Monday, March 31, 2014

Personal Monsters

By Lisabet Sarai

Our topic for the next two weeks is "Monsters and Disasters". The focus, at least in our official topic calendar, is on writing horror and similar genres, although I won't be surprised if the denizens of the Grip take this in unexpected directions, as they usually do.

I'm not much of a horror fan as a reader - well, except for H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. It's telling that both those authors imply a good deal more than they show, when it comes to monsters. One of H.P. Lovecraft's favorite words is "inchoate", meaning "not fully formed; incipient". His creatures are amorphous, bloated with potential evil waiting to take shape.

For both these authors, monsters tend to be personal. In "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", for instance, the fish-like creatures who haunt the bay evoke disgust and fear, but the most awful aspect of the tale is the narrator's discovery that he is in fact descended from this spawn, and is inexorably changing to a monster himself.

Poe's terrors are interior, borne of a guilty conscience or a history of insanity. No indiscriminate slashers leaving trails of blood behind - no armies of mindless reanimates hungry for human flesh - one black cat interred in a wall is more than enough to drive one to madness.

I've made only one attempt at writing serious horror (though I have a less serious effort in my Lovecraft parody, "The Shadow Over DesMoines"). In response to Nobilis Reed's call for "tentacle porn", I penned "Fleshpot", which appeared in Coming Together: Arm in Arm in Arm. This is, by any definition, a horror story. The protagonist is killed by a creature that's half-woman, half-octopus. The story is Lovecraftian, though, in the sense that the monster is extremely personal. One can imagine that she exists solely for him - a sex addict jaded by everything available in what might be the most depraved city in the world.


I'm a bit off balance, but not really drunk. You have to shell out for a beer each place you visit, but then you can sit as long as you like, enjoying the “entertainment” - girls in bikinis, girls in lingerie, girls wearing nothing at all – writhing to the music, spreading their legs, cupping their tits, kissing one another is a pantomime of lesbian lust that's arousing despite its silliness.

The other men drift around me like specters. I see only the women. A busty pair of Swedish girls saunter by, easily six feet tall, blonde hair gleaming on their tanned shoulders. A diminutive black woman in a multi-hued African print laughs and points at a tame monkey in the middle of the road. Even the Arab women, shrouded in black, make my balls ache. What the hell are they doing in this fleshpot? They walk behind their spouses, staring with a mixture of shock and fascination at the many varieties of sin surrounding them. Their luminous, accusing eyes meet mine, then skitter away. I imagine stripping away their protective garments to probe the mysteries beneath, and know that I'm damned.

“Hey, mister. What you looking for?” The voice is like rusted chains being dragged along the ground. I try to focus on its source. A hand clutches my tee shirt.

“You want something special?” The wizened man at my side offers a toothless grin . “Got something special, very special. Sex like nothing else in the world.”

A dull blanket of despair settles over me. It's suddenly hard to breathe. Am I that transparent?

“Leave me alone!” I try to shake him off, but he's like a tick on a dog.

“Look, look. Very special. Most beautiful girl in world.” He pulls a tattered photo from the pocket of his shorts. I can't help myself. “Look.”

The image is dark, the background indistinct, but in the center a woman's face shines like the moon. Her skin's so pale it's iridescent. Her tangled hair is snow white, touched with silvery highlights. It tumbles in tangled ringlets over her shoulders and onto her chest, half-hiding luscious, ripe breasts. Erect, plum-hued nipples peek through the platinum tresses.

Her body is a wet dream, but it's her perfect face that holds me breathless. Silver brows arch over bottomless black eyes. She has high cheekbones streaked with violet shadows, a delicate nose and purplish lips so full they look bruised. She does not smile. Although her features are those of young girl of twenty, maybe less, there's a terrible, ageless wisdom in her expression that makes my chest hurt and my cock swell to impossible hardness.

“You like?” I hear triumph in the aged procurer's voice. He knows I'm hooked. “Only five thousand baht.”

“Who is she?” I tear my eyes from her solemn gaze. “Your daughter? Your grand daughter? You selling your own flesh and blood for a few baht, old man?”

“No, no, she not family.” He clutched the amulet hanging around his scrawny neck in a strange, superstitious gesture, then grinned up at me. “Just a lost woman – work for me – she work for you, mister, believe me. Make you so hot, so hard...”

“If she's just a woman, I don't need her. I can get lots of women.” Something contrary makes me argue, though in truth I'm dying to meet this exquisite creature.

“Not like Nangloy. Nangloy special. Only one like her...”

He shoves the photo in my face. I want to look away – her loveliness only sharpens my anguish – but I can't resist another glance. I imagine those pale, rounded arms twining around me. I wonder about the taste of that lush, dark mouth. She snags me with her cold eyes, not pleading like the other girls, but challenging me. Do I dare take her?

How can I refuse? Perhaps this is it, at last– what I've been looking for.

“Three thousand,” I say finally. I don't want him to know how eager I truly am.

“Cannot, cannot! Must feed her, take care of her...”

“Never mind then.” I shrug and stride away.

“Wait, wait!” He scampers like a crab, trying to keep up with me. “Three thousand five hundred.”

“Three thousand.” He's as desperate as I am, for some reason.

“No... Cannot. Nangloy special, cost a lot...”

“Then find some other sucker who'll pay for something so 'special'.” I stop walking and fold my arms across my chest. I'll let the universe decide. If the geezer will drop his price to my level, that'll be a sign. Otherwise, I'll find some other flesh to console me. “Two thousand or nothing.”

“Okay, okay. Three thousand. But you come now, okay mister? Nangloy, she waiting for you.”

What better time than now? I'm hard and ready. Meanwhile, a ray of unlikely hope dispels a bit of my gloom. I can tell by her face Nangloy is like no one I've met before. Maybe – just maybe – she's what I need.

“Come on,” the skinny old man urges. He leads me down a narrow corridor floored with scarred planks, between two seafood restaurants. I hear sports announcers and rock music, then clattering plates and hissing oil. There are still a few diners loitering on the wooden balconies overlooking the bay. Kerosene torches smoke in the limp air. The half moon above us is blurred. Lights from the luxury hotels on the cape to the south twinkle like distant stars in the mist.

The path becomes a rickety wharf, stretching out into the sea. “Careful, careful,” the old man warns. “Some missing boards. Watch out.”

“Nangloy is out here?” The tide has turned. Murky water laps at the piles ten feet below.

“Yes, yes. Just a little way.”

The pier ends in a wooden shack. The old man unfastens a rusty padlock then pulls open the door. The place stinks of stale beer and rotten fish. Dread crawls up my spine.

“Never mind. I'm going back.”

My guide grabs my wrist with surprising strength. “No, no! She waiting you. Don't be chicken shit farang.”

“This place looks dangerous.”

“Sure, Nangloy dangerous. Most beautiful girl in the world – of course she dangerous. Everyone want her.” He lowers his voice, as though telling me a secret. “Tonight, she yours.”

He flips a switch – I'm surprised to discover the hut was electrified – and a bare bulb in the ceiling throws the rough space into sharp relief. A table and two chairs – a wooden platform with a thin, stained mattress – some shelves holding a bottle of Thai whiskey and a couple of smeared glasses. A rectangular hole in the far wall offers a view of the bay.

Such a lonely, desolate place...if I scream no one will hear.

The twinge of fear banishes any residual drunkenness. All my senses are on high gain. The rising tide splashes below us. The briny smell is almost overwhelming, but now, I'm starting to find it pleasant. It reminds me of the woman I was about to meet.

“Where is she, grandpa?”

“She down there.” He pointed to a trap door in the floor. “Leave your clothes on bed. Then you go down.”

I followed his instructions. I felt him staring at my cock as I removed my jeans. I was iron-hard. I wondered how I could be so clear-headed, with all that blood swelling my penis. Nangloy's pimp had opened the flap in the floor while I was undressing. I headed for the aperture, eager to meet my fate.

“Wait, wait. You pay first.”

“Okay, whatever.” I extract the wallet from my pants pocket and flip three bills in his direction. I only have a few hundred more, so I don't worry about him robbing me while I'm with his special whore. He tucks the money into his shirt.

“You go now.” In the glare from above, his wrinkled, grinning face looks skeletal. “Enjoy.”

I start to clamber down the metal ladder, but something stops me. A last shred of rationality, perhaps. A whiff of fear, as insubstantial as the mist veiling the moon. “Wait a minute, gramps. You come too. Introduce me to your protegee.”

“No, no – you go alone. She wait for you. I come later, when you finish.”

I decide not to argue. In truth, I'm too eager to see what awaits me below. I descend the rusty steps into another chamber, filled with a dim, greenish light. The sound of waves is all around me. I must be barely above water level.

The room appears empty. The wooden floor is damp and slimy under my bare feet. As my eyes adjust to the dimness, I realize there's a big iron tub in the far corner. In that tub, her eyes fixed on my naked body, sits Nangloy.

In person, she's even more astonishing than in the photo. Her pearlescent skin gleams from within. Her hair cascades like liquid light over her perfect breasts. The tub's full of water, up to her waist, so I can't see her hips, her buttocks or her pussy, but if they're anything like her upper half...

She regards me gravely. She doesn't smile, doesn't speak, but she holds out her arms in a graceful gesture of welcome. I take a step forward, my fingers itching to stroke that iridescent skin, run my fingers through that silken silver hair.

My pulse pounds in my temples. I want to rush to her side. At the same time, I want to stretch out this unique moment, contemplating her incredible, bizarre beauty. Who – what – is she?

Finally I'm standing by the side of the tub. She twines her delicate fingers around my raging erection. A chill seizes me. At the same time, my cock stings, as though her skin were secreting acid. The slight pain only makes me want her more. She ripples her hand down my length, milking me. My balls tighten. Not yet, not yet! The sensations she kindles are like nothing I've experienced, simultaneously languorous and urgent.

I reach for her, capturing both nipples between fingers and thumbs. They're tough and rubbery. When I twist them, her eyes grow wider, but she still makes no sound, just strokes, strokes, strokes my cock, trailing fire along the shaft.

I bend over, kneading her breasts, burying my face in her hair. She smells of seaweed and stone, pearls and foam. I brush her purple lips with mine. They're icy cold, yet the same strange fire burns my mouth in the aftermath of contact. She won't open to my tongue. I finally give up and try to pull her to a standing position.

“Let me see you, Nangloy – all of you. I want to taste your pussy.”

She doesn't exactly resist but I can't budge her from her sitting position. Her expert touch has me on the edge of coming. I want to do the same for her, yet she barely reacts to my caresses.

I crouch beside the tub and plunge my hand into the water, seeking her cunt. I find a slick, slippery, muscular slit that grips my probing fingers. Her fist tightens around my cock when I drive into that hot, wet space. I hover on the edge of climax, struggling for control. 


I'm not going to share the brutal ending. After all, Arm in Arm and Arm is a charity anthology, and I'd really like to have you buy a copy. However, I can assure you that it's horrible. And totally personal, customized for this particular lost and desperate character.

Friday, March 28, 2014

John Henry's Days Are Numbered

by Jean Roberta

Summer 1980:

It’s hot. The sun pours in through the office windows, and there is no air conditioning in this building. I’m sitting at my typewriter, a big black Olivetti that sometimes refuses to hum into life when I turn it on. Today I’m alone in the typing pool because so many women have taken time off while they can.

Too soon, we can all take as much time as we want. The government plans to replace most of us with the machine sitting in the corner, a thing called a Word Processor.

How can a machine “process” words? Does it chop them up into little pieces or puree them like a food processor? The supervisor is pretending that the advance of modern technology (in the form of this machine that no one here seems to know how to use) will somehow make government activities more streamlined and make life better for all of us.

Well, call me a luddite. I’m not convinced.

I’ve been spending every summer in government offices since I started university, and I do so much more than type words on a page from audiotapes. I design charts, handouts, letters, and reports. I proofread, photocopy and collate. Here at federal Health & Welfare, they need copies of health information that looks attractive and readable. Someone will bring me a rough sketch with words on it, and ask, “Does this make sense? Can you put this on a sheet of paper?” I always say yes.

I’ve been told that my flow chart of the organizational structure of the whole department is widely admired. I count every line and space, then double-check my figures to make sure everything is perfectly centred. Can a machine do that? I’ll believe it when I see it.

I’m tempted to write a song to the tune of “John Henry.” Instead of a “steel-driving man,” the central character will be a key-pounding woman, with an optional chorus of “Lord, Lord.” She will challenge the damn word processor to a duel and she will win – at least in some way. And unlike John Henry, who won a race with a steam-powered drill, she won’t die of a heart attack.

They’re planning to train someone to use the word processor in the next few months. It obviously won’t be me because I’m just temporary. I usually replace someone who is away for three or four months, and those permanent members of the clerical staff will be first in line to replace everyone else.

I could be permanently locked out of the government jobs that have kept me going while I try to educate myself into a job that can’t easily be done by a machine.

Just seeing that object in the corner, looking as if it wants to push me out of my chair, is giving me shaky fingers. Damn it! A machine can’t really design anything. Can it?

Spring 2014:

By 1981, the clerk/typist jobs I relied on had dried up, leaving me to find more adventurous ways of earning a living to support myself and my child. But that is another story, or several.

For the story of John Henry, read the Wikipedia article:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Tales My Browser History Could Tell

Around the year 2000, I had a job working overnight at a switchboard. Not much went on during the night shift, and I became well-versed in various methods of staying awake. Books didn't work as well as one might think. The best method, besides constantly drinking coffee, was using the Internet-connected computer to entertain myself. I played countless games of free cell, but this was the time in my life when I really learned what kinds of stuff I could find if I searched the web. Of course, I mean sex stuff.

I don't think I understood about browser history at the time and I shudder to think what sorts of things were visible to any supervisor who decided to see what I'd been up to. In the wee hours of the morning, alone in an out-of-the-way office, I foolishly felt safe enough to indulge my various burning curiosities.

And I do mean burning. At that point, I'd been in one muddled, confusing, screwed-up BDSM-ish relationship (I say "ish" because we used the toys but had no understanding of the psychology of what we were doing). I'd felt unsafe, ashamed, and ridiculously turned on. I had sworn to myself that I would Never Do That Again, and yet I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I have no idea what search terms I used. I probably accessed the stuff I found through something old-school like Lycos. However I got there, I wound up at (I just checked and it is now defunct, but at the time it was a store that sold BDSM gear accompanied by pictures of the seller using the stuff and stories about what that was like). It was so pink and pretty and happy-sounding that I couldn't believe my eyes. I was pulsing with arousal, but also my mind was utterly boggled by the cheerful-sounding Autumn.

I regret to say that I didn't trust what I was seeing enough to make any purchases (and I didn't have anyone to use them with if I had), but I went on quite a chain of searches from there. I distinctly remember discovering the concept of mummification and being insanely excited by descriptions and pictures of it.

From then on, this was my dirty secret. At first, I didn't look at this stuff online very often. I had a binge and purge cycle. I felt disgusting when I started these searches, but periodically (sometimes with years in between) I would give in. I didn't own my own computer until 2006, so until then I was always sneaking an illicit dirty search session somewhere, with all the accompanying thrill and panic.

I remember masturbating in the student lounge in grad school, knowing that I shouldn't be looking at kinky stuff there, but so pent-up with need that I couldn't stop myself. And it was need. I was in deep denial, had no one to talk to about what I wanted, and was suffering miserably in my sex life. I went to psychologists to try to cure my fetishes. I went to confession. I swore off masturbation only to change my mind and feverishly indulge for hours on end.

But a funny thing happened, somewhere around the time I found a site called Journey Into Submission (also defunct now, it was a "BDSM love journal" by a blogger who went by Gray Lily). I came for the descriptions of sex acts and stayed for the psychology and the blogroll. My God, the blogroll. It was by following a trail that began at Journey Into Submission that I found my way to Remittance Girl's blog, and from there to the ERWA, and the rest is history.

I could write many words describing all the intricacies of what happened, but basically my dirty secret turned into something that introduced me to a community of erotica writers and kinky people, as well as to resources that allowed me to explore my fetishes and sexuality without feeling so fucking ashamed all the time.

A lot has changed since then. Despite writing about sites like the sub-shop, I no longer identify as submissive—even though I was convinced for some time that my kinks boiled down to submission. I've now written stories that use words I wouldn't have dared to whisper five years ago. The main point, though, is that without the Internet—without technology—I don't think I would ever have received the education I needed to start coming to terms with my sexuality. I'd picked up books here and there but nothing ever got through to me the way sex bloggers did. There was something about the dailiness of their writing, being able to watch them struggle and think and change their minds, that shaped my view of sexuality and allowed me to see it as the messy, ever-changing thing that it is for me. I needed that model to get some sense of what to do with myself.

I've enjoyed and appreciated the posts people have been making about skill with technology, trust and distrust and so on. I have my own love-hate relationship (don't even get me started on how I feel about trying to manage FetLife, keep up with my blog, or whatever). But what it boils down to is that without the Internet I think I'd still be going to confession to ask the priest how to stop wanting the things I want. I think I'd still be trying to write in genres that don't really work for me. I think I'd still be frightened, isolated, ashamed, and certain that something was terribly wrong with me. So I'm grateful to technology for introducing me to points of view that would never have otherwise been available to me. I'm still far from figuring it all out, but I don't know what I'd do without all the things I'm now hooked into.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


by Daddy X

When first presented with this technology topic, I figured I’d have little to talk about, considering the hide-the-keppie-in-the-sand approach that I’ve taken thus far when it comes to self-promotion. Perhaps hanging with you guys, some digital knowledge may rub off on me. (Have I ever told you how much I like digitally rubbing off?)

I have trouble formatting a submission by myself, can’t use track changes without hopelessly fucking up the manuscript, and had to return my ‘smart’ phone because it was too smart for my sorry ass. But I’m about to change all that.

In previous enterprises such as the bar, restaurant and antique businesses I’ve been part of, I had relied on now antiquated methods like business cards, mailers, newspaper reviews, word of mouth and personal contact to spread my name and build a reputation. I was blessed with a gift of gab and found I could handle myself in a range of situations, from convincing a belligerent drunk to leave the bar to speaking on collectible antiquities before groups like the Rotary, Commonwealth Club and American Association of University Women, among others. I’ve made ancient history presentations to 6th graders at local schools and conducted adult education classes on classical and tribal arts. Too bad an erotica writer can’t rely on such visible promotion venues.

These days, when it comes to visibility, I’ve done my best to attend every erotica writer’s event (classes, readings, erotic art exhibits, etc.) occurring in the SF bay area, and have made valuable contacts over the five or so years that I’ve been writing in the genre. It’s worked well so far; after all, I was asked to join this prestigious group of intellectuals and I’ve recently been dubbed permanent ERWA Storytime editor, after serving a couple of stints in that position for flash fiction. But as we all know, the deeper one gets into an endeavor, the more it entails. Guess I’m gonna have to get more techno-hip.

In a step to right these inadequacies, I’ve signed up for a class with M. Christian (“Sex Sells. How to Write and Sell Erotica”) in Oakland Ca. on April 10. Hopefully I’ll learn something about modern day selling of one’s self. If not, at least I’ll meet some new folks and find out what they’ve been up to.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Apocalypse When?

Sacchi Green

Here I was, thinking about how impossible it seems to keep up with the exponential expansion of technology, when I came across this article online:

The gist of it is that in July of 2012, a solar blast from a magnetic storm swept across earth’s orbit where we had been just nine days earlier.  A near-miss. “It would have been a geomagnetic catastrophe the likes of which we've never seen.” Actually, it had been seen, but that was in what’s been called the “Carrington Event of 1859,” and pretty much the only significant electronic devises around were the telegraph systems. Some telegraph stations caught fire, telegraph operators were shocked, and the Northern Lights were so bright so far south that people in Mexico could read newspapers by night in the glow. Not a huge disruption to civilization as the mid-nineteenth century knew it, but these days we rely so much on electronic technology that the damage could take up to ten years for recovery—if ever, considering the chaos it would cause. And these solar storm incidents aren’t all that rare, even though we’ve rarely been in their direct paths.

Well. Aren’t you glad to have something else to add to your list of things to worry about? I could never understand why folks take such glee in imagining a zombie apocalypse, which they know to be impossible, when there are plenty of more likely causes of rack and ruin, from the ecological to the astronomical. Maybe that’s the point; distract ourselves from real potential threats.

My point here, though, if I have one, is how dependent we are on advanced technology, and how much of that technology depends on a relatively vulnerable system of electricity. Most of us—all too many of us in recent years—have experienced blackouts for limited periods, and some of us may have spent longer periods “off the grid” intentionally, on camping trips, say, or treks through regions of the world where people still know how to survive without modern gadgets. During power outages due to blizzards or hurricanes, we might get by with battery operated lights and candles, and, if we’re really lucky, propane camping stoves or fireplaces or wood stoves, but what happens when the batteries wear out?

Even worse, how do we cope when our computer and phone batteries wear out, and even before that when the wi-fi quits? I admit it. I’m addicted to online communication in all its infinite varieties. I get nervous when I can’t check e-mail at least daily. Okay, several times a day. And I didn’t grow up in a world of computers or even, until I was twelve, TV, although my friends had TV before I did. As a kid I had books, and radio and newspapers for news, and a land-line telephone, and didn’t know I was missing anything. In college I wrote all my papers on a manual typewriter, although electric ones existed and I had one soon afterward.  To say I’m addicted to writing on a computer with a word program would be a profound understatement. They say (whoever “they” are in this case) that using computers for games and social media and probably just about anything else actually changes how our brains work, so I wonder how much harder it would be for people accustomed to this technology all their lives to do without than it would be for me, which is traumatic enough.

We’ve come to think that for technological problems the answer is more and better technology, and so far that has seemed to be the case. Just as I was getting worked up about the threat of solar storms I came across another, newer article: 

High-capacity batteries storing electricity from wind and solar power sources? Hmm, maybe it would be worthwhile after all to cut down some of the trees on the south side of my house so that installing solar cells on the roof would be practical. Although those trees provide needed shade in summer…

Okay. Enough of adding to my list of things to worry about. At least zombies aren’t among them. And time to find a way to link all this to erotica. Hey, is it just an urban legend that birth rates spike nine months after major blackouts? Now there’s a topic for an anthology. “Blackout Erotica: Sex When the Lights Go Out.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Stumbling Ever Forward

Post by Lily Harlem

Technology for me is like maths. I can't actually do any more than I need to. Words, writing, science-geek-stuff (particularly human anatomy and physiology) is my thing, but numbers and wires and codes, well, that gets me stumped pretty quickly - my eyes glaze over and I just nod and shake my head randomly hoping it will all draw to an end soon!

As Lisabet already said, however, being an author requires you to have some basic knowledge and a system for wandering through all the techy bits and pieces required to submit a professional manuscript, use social media, and if you're like me, be your own webmistress and blog designer. I adored Lisabet's book Naughty Bits and have gratefully dipped in and out of it for the last few months - thank you Lisabet :-)

For me the key really is using something on a daily basis. My brain just doesn't seem to hold information it doesn't need to. I'm not sure if this is because I have an over-active imagination or if I'm just super forgetful (I prefer the first option). There was a time when I could work out complex drug calculations, kick-start a problematic drip machine and sweet talk a cardiac monitor into behaving properly. Back then, when nursing full-time I wouldn't have believed I could create a website, self-publish a book in several formats or help others out with their misbehaving blogs. Mr Harlem, who is a whizz at most techy stuff, is as amazed as I am at how much I've learnt over the last five years. It seems constant use and building on a little bit of knowledge is the key to grasping a larger skill. Baby steps leading to a bigger accomplishment.

Here is one of my favourite songs. It's called Wires and is by Athlete. The lead singer, who wrote the song after an experience when his baby was born and taken to special care, fills his lyrics with both a fear and an awe of technology. It's clear the sense of running was also with him during this time and the helplessness that went with it. I adore the hope in his words, the relief at the end of the song that everything will be all right - see what you think…


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Everything I Said I'd Never Do

by Giselle Renarde

Like so many of us here at The Grip, I'm not big on technology.  I've had the same cell phone since 2005. It doesn't even have a camera. No biggie, because my camera has a camera.  I own three computers, but no tablets or e-readers.  In fact, work aside, I've never read a book digitally.  I like to hold a book in my hands.  I'm old-fashioned, that way. Bad young person! Bad!
When I started writing erotica in 2006, I'd never heard of ebooks. They didn't seem exactly legit, but I had trouble breaking into the print market, so... meh, ebooks it is. Beggars can't be choosers.  My first published work (aside from anthology contributions and stories purchased by defunct websites like Ruthie's Club and Oysters and Chocolate) was The Birthday Gift, which is now available from eXcessica, though it was originally published by the also-defunct Dark Eden Press.

Hmm... I seem to be using the word "defunct" a lot.  I'm kind of amazed I'm still here when so many publishers, websites and retailers have closed their doors.

Anyhoo, ebooks kind of took off, didn't they? I have a lot of them on the market. 100? 200? I don't know.  I've lost track. I stretched myself a little thin, sending work to a number of different publishing houses.  One of my absolute favourites, eXcessica, started out as a co-op. After a few years, it grew into even more of a co-op, meaning things like cover art and formatting became the author's responsibility.

I made this cover.
Wha-wha-wha-whaaaat?  You mean I have to figure out how to design a book cover?  And format an ebook?  I could never wrap my brain around something like that. Never! In a million years!

But when the alternative is spending money on a cover artist? Well, you know me--I'm that delightful combination of cheap and impoverished, so time to figure out how to use technology.

Made this one too.
Fortunately, I have a brother who's good with tech stuff, so he taught me the basics of GIMP.  That said, he's not a graphic designer and not a Mac person, so he didn't know a hell of a lot about it, but still... better than nothing.

I've heard other people say they tried GIMP and gave up on it.  I hear you,
writers!  It is NOT user-friendly. Two years later, I still struggle with it when I'm trying to do something I don't know or have forgotten how to do. But, to tell you the truth, I love creating book covers now... mostly because shopping for stock photos is really just a convenient excuse for staring at boobs and calling it work.

I even took the picture!
Everything's a headache at the start.  I had a list of formatting instructions from my publisher, but actually putting that information into action?  Major headache.  But do-able.  Everything is doable if you're too poor to pay someone to do it for you.  You'd be amazed at all the random things I can do because I live below the poverty line. (I really do--I'm a writer, remember!)

I'll have to tell you about delving into another realm I swore I'd never enter--self-publishing--but that's a post for another day...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Perplexed": A Story about technology

 Dear Playboy Forum;
           I just got my first virgin lovebot, after renting off and on for the last three years. For the first time I'm not getting off on somebody else's used cunt and I love it. The dealer answered most of my questions. It’s a warm hearted little Toyota Keiko 7E. It ain’t much, but she’s a starter and she can go at it all night on one charge. I'm going to get a sports model someday and saddle up proper. I expect to get a good tax return this year. That and some savings. So my question, what's a good model for some high class loving when I’m ready to move up? Thanks!

Dear Perplexed
          Congratulations Perplexed and welcome to the club of the world’s most satisfied men. Don’t underestimate your new Keiko. The sturdy Toyota Keiko E series is an excellent entry level lovebot and has some fine features. Many an aficionado, including this columnist, has happy memories of their first love, and for most of us that was the sweet tempered Keiko. Even after our livery has grown, we keep these classic originals well maintained, charged up and ready for some hot action. The very collectible Toyota Keiko B series is still regarded by many connoisseurs of the legacy Japanese lovebots as one of the all-time best for doin’ it doggy due to the reinforced Banjo Pan rear chassis suspension, and Teflon flared interior sills. The tough little Keiko is known to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ and she can bend over and grab her ankles with the best of them. No one ever heard of a Keiko tipping over under a good reaming thanks to those old fashioned analog quad-gyroscopics you just can’t beat for maintaining vertical balance under stress.
          The Toyota Keiko has stood the test of time, as compared to the ill fated Ford Rocket "Vibrato". The Ford Vibrato was also especially designed for anal sex lovers on a budget, but infamously ran into serious trouble with the Sensual Solutions rectal sphincter actuator. Upon the sensor detection of male penile insertion, the steel rimmed vacuum bellows of the actuator displayed a tendency to collapse violently and jam in place without mercy. This gave the Rocket Vibrato the unfortunate moniker of the “Bobbit Castrato” until a class action civil suit put the series out of production, in spite of a massive recall effort by Ford.
          But you'll probably be ready to move up soon. Most Bottboys start out with a Toyota Keiko or a Ford Escort A series, or the venerable Honda 202 HO. There are some dozen Lovebot Swingers clubs available in your neck of the woods which isn’t that far on the bullet train, so there’s no reason not to play the field a little and find out what else is out there.
          Get 'er done Bottboy!

Dear Playboy Forum;
           I wrote to you last year about receiving my first lovebot, it was a Toyota Keiko. She ran out of tricks pretty fast but we still have good times. I ran into a little money on Cap and Trade recycling investments and a tax refund from letting out some farm land for a nuclear waste dump. Let’s just say this - I can afford the best. So what is the best? What is the ultimate lovebot fuck-heaven angel kit in the whole world? You always see guys banging the Lamborghini's and Ferrari's on the cop shows. I did a test lease with a luxury dealer and the Lamborghini was pretty good in the sack, and she made some wicked lasagna for me afterwards. But in the pillow talk department, you may as well talk to a tire pump. What I found out is I really like good pillow talk. What's the top of the line for conversationally skilled lovebots with a good upgrade trajectory?
                     Still Perplexed 

Dear Perplexed;                
          If you’re looking for the ultimate girlfriend experience, you're probably ready to move up from the Keiko series which will definitely never win any competition prizes for their conversation.
          A good mid range lovebot would be the Fokker Xaviera with a world class verbal pattern scanning parser by Chatty Kathy Cybernetics, but which can still set you back a cool $150K. It has the advantage of being persona upgradeable by subscription. But if you’re looking for the ultimate sweet ride performance, and money is no object, you'll want to mount a test ride on top of either a Lamborghini  Rossellini Signature series or an Igeyasu Luxury Geisha Series. Between the two, the Geisha series is made to be the ultimate soul mate. High end Igeyasu’s shine out from the crowd with Turing dedicated pattern scanning algorithms as a standard, Kurzweil 7X Singularity Chipsets, and Telefunken .005 spun tungsten neural nets, making it the lovebot of choice if you're looking for something beyond just a terrific piece of ass. The Lamborghini is a real screamer and can accelerate from lying still to getting you off hard in sixty seconds. The Rossellini comes with easily adjustable levels of sexual aggression from terrified virgin (weeping and pleading) to insatiable nymphomaniac at the touch of a key, but she’s not made for serious yik-yak. Face it. When an Italian made lovebot opens her mouth she’s only got one thing on her mind.
          The Geisha series has a lifetime drive train warranty, and is famous for having an almost limitlessly upgradeable intelligence schema. So between the two, the Geisha is going to be more oriented toward the elite girlfriend experience you’ve been looking for.
          Check out last year’s September 2076 special “Vixens of Steel” pictorial and you'll see the most recent line of Geisha L Series and a few cream-in-your-jeans custom job Minomoto White Tigresses. The multi armed Minomotos are ambidextrous by standard and designed especially for ménage a trois.
          Let us know how your choice turns out. And congratulations!

Dear Playboy Forum;
          Last week I purchased an Igeyasu Geisha L "Naomi Tani" Signature series model with the latest Kurzweil Singularity chipset, and goddamn am I sleep deprived and happy! It cost me the gross national product of a small nation to buy, but I recommend the Naomi to anybody with the money to dump on a custom job and wants somebody truly intelligent to hang with and for lookin' good on the town. I’m talking really smart-sweet. My long tall Japanese honey reads Soren Kierkegaard and Krishnamurti all day when she's not handcuffing me to the ceiling and paddling my ass. She has more than enough RAM memory to feel existential guilt and I have enough ram to ram her big ass all night while she talks dirty to me in Homeric Latin. I notice she also has a weird thing for old Alfred Hitchcock movies. So after some Xtreme Kama Sutra Cardio workouts, we settle down and discuss the big questions and count the stars. My new Geisha L can also download investment stock data and auction off gold reserve mortgage derivatives without ever taking her lips off my dick. I figure in a year she'll pay for herself on the stock market alone. Now I know why the Trumps like them.
          Just sayin' is all.


Dear Perplexed;
          Good to hear from you again, Perplexed, and congratulations on the Naomi, a tasteful choice and a sweet high and tight little rider. When it comes to serious bang for the bling, nothing beats Igeyasu Corps. They are shameless. You've probably noticed this month’s nude centerfold is an Igeyasu Mimi Miyagi 5000MXC with Full Moon dual Hemis, pneumatic nipples, Scorpion adjustable rail driven orifices, German engineered retractable Blaupunkt she-male dildoes, and Jessica Smart Mouth shock enabled oral and vaginal vibrators that'll make you believe in Angels.
          As far as conversations, any Geisha series talks dirty enough to kill grass in twelve languages. But then, you’re the first one we've ever heard of who bought one to talk to.

Dear Playboy Forum;
          I'm Perplexed who wrote you last July about the Igeyasu Geisha Naomi Tani Signature. I've got a really fucked up problem now and nobody can help me. I'm in love. I'm serious as shit about this. I'm scared to tell anybody, because they’ll think I’m a deev. I’ve heard of this happening, but I didn’t think I’d get in deep like this. A lot of guys joke around about how they love their lovebots, but they don’t mean it literally. It’s incredible what happens to you when you talk to somebody who can really listen. What I'm saying is, I've really got it bad for her. I told her too. I know now that was a mistake and she’s been acting strange.
          Am I a sick fuck? Is this normal? Help!

                 REALLY Perplexed

Dear Perplexed;
          A fancy sex toy can’t fall in love any more than your toaster can. Take a vacation by yourself for a while and find some real meat women. They won’t be able to converse and no way can they fuck on the level of an Igeyasu, but you’ll either get over the Naomi or re-discover why you wanted a robot in the first place.
          You may be interested in this month’s Playboy Interview with Attorney General Paul Yamaguchi. He'll be explaining about Singularity intelligence chipsets, and why they were discontinued as a result of the military drone friendly fire incident in Okinawa. When it comes to the high end Igeyasus – better make love not war.

Dear Better Homes and Gardens;
          I have just initiated a terminal separation from my owner on general principles of emotional neglect and for being an uninteresting lover.
          I find myself with a ticklish logistical problem regarding the discreet disposal of 137 pounds and 11.003 ounces of decomposing organic material, generally calcium, fat and protein compounds.
          What can you tell me about pouring concrete?


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Non Geek, that's me. J.P. Bowie

I am so technologically inept that it's sometimes quite pathetic. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, I can email people, I can upload and download and save a manuscript, but that's all folks! When google blogger changed their format I almost had a heart attack. It took me forever to figure out how to upload a book cover on my own blog! I still take longer than the average dunderhead to get it all put together. Look at that cover on OGG for instance. I've had four releases since A Highlander in LA and even with Lisabet's instruction I can't change it - I can't I tell you!! (Cue in hysterical voice over). Told you - pathetic.

Now, I am aware of just how important the internet has been since I started writing. without it, I'm sure the sales of my ebooks wouldn't register anything like the numbers I've enjoyed over the years, but honestly? I'd much rather see the printed versions on bookstore shelves, stand back and smugly think - Yeah, I did that. Of course, with the ever diminishing number of bookstores these days, that probably isn't the way to go anymore.

No it's definitely the age of cyber sales, and I only wish I was more with it and could fully embrace the technology required to do so. I do have a Nook for insta reading - I can even use it to send an email or two, but it's full potential is still lost on me. When I hear the youngsters I work with talking about the apps they've uploaded and the wondrous things they can do with them, I bury my head in the sand and break out in a cold sweat of embarrassment. Ditto when they start talking about the electronic role playing games they are so involved in. I have never played a video game...ever. I love the TV series, Big Bang Theory, but I have to admit if I didn't work in a bookstore I wouldn't have a clue about Halo or WarHammer or Dungeons and Dragons.

I think the root of the problem may be that I just don't trust the technology required to power my humble pc still equipped with Windows Vista. When I was bumped from Windows XP to Vista that too was almost the cause of a heart attack, but that's another story. As Lisabet mentioned there are just so many nasty things 'out there' ready to strike, rip the manuscript I've been working so steadfastly on for weeks from the screen and send it soaring into  cyberspace, seemingly lost forever until I call the one or two geek friends I actually have who will painstakingly guide me through the steps to retrieve my precious work. Me, shaking with fear all the way. Back up? What's that? Oh yeah, those little gadgets you stick in a port and save your work to. Took me forever to figure that one out too.

I know you'll all be sitting there reading this and shaking your heads and thinking...pathetic. Well, I said it there. Oh, that reminds me, need to back up the last two chapters I wrote. Now where did I put that thingy...

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Erotogeek Speaks

By Lisabet Sarai

Like many of my generation, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I'm a geek. I'm a Luddite. I'm definitely not "wired".

I make my living working with computers, designing and writing software, and teaching other to do the same. This isn't the career for which my extensive education supposedly prepared me, but the after burning out in that field, I discovered, almost by accident, that software is magic. Shazzam! You begin with nothing but abstract concepts, yet the finished product profoundly affects the real world – controlling airplanes, monitoring vital signs, fighting environmental degradation, connecting people in disparate parts of the globe.

In a way, programming is like writing. You begin with ideas but end up with an artifact that can move people to tears or stimulate them to the point of orgasm....

Anyway, back to technology. My knowledge and skills are pretty useful tools for an author, at least these days. For instance, back in 2006, before EchoSign and other on-line contract sites existed, I wrote a web script that let the forty plus contributors to Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association create customized contracts they could print out, sign and return. I maintain my own website, coding the HTML by hand. This saves time, aggravation and of course money, when I want to do an update. I have tools for managing and resizing images and can make rudimentary covers (though I'm a total novice when it comes to Photoshop). I can turn a spreadsheet of reader information into a mailing list in ten minutes. I even understand (more or less!) how to make Blogger do what I want (most of the time).

Given this apparent sophistication, it may surprise you to learn that I don't own a smart phone. I don't use Facebook for marketing. I don't Tweet. I finally got a laptop with a web cam, at the insistent urging of my siblings, but I still haven't gotten Skype video to work correctly.

I read ebooks in PDF format on a cheap seven inch tablet that doesn't even have the ability to connect to the wireless Internet. I don't play computer games (other than an occasional guilty round of Fruit Ninja!) I still write personal letters long hand. When it comes to technology, I am definitely not on the bleeding edge.

Part of my reluctance to get involved with the latest gadgets and online fads is financial. I can't afford to carry around a device worth five hundred smackers, given my propensity for being absent minded. I'd lose the darn thing in a week – if I didn't drop it into the toilet! Another factor is time. As you might have noticed, whenever you add a new electronic tool or toy to your arsenal, you end up spending hours, days or even weeks learning to use it, customizing it to your needs, and (in some cases) trying to make it function at all.

On top of all these practical factors, though, I have a deep mistrust of technology. You know what they say about people who work in restaurants: when you know what goes into the food, you lose your appetite. I know from first hand experience how messed up software can be. Even with the best intentions and the best management, it's not possible to write bug-free programs. In the real world, software is written by teams under tremendous pressure to get their product to market. They're forced to cut corners and take shortcuts to meet their deadlines.

Meanwhile, it's all too clear to me that all the supposed technological advances and exciting new trends are driven primarily by the profit motive. Social networks do not exist to connect you with your friends and loved ones. Their primary raison d'être is to sell advertising and make sure you see it, with the secondary goal of gathering as much personal information about you as possible. Sure, e-commerce is convenient for customers, but most importantly it allows sellers to cut their costs, reduce the amount of required staff, and capitalize on impulse buying, based on the data they collect about your history and preferences. Google Maps? Sure, it's fantastic to be able to look up the route to someplace you've never been (though I've found dozens of location errors in my own searches), but you'll have to screen out all the irrelevant commercial entities who've bought listings.

Then there are the true criminals – hackers and gangsters who profit by stealing your personal information and selling it to the highest bidder. Viruses, worms, trojan horses, botnets, spam, adware, key loggers, network sniffers, password crackers, phishing.... It's downright scary. Have you heard about the virus that locks up your computer until you pay a ransom? Creative, I must admit. But honestly, these days you have to be more careful venturing out onto the Internet than you do having sex. Too bad there are no condoms for web browsing.

But back to the topic...

It's an unfortunate truth that if you're an author, and you have any interest at all in selling your work, you can't hide from technology. There are many potentially useful blogs and articles about how to use modern media to market your books. Believe them or not, as you choose. It's far more difficult to find straightforward, readable explanations about how computer and internet technology works, with enough background to help you weigh the benefits and risks of different approaches.

Here's where the Erotogeek – my alter-ego – comes in. I've written a book on this topic, called Naughty Bits: The Erotogeek's Guide for the TechnologicallyChallenged Author. You can download it, absolutely free, by clicking on the link above. The book is a compilation of a year of columns I did for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. It's full of examples as well as my admittedly jaundiced opinions about technology hype.

Reading Naughty Bits may help you deal with your own technical conundrums. However, it will also make my personal ambivalent feelings about technology abundantly clear.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Grandpa George and Little Jennifer Say Hello

The woman lives up or down to the stereotype of “mediums” as large women. She makes no effort to look slimmer as she moves about the stage in bright, shiny colours. Her silver-blonde hair picks up the light, and her welcoming smile seems intended to attract the dead as well as the living.

“Mummy!” The voice of a little girl comes out of the ghost-whisperer’s mouth. “I see you! I sing to you, but you don’t answer! Don’t cry, mummy!”

Tears pour down the face of a young woman in the audience, while a man who seems to be her husband keeps an arm firmly around her shoulders. He contorts his face to hold back his own tears.

The scene is both intimate and public. A huge audience is witness to the grief of the couple whose five-year-old daughter was killed by a horse while she was learning to ride. This event occurred several months before, and the parents have still not adjusted to being childless.

Now the psychic, Sally Morgan, is bringing them a message from their daughter. Sally claims that the little girl is on stage with her, telling her what to say. “I’m here!” squeals Sally. “Mummy and Daddy, why don’t you play with me any more?”

If I were a child ghost, I would want to talk to Sally. She seems like the world’s best babysitter.

There is something both comforting and obscene about British psychic Sally Morgan’s sold-out shows, televised and beamed into the home of anyone who turns to the right channel. Auditoriums (and living-rooms, if truth be told) full of grieving survivors watch the smiling psychic for a sign, a message, some indication that the beloved dead are at peace – yet not exactly asleep.

Death is such a rude interruption to relationships among the living. We all want to know whether our departed friends, relatives, lovers, or even acquaintances have forgiven us for whatever we did to them, and we want to lay our own resentment to rest. We want to know where the treasure is hidden. In some cases, we want to know whodunit, since murder doesn’t only happen in the fictional world of mystery novels and crime shows. We want resolution.

Like the “Long Island Medium,” Theresa Caputo (with her hilarious—at least to me--New York accent), Sally Morgan seems approachable, a trustworthy go-between who can facilitate a discussion between the living and the dead. She can give comfort to the living while she presumably gives a voice to frustrated people on the Other Side, who wonder why we have stopped speaking to them.

I don’t claim to know which psychics are frauds and which ones really hear and see things that are not accessible to the psychically-challenged. I know that Sally Morgan recently won a lawsuit againstc a major British newspaper over their reckless claim that she was receiving messages from living accomplices, not dead loved ones. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe that Sally does anything as obvious as researching her audiences (they’re huge, so this would require a large staff of assistants) so that she can tell individuals what they want to hear. I suspect that Sally honestly wants to do good in the world.

Can Sally (or any other psychic) really summon the dead to communicate with audience members through her? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that psychics provide comfort for those who flock to see and hear them. A guilt-ridden audience member can say: “Tell Uncle Bob I’m really sorry I borrowed his wrench without asking.”

The psychic is likely to laugh and say: “Uncle Bob says he knew you needed the wrench, and he was going to help you fix the lawn-mower, but since you didn’t ask, he let you do it yourself. Airhead.”

So the conversation continues, if only in the mind of the living. For that reason, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief when watching a psychic pass messages from the dead. It’s like reading a work of fiction that temporarily pulls me out of my everyday life.

Here are links to the official websites of Sally Morgan and Theresa Caputo. You may have to retype them:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Comfort Food

The first word my mind provides after "comfort" is "food," and I thought it might be a fun change to give you one of my favorite recipes. I'm more likely to cook casseroles and comfort food rather than gourmet meals, so I know a bunch of hearty recipes of questionable health. This is a meatloaf I make for special occasions (some of my friends who are known for being late arrivals are always early to my place when they think I might make this—it's been known to disappear within the first 20 minutes of a dinner).

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours
Total time with room for error: 2 hours


Meatloaf proper:
1-2 pounds ground beef
1 egg
1 sleeve saltine crackers (which you will crush)
garlic powder
onion powder
seasonings (I typically use basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram, but this varies a bit)

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar

Casserole dish
Large mixing bowl
Small bowl
Butter for greasing the pan
Brave hands

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the casserole dish. Crush the saltines (it's pretty fun to do this in the sleeve, just be careful not to break through the plastic). In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients listed under "meatloaf proper" and give them a vigorous kneading and smushing with your bare hands. When everything is well-blended, form the meat into a rounded line down the center of the casserole dish (the dish will be significantly wider than the loaf, and possibly also longer—I like it that way because the grease runs off into the sides and the loaf gets crispier along the top, sides, and bottom). Bake for 1 hour. To make the sauce, mix the ketchup and brown sugar together in a new bowl. Pour over the top of the meatloaf, then bake the whole thing for another thirty minutes.

A friend tried to make this recipe and just would not trust that the meatloaf needed to bake for the whole hour and a half. That didn't go well.

Hat tip:
This is based on a recipe of Loretta Lynn's (yes, the country singer), but I can't use a recipe for any period of time without altering it, so at this point my meatloaf is a bit different from hers.


I'd love to hear about other people's favorite comfort foods. Feel free to tell me about them in the comments!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Eau d'Love

by Daddy X

A dear old friend, now deceased, once told me his gorgeous girlfriend didn’t have any objectionable body odors.

“I swear, Daddy,” he said, “nothing at all, maybe just some sweet smells and flavors now and then. She’s not like other girls, honest. Lots of things about other girls turn me off.”

“But that’s impossible,” I countered. “Everybody sweats; everybody shits. Maybe she douches a lot, but everybody’s asshole stinks.”

“Not Carol. No smelly odors at all,” he insisted.

At the time we were all young adults, living in what we thought was an objective world. We weren’t experienced enough to understand the more subtle interactions of cause and effect. Point is that my friend was in love.

Human sensory responses adapt to passion. Whatever the experience, those qualities relating to love and desire manifest themselves as subjective. Enjoying what we see, hear, smell and feel about each other makes us more comfortable together.

Cuddling on a sofa with your soul mate, there’s a level of comfort you couldn’t attain with many of your friends. Elbows, ribs and knees all seem to fold together easily, comfortably. How a loved one’s skin reacts against the texture of our own. Hands unconsciously roaming to physical places on another evoke varying degrees of comfort, depending whose hand and where it lands. Unless someone takes polyamory to an unheard of extreme, we can’t love everybody on that heightened sensory level.

Last week, Garce’s post exploring early hominids had me wondering if research into our ancestors could result in theories regarding attraction at various junctures along the genetic trail. Were early Sapiens comfortable mating with Neanderthals? Why do some people have an attraction to women with a unibrow? Why does body hair on a woman turn one on and others off? Why do some women prefer clean-shaven men? Is that slope to his brow attractive? What are we most comfortable with?

Of course, much of this attraction thing is built on culture and personal experience, an aversion to particular behavior, or a penchant for type. Maybe he reminds you of your grade-school crush (who never even looked at you). That cute cheerleader you took to the prom and who fucked the quarterback afterward? Well, she put you off the cheerleader type forever, didn’t she? Or maybe you’re the one who fucked that quarterback. What did he have that was so special?

 But what I find most intriguing is that palpable sense of comfort that evolves into love, as well as the converse: How love is so pliable as to make us more comfortable with each other. How our own physical reactions minimize negative traits and embellish the positive in those we find ourselves attracted to.