I’ve clocked in my thousand words which I try to do every day if I can. I’ve powered down my elderly laptop and put it in the case. The case is a brown leather shoulder bag, sort of an early man-purse I used to lug around everywhere when I lived in Panama. It has soul. I put the mouse and wireless adapter away and chug down the last of my now cold Starbucks coffee.

I keep thinking I should keep a diary, I keep trying, writer’s are supposed to do that somehow, but I realize I’ve changed. I think I was fascinated with myself up to about age 30, and then I didn’t seem so interesting anymore. The less interesting I am, the more aware I become of how connected we all are and of how little control we have over the most important stuff.

The Starbucks in the Kroger’s is never my first choice as a place to write. I usually prefer the Starbucks in the mall or the one near the mall when I can get a table in the shadows of the corner there, but this is Sunday which is a good day for me to write and I have to take what I can get while my wife is at her church and my kid is at work. 

I buckle the shoulder bag and stand up. My feet hurt from sitting, they do that. I throw the paper cup in the bin and take a step towards the glass door and that’s as far as I get – a step.

He’s laying on the floor midway between the Starbucks counter and the flower department. As though he had decided to take a nap among the flowers. He’s spread eagled like a cartoon of a man in blissful peace. Maybe he is, except for the fireman straight arming his chest, breathing down his throat, trying to get the guy’s heart going. Shoppers and Kroger munchkins in blue T shirts with name tags like Wilma and Homer and Bob are standing around watching and instinctively, without thinking, my feet move there too. I have to see. Ray Bradbury wrote a horror story about this thing, this wanting to see, called “The Crowd”. I’m in the Crowd.

Store security waves us all back. Give them room. Give them air. The hell’s the matter with you, let them work.

One the firemen pulls out a couple of cabled paddles from a black gym bag, switches something on and squeezes some goo on them from a tube. I’ve never seen anyone use these before except on TV where the hero weeps and yells “Breathe damn you - breathe!”

The guy with the paddles says something low and the chest thumper fireman laughs a little.

The guy on the floor is an employee with the blue Kroger T shirt and name badge. They yank his T shirt up to his neck and he’s got a big floppy beer belly. If he’s floating up there near the ceiling looking down at his body he’s probably thinking he should have lost some weight.

The fireman zaps him and his body jumps and his belly jiggles and he’s as inert as anything in the meat department.

There’s blue pinball lights in the glass doors and a couple of paramedics come through, authoritatively, not dramatically. You can tell from their faces, from the set of their shoulders they do this a lot. They’re wheeling a gurney with an oxygen tank. One of the firemen stands up and gives them a quick briefing and they zap the poor guy again and his belly sloshes and he stubbornly flops back and lays there. They lower the gurney down and heave him on board –

            One! Two! Lift! (. . .jesus buddy. . . )

          – it takes four guys. They strap him down and put the oxygen mask on his face. I guess that means they got him breathing. I guess. Maybe they do that anyway instead of pulling a sheet over him so people won’t ask, I don’t know.

And I’m thinking – how long was this guy laying in the daffodils over there while I was in my little world pecking away on my story? What the Hell?

Death in the real world is a drab thing most of the time. It used to be a taboo that you never showed sincerely dead bodies on TV but now on CNN you see them all the time. In fiction when a person is dying they go down in style. In opera they shudder, weep, clutch their chest, sing a song and then expire. For most people these days death is put off for a long time. We die the way an old car dies. The fuel pump dies. The water pump dies. The brake cylinder dies. The engine keeps turning over but little stuff dies out from under you until there’s not much left. Little structural failures like the Praetorian Guard whispering in your ear as you ride in the chariot of your own parade – “Remember Caesar, thou art mortal.”

After he’s carted off the crowd breaks up, people shaking their heads, some of them laughing nervously. I wonder if they have any of that German coffee in clearance and I walk off to look, feeling guilty.

What did I just see? Did a guy just die a few feet away from me while I was working on something? It always amazes me a little how the world goes chugging along after somebody leaves. One man’s tragedy doesn’t make that much of an impact. I know someday all this is waiting for me, it’s the only thing I know for sure about my future, same as anybody. I’m not afraid of death, I’m curious about it because I’ve read so much about it. Dying scares me, because it might hurt. The reason we know that is because we see things die. We don’t have any romantic illusions about the act of dying, and we remember the things that we’ve killed ourselves. Even a cockroach wants to live. Sometimes they die bad, like an animal hit by a car, flopping around on the lonesome island of its guts as the cars whiz around it. I’m scared of dying bad. I’m scared of discovering one guy doesn't get missed all that much.

The old Vikings used to think that life was a story.  A good life well lived should leave behind a big dramatic story ending in a send off in a burning boat so that people will talk about you a long time after you're gone.  As long as people tell your story you'll be immortal.  As I get older and have more to look back on I'm beginning to think they're right.  Its not heaven or hell.  Or good or bad.  Or judgement day.  All that passes away.  Maybe what you want to leave behind is a really good story.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Anticipation is the Best Part

By Victoria Blisse (Guest Blogger)

I must confess that I’m a present shaker. I shake, I squeeze, I run my fingers all over them. I am never tempted to open a present early, though. Why? Because I love the anticipation. I’ve got a parcel and in it could be anything at all. I can guess, I can dream and eventually I get to open it and see what’s inside. Sometimes I’ve guessed right and other times I’m not even close but a little bit of me is sad once the present is open because the anticipation is then gone.

It’s a bit like that when I’m writing too. I love coming up with my ideas. I’m not a planner but I always have a general idea of what is going to happen in my story and the wonder and the magic of starting something new and not quite knowing where it’s going to end up is addictive. I tend to get a bit bogged down in the middle because I’ve got it all planned out and that spark has disappeared but then I surprise myself and with most stories the run in to the end is very pleasurable. Then after the torture of editing I get to anticipate what the readers will think of my latest offering!

I’m always looking forward to the next exciting thing and I’m lucky that my life is full of excitement. I’ve got so much to look forward too. I’m a big fan of Christmas and that is creeping closer and closer. I’ve started work on my Christmas presents. This year I am going to make something for everyone on my Christmas list because homemade gifts rock and I have loads of crafting/sewing/cooking things I want to do for people. I’m starting early because with so much to do I know if I leave it much later I’ll never manage to do it all in time! I am eagerly planning for baking Christmas cake and Christmas pudding too. I love these little things that show me the Christmas season is coming.

But first there is the Blissemas season which starts on the 1st December and dear readers, you can look forward to it too as there will be a Kindle Fire up for grabs. Keep an eye on for more details. I can’t wait there’s going to be so many awesome authors involved with great, festive blogs and a great big seasonal Sunday Snog with loads of wintery/festive kissing excerpts. It will be epic. I can’t wait. Well, I can, I sort of explained that already didn’t I? I love eagerly waiting…

I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself but my mind keeps leaping forward to next June because my husband and I will be hosting our first event in Scarborough on the North East Coast of the UK. We’re having a day at the library with an erotic market, readings and a Smut by the Sea book launch too. I can’t wait. It’s going to be so much fun. For all the details check out . It’s strange because I am excited and nervous and I’m looking forward to it and dreading it all at the same time! I am confident it will not be a disaster, after all we’ve sold tickets already and that in itself is impressive but sometimes I worry it might not be as successful as I’d want it to be but generally I’m just excited because it’s going to be a fantastic day for people to have fun and enjoy something sexy. How often does that happen? Not often enough I’d say.

So what have I got to look forward too? Lots and the best bit is, well, that IS the best bit for me. I love Anticipation.

Bio: Victoria Blisse is a mother, wife, Christian, Manchester United fan and award winning erotica author. She is also the editor of several Bigger Briefs collections, Smut by the Sea and Smut in the City.
She is equally at home behind a laptop or a cooker and she loves to create stories, poems, cakes and biscuits that make people happy. She was born near Manchester, England and her northern English quirkiness shows through in all of her stories.Passion, love and laughter fill her works, just as they fill her busy life.

Monday, October 22, 2012


By Lisabet Sarai

It's hard for me to believe, but in January 2013, I will turn sixty. Am I looking forward to beginning my seventh decade? Well, as they say, getting old is better than the alternative!

My mother died at fifty-two. One of my dearest friends succumbed to ovarian cancer at fifty-four. Life is always uncertain. My reaction to that hard fact? Celebrate whatever and whenever you can. Thus, even though we really can't afford it, we're throwing a massive party to celebrate my hitting the big Six-Oh. It only happens once!

Since I live in the tropics, the party will be outdoors, on the terrace of an oceanfront hotel. We'll have a buffet dinner, wine and beer, plus an open bar. I'm hoping to hire a band, though I haven't located one yet. In my view, it's not a party if there's no dancing.

The hotel wanted me to commit to a minimum head count. That's pretty tough, since the majority of people I'm inviting live in the U.S. I know from personal experience how difficult and expensive it is to travel halfway around the world. I've tried to balance realism with wishful thinking in my estimate of forty people. I was amused to find that the hotel thinks this is a small party.

In fact, several of my prospective guests have already told me they're coming. I'm thrilled, although some close friends have regretfully declined as well. The RSVP deadline is still several months away, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Of course, if everyone invited actually showed up, we'd be way over budget. Not that I'd begrudge the money – it would be worth it.

Meanwhile, the event has given me the opportunity to reestablish contact with people I haven't heard from in a long time. I sent invitations to friends I figured wouldn't be able to make it, just to open the lines of communication and let them know that I thinking about them, that I'd love them to be here if it were at all possible.

The whole process has been great fun so far – finding a venue, deciding on the menu, creating invitations and the guest list, handling responses – and I'm looking forward not just to the party itself but to all the interactions leading up to the event. I haven't entertained at this scale since my siblings and I organized my dad's eightieth birthday party a decade ago. I'm trying hard not to think about the possible disasters that could derail our plans. Worrying won't prevent these negative happenings, but it certainly will tarnish the pleasure of anticipation.

My only regret is that I haven't been able to invite people from the world of Lisabet Sarai, even though I count some of you among my closest friends. I'd love to celebrate with you. However, for serious practical reasons, I need to keep my writing life strictly separate from my so-called real life. With one or two exceptions, most of my invited guests know nothing about my erotic self. If my writing colleagues were to mingle with these innocent friends from my non-erotic existence, the risk of inadvertent exposure would skyrocket – despite the best intentions.

I think I need to plan another gathering, in either the U.S. or the U.K. (or maybe both!), strictly for my writing friends. What a fantasy – to meet you all in the flesh, swap gossip, share readings, drink and dance and revel in the company of fellow outlaws. I love living in Asia, but I'm pretty isolated from the erotica community. I'm definitely going to try putting a party together next time I'm headed for western climes.

For one thing, that will give me something to look forward to, after this birthday bash is history.

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Irresistible Temptation

I held out as long as I could. After all, I have other books to review. I started a review of the marvelous Red Velvet and Absinthe (an anthology of gothic erotica) about a year ago, and I think it would be appropriate to post a finished review somewhere before Halloween.

I finished reading Heiresses of Russ 2011 several months ago. This collection of sci-fi or speculative fiction is divergent and uneven, but the book is based on a noble concept: celebrating lesbian sci-fi. Heiresses of Russ 2012 is already out, and I hope the series continues for many years. The stories are all reprints of the best lesbian sci-fi of the year, named for the late Joanna Russ. She is probably best-remembered for her novel The Female Man, which was a kind of Bible for imaginative feminists of the 1970s. Several of the authors in the new anthologies seem like worthy successors.

Lately, I’ve been seeing copies of J.K. Rowling’s novel for grownups, The Casual Vacancy, in every local store that carries books. A recent issue of The New Yorker carried an article, “Mugglemarch,” on Rowling’s career, her vast fortune, her upbringing, and the relevance of all this to her recent novel, which took her approximately five years to write.

Every time I’ve seen a stack of hardcover copies with their loud red-and-yellow covers marked with a thick black “X” in the centre, I’ve thought, No. I’ll get it when it’s out in paperback. Then I saw it in a grocery store for 40% off the original retail price. I snapped it up.

So far, the novel is cinematic: it has a large cast of characters, and the third-person narrator (like the roving eye of a movie camera) dives into various houses to show how the inhabitants of Pagford, a village in the English “West Country,” react to an unexpected death.

I’m always interested to see how other writers describe experiences they haven’t had, and death probably tops the list of these. By definition, it’s one that no living writer could have experienced. Although I’m not fit to judge the accuracy of Rowling’s description of a brain aneurysm, it looks convincing to me. Here a fortyish businessman, Barry Fairbrother, has arrived at the golf club restaurant with his wife, Mary, to celebrate their nineteenth wedding anniversary. He is trying to ignore the “thumping headache” he has had for days:

“Mary switched off the mirror light and closed the passenger side door. Barry pressed the auto lock on the key ring in his hand; his wife’s high heels clacked on the tarmac, the car’s locking system beeped, and Barry wondered whether his nausea might abate once he had eaten.

"Then pain such as he had never experienced sliced through his brain like a demolition ball. He barely noticed the smarting of his knees as they smacked onto the cold tarmac; his skull was awash with fire and blood; the agony was excruciating beyond endurance, except that endure it he must, for oblivion was still a minute away.”

Mary screams, other people rush out from the restaurant and someone phones for an ambulance, which must come from the neighbouring city of Yarvil. It takes 25 minutes, and by then Barry is dead.

The rest of the novel deals with the aftermath of Barry’s unexpected death, which has an effect on local politics.

None of the characters is described in great depth, but Rowling writes in the great tradition of British social satire (thus the implied comparison with George Eliot’s nineteenth-century novel Middlemarch), and the plot gathers momentum as it unfolds. I’ve just finished reading a grimly funny description of a morning assembly in a rundown comprehensive school filled with 1200 sarcastic teenagers from Yarvil and surrounding area. When the assistant headmaster announces Barry Fairweather’s death, a girl at the back of the hall makes a sound which the speaker interprets as a laugh – how dare she?

Krystal, the suspect, tells the school counsellor that she “din’t do nothing!” and she seems sincere. The counsellor has been trying to win Krystal’s trust while trying to clean up Krystal’s language, but attempting both those goals at once is a losing game. The drama of the generation gap seems true to life.

Like the sullen boy in this novel who usually sneaks a fag (cigarette) on his way to school, I’ll read this big novel in installments when I have time, mostly on the bus to and from work. I’ll probably post some comment after I’ve finished, though I’ll try to avoid giving too much away. (The death at the beginning is a catalyst, not a climax, and it is mentioned in the trailers.)

I can’t help wondering if there will be a movie before long, and if the author was already visualizing it as she wrote.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reading All Over the Place

by Kristina Wright

Recently I posted a question on Facebook, asking writers if they read for pleasure in the genres they write. Twenty or so writers replied, pretty much equally split between those who read what they also write and those who stick to genres other than what they write. For the past couple of years, I have stayed mostly in the latter camp-- reading very little erotic and erotic romance for pleasure. 

I always advise new writers to read, read, read what it is they want to write. But after more than a decade of writing erotica and three and a half years of editing erotica anthologies, I've found I just can't read the genre for fun anymore. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing-- I still read erotica for review and often find myself so captivated by the story that I forget it's actually work I'm doing. 

Currently, I'm reading Vina Jackson's Eighty Days Yellow for review. I have only just started it, but I'm intrigued by the musical backdrop and the hint of mystery surrounding the protagonist. While the cover says "If you like Fifty Shades of Grey..." I can't make that comparison, as I haven't read E.L. James's trilogy yet. Oh, but I will be. I've been asked to moderate a Fifty Shades of Grey book discussion at the public library in February. Let us pause for a moment and ponder the wonder of my public library (in southeast Virginia) holding a book discussion on Fifty Shades of Grey. As of today, they have yet to order a single one of my erotica anthologies. I'm not bitter--I'm very much looking forward to this discussion and discovering what it is about these books that has so captivated readers. I'm also curious to read the books for myself and form my own opinion. I'll keep you posted.

I have been reading a fair amount of YA (young adult) literature lately. I devoured the Hunger Games trilogy before the movie came out, then moved on to Veronica Roth's Divergent (and it's sequel, Insurgent) along with several other dystopian YA novels. Recently, I received a review copy of a fascinating book called Every Day by David Levithan. I didn't realize it was a YA title until I was close to finishing it-- I would recommend it to anyone, it's quite well-written. (And I'm hoping it has a sequel-- the ending left me with questions.)

It's the time of year when things go bump in the night, so I find myself wanting to read mysteries, I devoured all three of Gillan Flynn's books, reading her last one (Gone Girl) first. She is so, so good. I've also been rereading Edgar Allen Poe's poetry and short stories-- it's an October tradition for me. 

At the moment, I'm reading my own work-- editing a book that was a very long and complicated project for me. I'm not sure what I'm going to read next for pleasure. But I'm always looking for recommendations! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Indulging Myself

By Kathleen Bradean
Last week, I was so excited when power went down in the West Side for two and a half hours. No computers, no phones, no internet (not even wifi) and no lights in our office. So I grabbed my Kindle, perched on a window sill, and dove in to a story. Best day at work in years.
Once I started reading I couldn't stop. I tore through a few novels in a couple days even though 1) the power eventually came back on in the office, 2) I was writing a novel nights and weekends, and 3) the people who live with me get grumpy when they stand two feet away from me and talk and I don't hear a word they say. You'd think they'd know better by now.  At least the cats understand. Reading Kathleen = cat lap.
If you want to know about erotica I've read lately, go to Erotica Revealed and read my reviews. Honestly, I haven't read much erotica just for fun for a while. Now that Remittance Girl's novels are available again I probably will, but my current reading outside of review work falls under crime, science fiction, and the weird. 
A while ago I picked up Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 but didn't get around to it until now. 1Q84 is either magical realism or urban fantasy, and very imaginative. It's also a bit repetitive, and as long as he was writing an eight hundred page tome he could have written twenty more to wrap up a few of his loose ends, but those are minor complaints for a very long novel that kept me captivated. It's not like any other story I've read and that was a wonderful surprise. But I also love beyond reason Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist, so I like surreal, odd, quirky, dense tales. You might not be so inclined.
Lisabet Sarai suggested Jonathan Lethem's As She Climbed Across the Table a while ago. I read it and liked it, so I picked up his Gun, With Occasional Music. Oh man. This was my kind of book. So weird. He throws you into a world that's at least one giant step away from this reality and keeps you off balance by never explaining anything. You can't even trust the things that seem normal. He challenges you to keep up as he charges ahead. That might be annoying. I haven't decided. I guess you could say it's a standard hard-boiled detective plot, but the science fiction aspect was so creative that I can't call it just a murder mystery.
I'm not a big fan of horror, mostly because I hate startling at noises in the middle of the night. That's the curse of an active imagination. But I picked up Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist because it has enjoyed such popular acclaim. I liked the reimagining of vampire mythos and the adolescent love story, but as a horror story, it failed me. Maybe the problem was the translation. Horror tends to use beautifully wrought language to evoke a spell but opulent wordsmithing was absent from this translation. I don't care so much about being horrified as it takes real people doing terrible things to truly scare me, but as I read a horror story, dread should take residence in my gut like the parental-myth swallowed seed that grows into a gnarled creeping vine. It didn't. The soulless subdivision could have been used to much greater effect to enforce a feeling of alienation. I sensed that theme running through the story but it never fully developed. It was as if he were afraid to write something that bleak. I saw from an emotional distance how the events built toward an awful conclusion but there wasn't enough tension. I wanted to like this novel more than I did. On the other hand, I slept perfectly well and the shadows in my bedroom behaved themselves through the night.
The Zahir by Paulo Coelho. Sometimes I wonder why I read his books as several chapters in I start to lose patience, yet I keep going. Does it always come down to a man chasing a woman and finally catching her? I suppose it does in his stories. I've only read three so that's hardly a definitive sample, but I sense a pattern. I'd rather read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work.
Of all the books I've read these past few weeks, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is by far the most amazing. Twists, turns, and oh so dark. Flynn is a master at her craft. The suspense never let up. I don't want to say anything about the plot because you deserve to go into it as unsuspecting as I did and exhale in relief as you turn the last page. Admittedly, at first I wasn't satisfied with the end, but on reflection, I realized it was perfect. Every word of this novel was perfect. 
Next up:  Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Let’s get my book list out the way first so I can tell you what I really want to tell you. I’m a promiscuous ADD addled reader who leaps like a trout snatching flies from book to book, which is probably why I write short stories. I don’t have the synaptic stamina to endure most novels much less write them. These days I’m reading, all at the same time:

1) “The Case For God” by Karen Armstrong (an audio book, this book is profoundly rearranging my approach to religion and symbolic imagery. )

2) “Die Ring de Nibelungen” by Craig P Russel (A graphic novelization in two volumes of Richard Wagner’s operatic “Ring of the Nibelungen” cycle which I’m also listening to. Yeah, I’m cultured. I pause for your admiration. I love this story. And if you marry a Valkyrie, seriously dude, do not piss her off. It’s bad.)

3) “Revising Prose” (Exactly what it sounds like. I’m a word nerd. )

4) “Sex for One” by Betty Dodson. (Like Stephen King’s “On Writing”, this is a combination How-To book and autobiography, in this case of a sexual goddess. The How-To side is just what you think it is. )

5) “Weird Tales: The Unique Magazine #359” (Digital version, of the great old pulp which has been around since the Great Depression and the showcase for horror and fantasies greatest names, including H P Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury. How I long to get a story in there.)

I mention all that to give you a snapshot of the inside of my head. This is pretty typical of my mental promiuscuity. Think about God. Feed the muse. Improve my artful craft and dodge. All of them.

But what I’m reading is not as interesting as what I’m watching under the radar.


Lean in close oh Friends of the Inner Sanctum, so no one will hear my shame.

I’ve been thinking about pornography lately, who had not thought much about it before. I’ve been exposed to very little pornography in my life, not so much by inclination as by a prohibitive life style. The first half of my adult life was a semi monastic religious life. The second half I’ve been married, which has been only a variation of the first.

I’ve been dully curious about pornographic movies but never gone out of my way for them until recently. You’ll have to trust me on how I explain this. I’ve been fascinated and of course envious of the success of E L James “Fifty Shades of Grey” and most especially for its ability to get the ladies all hot and bothered. I’m also a little frustrated when there are so many better books in this genre languishing on the shelves. Did she make a deal with the devil? Where can I get that deal?

I like to think among the genres I write, that I write literary erotica. Which is clearly the least popular form of this genre. People compare erotica to pornography, especially as in E L James case when it works so inexplicably well. So I’m wondering – how does pornography work?

I rented two movies from different sources. One is “Hypnotic Sensations” from VCX, the other is “Eyes of Desire”, by Candida Royalle for Adam and Eve videos. I chose them after some studied consideration. No – really, I did.

VCX, which has a link at ERWA, specializes in the sort of “golden age of porno” films dramatized by Paul Thomas Anderson in his movie “Boogie Nights”. These are porno movies made in the ‘70s and ‘80s, back in the days of the Pink Pussycat theater, attended by guys in raincoats with collars turned up and later on VCR cassettes sold in the back rooms of video stores. These were porno movies made by men for men. A few years ago I heard of Candida Royalle and became interested in her films for a very specific reason. She was one of the big name porno stars in the VCX era who later decided to make porno films – for women. So I watched these two films for craft reasons – I swear I did – to try to find out what the difference would be for an adult film made for men and an adult film made by women for women. I was especially interested to see if a little of that E L James fairy dust might rub off on me from Candida Royalle, whose movies have been a major success among women.

Hypnotic Sensations stars Cristy Canyons who later went on to write an autobiography of her time in the blue movie business. The premise, you can hardly call it a plot, has to do with a clinic for sexual therapy in which the doctor uses hypnosis to treat sexual problems. The plot is just a clothesline to pin up a continuous series of sex scenes. A man has impotence problems. The doctor waves a pocket watch and offers a few magic words in a soft commanding voice. A minute or two later a chesty nurse is leading him downstairs to see how his impotence problem is working out. A big breasted, not too bright woman comes in next with her reluctance to do threesomes which her boyfriend is pestering her to do. A few waves of the pocket watch and a threesome is in progress on the doctor’s couch. Another pretty piece of ass walks in with a problem and out comes the pocket watch, then out comes the dick and so on.

This is male oriented sex. Cristy Canyons is an especially intelligent woman who has the ability to look pliable and dumb on camera. Her breasts are more mesmerizing than the pocket watch and she has the curvy body of a Rhine Maiden. There is a heavy emphasis on male-initiated sex which gets down to business pretty quickly among strangers without any sense of intimacy beyond that waving pocket watch. There is no relationship required or even much foreplay. The women are generic receptacles for men to insert their phalluses.

Eyes of Desire was written and directed by Candida Royalle.  The plot is fairly bare bones, but it does exist more or less. A woman photographer has made a series of color slides for a magazine and has brought them out to her clients country home to discuss them. There is a huge Celestron telescope by the window. The employer is a sophisticated urbane woman who looks to be in her MILFy mid 30s or so, compared to the sweet young things in the VCX film. What strikes me right away is that they have conversations about feelings. The photographer has broken up with her boyfriend and is pretty down on herself. The other woman shows her how to use the telescope to spy on her studly neighbors; some are hunky boner ponies along with a few couples who like to have sex with the shades up. Let’s jump to that. There are immediate differences in the woman-directed sex scenes and the male-directed sex scenes. In Candida Royalle’s woman oriented approach there is a relationship between the man and woman. They seem to know each other. The woman is waiting for the man in a room with romantic lighting, a blazing fire place, candles and wine in nice glasses. She is wearing fish net stockings, black high heels and a bright red vinyl tunic that unbuttons easily from the top. When the man comes in wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, weary from his day in the cubicle, the woman greets him with a passionate kiss and rubs herself against him. They chat. They laugh. They snuggle. They kiss each other on the lips. The man sets his brief case down and they sit on the sofa. They kiss on the lips some more. They kiss a lot. His hands roam and they whisper and laugh – and kiss. The man unbuttons her tunic, slips it off, unfastens the black bra and reveals a pair of natural, smallish, size B breasts, nothing exaggerated. The sex appeal doesn’t come from the woman’s body, its all in her assertive, expressive attitude. She climbs all over her man mountain and goes after what she wants. She essentially commands the extensive foreplay and the lovemaking.. When at last he turns her over and mounts her she works her own clitoris with her hand while he’s thrusting and she orgasms again way ahead of him. She doesn’t rely on him for her satisfaction. She is in complete command of the foreplay and the love making, he is essentially a dildo with a heartbeat. It is the reverse of the woman’s role in the Hypnotic Sensations film where the man is the almost predatory aggressor and the woman is a pliant repository for his dick.

As the great moment arrives the man grabs a fistful of her hair, crushes her in his arms, dominates her with his whole body and finishes in spectacular fashion, a tribute to her sexual mastery. They snuggle in each others arms and cuddle for a while. She whispers something in his ear and they both burst out laughing. These are established lovers who are light hearted with each other. They know each other.

All the time I was watching this performance I was thinking – damn! I should be writing this down!

What impresses me about both films is the quality of audacity which I prize above all other traits in story telling. I can forgive a lot if the writer surprises me. It occurs to me these early porno films were the first Indie films. They were outside the industry, outside the fences, totally renegade. I’ve often said erotica writers are the literary equivalent of punk rockers. We’re the fringe writers which is why its such a vicarious thrill in some ways when someone like E L James hits the big time and proves it can be done.

As I was sighing over the Candida Royalle feast for the eyes I was thinking how much I wished films like this had a more accepted exposure because it would be so healthy for women to watch and so educational for their boyfriends. Look how she seduces him and he allows himself to be seduced. Look how she skillfully takes command until his passions are so out of control he overwhelms her and she allows herself to be overwhelmed. And look how she takes responsibility even as he thrusts for making sure she achieves her satisfaction by her own hand. A man in the throes of release grips the woman tight and whispers love words in her ear. He expires and lays his head on her chest. The women in these scenes own the sex. They absolutely own their sensuality. That is the most erotic thing of all.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Snapshot of My Bookshelf

By Lisabet Sarai

A couple of months ago, we decided to revamp the Grip format a bit. We were all feeling pressured and burnt out, but nobody wanted to abandon the blog completely. So we switched to an every-other-weekday posting format, with occasional guests, devoting two weeks to each topic. Furthermore, we created a topic schedule that stretches 'way into 2013, so we all could know what we were supposed to write about, far in advance.

As we were discussing these changes, someone – maybe Kathleen – proposed that we occasionally spend a two-week period talking about what we were reading. Sounded like a great idea. This week is the first time we've tried this, and as usual, I'm the guinea pig.

I'm really not sure how to approach this. I write quite a few reviews, and I really don't feel like doing that here. After pondering this for a while, I decided to be extremely literal and give you a snapshot of what's currently on my physical and virtual book shelves.

As I suspect is true of my fellow Grippers, I tend to read several books at the same time. That way, I can select the title that most appeals to me on a certain evening. (Except when I'm traveling, I do almost all my pleasure reading in bed, before going to sleep.) Lately, I seem to have at least one digital title (often erotica) and one or two print books in progress.

At this moment (which is actually about two weeks before this post will appear), I'm a few stories into This is the Way the World Ends, a collection of apocalyptic erotica edited by Catherine Leary. This book was published by the now-defunct Freaky Fountain Press, and probably isn't available any more. I feel rather guilty, since I received this anthology for possible review more than a year ago and I'm just getting to it now. If I had reviewed it back then, might I have saved the publisher? Probably not. I did, after all, read and review Bad Romance, another Freaky Fountain title, while the publisher was still alive. It didn't help, even though I thought the book was one of the most original and intense erotica collections I'd ever read.

Actually, what triggered my decision to finally tackle This is the Way... was a discussion over at the ERWA blog about taking risks in writing erotic fiction. Like Republica Press (which has also closed its doors), Freaky Fountain was established to provide a home for erotica that didn't follow the popular rules: erotic with dark endings, violent themes, or forbidden content like non-consensual sex or incest. It's funny, because my own fiction only occasionally includes those elements, but I deeply appreciate authors who can incorporate them into a story and realize their erotic potential.

Anyway, so far This is the Way... is looking promising. The best story so far is also the most disturbing, a tale entitled “Slave King Fuck Star” by John Burks. Aliens have landed on earth and turned all its inhabitants into slaves. Mickey has the good luck to have been chosen to distribute water to the emaciated humans laboring in the Indrodi's mines. He's a petty little man who uses his power – the power of life and death – to degrade and control his fellow slaves in a way that is thoroughly despicable and yet somehow arousing. The surprise ending hits you like a fist in the gut.

Sometimes I wonder what it says about me, that I could enjoy a story like this. I make jokes about being perverted, but perhaps I really am, in some deep and horrible way. I know this story's more than just sensationalism, though. There's truth here. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of Mickeys, guarding prisons and running orphanages, people who use cruelty to make themselves feel as though they matter. And they'll probably still be around at the end of the world.

I'm also about half way through The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, in print. Almost all the print books that I read I buy second hand. I live overseas, where most English-language books are imported and hence very expensive. However, I purchased this volume brand new, as an anniversary present for my husband (knowing full well that I'd get to read it too, of course!) I hadn't heard anything about it, but a quick perusal of the blurb and a shuffle through its pages convinced me that both my husband and I would enjoy it.

The Night Circus is a dark fantasy set in the Victorian/Edwardian period. The book centers on the competition between two young magicians, groomed by their mentors since childhood to confront one another in a battle where only one can triumph. This contest takes place against the background of Le Cirque de Rêves, a mysterious circus that opens from dusk to dawn, offering its visitors pure sensation and glimpses of truth. Within the black-and-white striped tents of the night circus lie beauties and terrors that touch the soul, changing you forever.

I'm trying to read this book slowly, rationing myself to one or two chapters per night. I want to savor the images and the emotions, and that won't happen if I barrel through it the way I do most books.

This novel is gorgeously imaginative, yet I'm struck by the elegant simplicity of its language. Here's a sample passage, just to illustrate.

Outside, though it was not there before, is another raised platform, much like the one the contortionist stood on. But the figure on this platform does not move. Bailey almost thinks it is a statue, dressed in a white gown with matching fur that cascades beyond the platform to the ground. Her hair and skin, even her eyelashes, are an icy white.

But she moves. Very, very slowly. So slowly that Bailey cannot pinpoint exact motions, only slight changes. Soft flakes of iridescent snow float to the ground, falling from her like leaves from a tree.

Bailey walks around, looking at her from every angle. Her eyes follow him, though the snow-flecked lashes do not blink.

There is a small silver plaque on the platform, partially obscured by the cascading gown.

It reads IN MEMORIAM, but it does not specify who it is for.

I find it astonishing that Ms. Morgenstern manages to build her intricate, sensual world with such simple words. That in itself is a kind of magic.

Finally, for comic relief, I'm snacking on Scott Adams' The Dilbert Principle, which I picked up for two bucks at a library book sale. It's a really old book (1997), but aside from the references to pagers and PDAs, it still seems pretty relevant. I spent years in a cubicle myself, and there's an eerie truth to lots of Adams' jokes. When I'm too tired to really pay attention to what I'm reading, I'll sample a few pages of Dilbert's brainy oblivion or Dogbert's evil schemes and go to sleep chuckling.

I leave in two days for a trip back to America. I'll be sitting in a plane for twenty-odd hours. Needless to say, I've prepared myself. The cheap little tablet I'm using these days as an ereader is chock full of erotica and erotic romance. We've visited one of the local used bookstores and stocked up on T.C. Boyle, China Melville, Anita Shreve and other, less known authors. I'm not a huge fan of long plane journeys. But I am looking forward to the opportunity to catch up on my reading!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Not the First Kind

by Jean Roberta

For better or worse, art imitates life and life imitates art. Eee-vil women not only seem to abound in romance plots of all sexual flavours: m/m, m/f, and even (in some) f/f. Even the most casual conversation among people over age 30 or so (i.e. old enough to have some relationship history) will eventually include a casual reference to an actual woman who sounds criminally insane.

I can accept the fact that many people, including women, look better at first glance than they turn out to be in the long run. Getting to know someone well is sometimes a process of disillusionment. What I can’t accept (in real life or on the page) is the concept of pure, irrational, unmotivated evil. There must be more than that. Those who harm others (and I’m including murderers in this group) have their reasons – not acceptable reasons by most moral or legal standards, but reasons that can be understood.

Unfortunately, the myth of the Femme Fatale goes way back to creation myths such as the story of Pandora (who predates Eve by a few centuries), who foolishly opens a box and lets evil into the world. Numerous queens have been described as cruel, self-indulgent and perverse (by the standards of those who spread the rumours), often based on no evidence. For example, Queen Jezebel is widely thought of as an adulteress or nympho slut, whereas the biblical story simply describes her as a pagan import who introduced polytheistic rites to a God-fearing Hebrew nation. Her sex life doesn`t seem to be a major issue in the original version, unless one assumes that all pagans fuck more than they should. (This kind of sexualized racism has survived through the centuries, even as various distinct cultural groups disappear and new ones rise.)

Bad behaviour on the part of a rival in a romance could be understood in a context in which women grow up knowing that they must marry men in order to stay out of the poorhouse or the whorehouse. Manipulation makes sense in a situation which doesn`t offer many options. Unfortunately, even in historical romances, the social context is usually mentioned briefly, if at all, and the behaviour of individual women is described as a sign of their nature. Bitches are apparently born that way.

One of the blockbuster movies of my teen years was Doctor Zhivago (1965), in which Julie Christie played Lara, seduced (or possibly raped) in her teens by a corrupt lawyer, Komarovsky. In one scene, he tells her: “There are two kinds of women. You, my dear, are not of the first kind.” Even though this scene takes place in pre-Soviet Russia some time before 1917, the division of all women into two kinds (pure but boring, or trashy and expendable) was understood in the 1960s to be a universal fact of nature, even if the label of "bad girl" was not freely chosen. I heard variations of Komarovsky’s speech from every guy who thought I owed him something.

The two-kinds-of-women theory seems intended to eliminate the need to get to know any woman as an individual. They are either Good or Bad, and you can tell by the uniforms they wear. (When I was a teenager, you could apparently tell by their bust-size. This confused some guys, because I was never well-endowed.)

Stereotypes in fiction are bad enough, but when applied to actual people, they are totally unbelievable. Every ex-wife or ex-girlfriend, it seems, was incredibly aggravating to the martyr who put up with her for too long because the ex`s only motivation was to aggravate. As a 20-something undergraduate, I took a course in The Modern Novel (Parts 1 and 2) from a male prof who mentioned in class that all six of his ex-wives were batshit crazy. Seriously, dude? Of course, no female authors were on the book list for his two-semester course. I couldn`t help wondering what grade he would give me if I read modern fiction as superficially as he read live women.

I`ve been told numerous times that male rule is dead, and that women have taken over. But those in power control the means of production, including cultural production. And those in power are never irrational minor characters in their own stories.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Women as Bitches in Gay Romance

By Cassandra Gold (Guest Blogger)

When Lisabet Sarai informed me what the topic at Oh Get a Grip was going to be, I knew right away what I wanted to write about. 
As an author (and reader) of gay erotic romances, I don’t read about a lot of heroines. Most of the heroes I read and write about are looking for their Prince Charming rather than their Princess. Sometimes, that leads to a drought of female characters. Some books I’ve read don’t have a single female character in them, woman or child. That can be a little strange, but overall I don’t mind it.

What I do mind is when every female character is a negative stereotype.

After reading hundreds of gay romances, and writing a couple dozen of my own, it’s not difficult to divide many of the female characters into one of a few categories.
  1. The psycho ex-wife / girlfriend. This character’s sole reason for existing is to make one of the MCs miserable. She either wants him back or hates him for being gay, which comes out in virulently homophobic actions. This might come in the form of denying the hero access to a child, or trying to ruin his life in some major way, all in the name of revenge or moral outrage. Often, their behavior descends into caricature and melodrama. These women are the most common negative female character I see in gay romance, and honestly, I’m getting tired of them.
  1. The borderline stalker. This character can’t get it through her thick skull that the hero is gay, preferring to believe she and she alone could convert him, if only given a chance. (I’m somewhat guilty of this one, sadly. In one of my earlier books, I wrote a ditsy woman who didn’t realize her potential Mr. Right was gay until near the end of the book. She was pushy and silly, but she wasn’t malicious. Still, ugh.)
  1. The evil mother / stepmother / mother-in-law. This older woman refuses to accept the hero’s gayness. She may disown him and kick him out of the house, or try to get him to change. Usually this is because of religious beliefs, but sometimes it’s not clear why the mother rejects her son. Sometimes she pretends acceptance, only to try to drive away the hero’s love interest at every turn. I know women like this really do exist, but it’s disheartening to see them so often in romances. There are understanding, caring moms out there too. I’d love to see them represented more often.
  1. The (seemingly) faithful hag. This character may seem positive at first glance (and in some stories, actually is a positive character), but I’ve seen a lot of stories in which the supposedly loyal friend actually tries to sabotage the hero, either out of fear he will forget about her once he’s in a relationship or because she has secret feelings for the hero.
  1. The homophobic church lady / neighbor / whatever. This character is self-explanatory, and often seems to be written as even more unpleasant than homophobic male characters.
As a woman, it’s disappointing to me to see so many of my fellow female authors of gay romance relying on villainous women to provide conflict in their stories. There are so many other people and situations that could provide good conflicts for stories, it’s hard for me to understand why the clichéd evil woman plays such a prominent role in the genre. What is it about gay romance that makes authors want to not only exclude women, but make them the bad guys? Are women so threatened by men who aren’t attracted to them that they have to react in such negative ways? I’d like to think, in this day and age, most of us aren’t. Even being gay doesn’t have to be the main conflict. There are enough accepting people out there that I think we can find a wider variety of conflicts for our characters to encounter. That’s why I’m so tired of seeing the device used in gay fiction. 
In the past month I’ve read a couple of books in which ex-wives were trying to understand their former husbands’ gayness, and working together to parent children or keep a friendship going. While the female characters in these stories weren’t perfect, they tried to understand their ex-husbands and support them, and that was refreshing to read. I admired the authors of those books for showing that conflict can come from something other than an evil, irrational bitch.

In my own stories, I’m trying to steer clear of clichés as well. The women I’ve written into my more recent books are sometimes allies or friends of the main characters, but they’re not fag hags. They’re not evil exes, either. They’re ordinary (or extraordinary, in the case of my paranormal series) women who don’t have to hate others to validate themselves. Right or wrong, the choices they make are about them rather than about what the hero is doing.

I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks. Are women cast as villains too often in gay fiction? Does it bother you, or are you okay with it because it’s just a story?

Cassandra Gold

About Me: I’m a middle school teacher, an avid reader, a procrastinator extraordinaire, and, occasionally, a writer. My first published story was a gay erotic romance nearly six years ago, and I’ve been writing in the genre ever since. My not-so-secret vices are cupcakes, cheesy pop music, fruity frozen cocktails, horror stories, and colored pens (must be the teacher in me). Come and visit me at, or at my facebook page

My latest release: Sex and the Single Zombie
Caring, professional SWGZ seeks open-minded SGM for dating and possible LTR...
Since his death two years ago, zombie Peter Reese's love life has been nonexistent. His attempts to meet a regular "live" guy through a blind dating website—without revealing an important detail about himself—have all blown up in his face. Now, his current blind date with "Shane1990" seems destined to end the same way, until the handsome guy inexplicably decides to give Peter another chance.
Can Peter prove that nice zombies don't always finish last?


Monday, October 1, 2012

Mean Girls

by Kathleen Bradean

Mean girls are nothing new in fiction. Even Jane Austin had a few. As Jean Roberta pointed out in a comment on Lisabet's post, they used to be called The Rival. But in the past decade or so, the art of being cruel for cruelty's sake has been elevated and even applauded.

I could blame Dangerous Liaisons. It's a morality play where the bad woman gets her just desserts in the end, but until that moment, the Marquise de Merteuil makes it look glamorous and fun to be wicked. There are hundreds of imitations of this story in movies and TV and despite how it ends it doesn't seem to stop people from wanting to emulate her.  Power can be so seductive.

I could blame reality TV, which isn't reality but a fun house mirror put up to society. Only it isn't fun. It's people pushed by producers to act unnaturally dramatic for the cameras and viewers who can't seem to understand that. I was poolside at a resort several months ago when security escorted a young woman past us. She wasn't obviously drunk or high, so one can only assume that the dramatic fit she threw at my feet (literally. some of the stuff she threw landed on my feet) was for the benefit of an imaginary TV audience. Frankly, she didn't have the acting chops to pull it off.

I could blame my love of the femme fatale. But I'm going to point the finger of blame directly at a bad trend in society where we're encouraged to wallow in our worst natures. Hate speech is entertainment, every side of every issue is so polarized that middle ground is as barren as the demilitarized zone. Can't we all just get along? No. Not as long as it's so fun to let our nasty side run rampant like a spoiled brat in a restaurant.

All of that I could dismiss as simply a fad - albeit one that's long worn out its welcome - that will eventually pass. I foresee a time when exaggerated etiquette will sweep back into fashion again. Steampunk is the vanguard of this movement. So I sigh and try to ignore it. But it still irritates me when I read a story or watch a TV show where every woman except the main character is either a slut, a victim, or a psycho.

So writers, please, if the other female characters must be horrible in order to make your main character look good by comparison, consider that you're writing a bad person and then GO WITH IT. Don't make her the least terrible of two crappy options. Don't change her to sweetness and light. Keep her complicated. Give her depth and nuance and all those lovely things that make a character worth reading about.Everyone deserves love; show us why this character does.

And what about the Rival? Can't she be worthy as a human being, sane, fun, smart and all those wonderful things? Why does she have to be a cartoon villain gnashing her teeth and setting aside her entire life just to make someone else miserable? Let The Rival look fantastic in that dress without denigrating her for her sexual power. Come on. Wouldn't you rather find an intense sexual or emotional bond with a guy (or woman) because you're suited to each other rather than because you picked the pair of 'come fuck me heels' and lingerie that caught his attention? Do you want to be stuck with a guy who would run at the first sign of granny panties on laundry day? As a writer, if you're resorting to boiled bunnies to make the plot look reasonable and the other characters look normal or even laudable, then again, GO FOR IT but at least make it so over the top that it's intentional dark comedy. I'll love you for it. Honest.