Friday, June 23, 2017

Flasher: First Time

by Jean Roberta

Here is a little flasher I wrote about a kind of messy triangle:

The woman I met in the gay bar is sitting on my hide-a-bed, the place where I sleep. She calls herself a dyke, but I suspect it would be rude of me to call her that.

“How do you like to do it?” She is smiling, licking her lips.

I don’t know how I like to do it with a woman, underneath a woman, on top of a woman. Or a dyke. Whatever. “I never did this before,” I blurt. I feel mortified.

She looks delighted. “Oh, I’m gonna love this,” she promises, wrapping me in her arms. Her lips are hot. Her hands feel careful but determined.

“Mom!” My four-year-old is awake. “I hear noises! I think an animal is in our house!”

“There’s no animal in our house, honey. Go back to sleep.”

“I’m scared!”

“Sorry,” I mumble, standing up. I go to my daughter’s bedroom, and find her sitting up, wide-eyed.

“Why can’t that man or lady go home?”

“It’s okay,” I insist. I’m not convinced. “You sometimes have a friend stay for the night. I can have a friend stay with me.”


Grown-up laughter wafts in: dyke-language competes with child-language. I have to multi-task.

I'll say more tomorrow.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Getting back in the game (with the #babysitter) #lesbian #erotica

An Excerpt from...
by Giselle Renarde

Lola had been asleep for hours by the time Cynthia got home from her big date. First time out with a man since the divorce. I half expected her to burst through the door, drunk as a skunk, dragging the guy upstairs for an I-haven’t-had-sex-in-four-years fuck.

I was sitting in the living room, watching TV and eating Lola’s fruit snacks, when Cynthia walked in and said, “Well, that was a bust.”

Turning off the TV, I swivelled around to see her. For a woman her age, she looked pretty kick-ass. And I guess she wasn’t old-old. She worked with my mom, but they weren’t the same age. If I had to guess, I’d say Cynthia was… maybe forty? Hard to say.

Sometimes she looked tired and run-down, but not tonight.

Tonight she looked defeated, but gorgeous.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, though I didn’t expect her to tell me.

She’d never confided in me before, but I guess she was super-down-in-the-dumps that night, because she collapsed on the couch like I was her therapist. “I don’t know how to date, Lin. It’s been years! You know I started going out with my husband in college? I was nineteen when we met. Nineteen—that’s the last time I went on a first date with a man.”

“Oh,” I said, second-guessing my psych major status, because I felt super-uncomfortable listening to the woman vent about her personal life. “So, I’m guessing it didn’t go well with Ed?”




“Yikes. Sorry.”

Cynthia sat up on the couch. When she leaned forward to grab the box of fruit snacks, her breasts nearly popped out of her low-cut dress. “Tell me the truth, Lin: am I not attractive? Is that the problem?”

If she’d caught me staring at her tits, she’d have known that wasn’t the problem.

“It’s not you,” I said. “It’s men. They’re idiots.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re a lesbian. You don’t need a man.”

My blood ran cold when she said that, not because I was ashamed or anything. More that I couldn’t believe my mom had outed me to her coworkers.

She didn’t wait for me to speak. She just asked, “What am I doing wrong? Is it my dress?”
She stood up to showcase the tight-fitting red gown that was both sophisticated and playful. It hugged her curves like you couldn’t believe, drawing my eyes, once again, to her magnificent boobs.

“It’s definitely not the dress,” I said.

Again, she collapsed on the couch. “If it’s not my looks and it’s not my clothes, it must be ME.”

I kinda didn’t know what to say. Because, yeah, it totally was HER. If she treated her date in that superior and condescending way she spoke to her first husband, then yeah.

I’d been babysitting for Cynthia since Lola was a toddler. I’d seen a lot, over the years.
But I didn’t know how to tell her that. Some therapist I’d make, huh?

“I invited him in for coffee, Lin. I invited him in for coffee and he said NO. Why would he say no?”

“Maybe he doesn’t like coffee.”

“Oh, he likes coffee. We work together. I’ve seen him drink entire pots of coffee.”


“Anyway, coffee doesn’t mean coffee. Everybody knows that.”

I tried to think fast, come up with something that might console her. So I said, “Well, he knew I was here. Maybe he thought it would be awkward because you’d have to drive me home.”

Cynthia gave me a look that said GIMME A BREAK and I shrugged. I didn’t have all the answers.

“Or maybe it’s because Lola’s in the house.”

“Lola sleeps like a rock.”

“He doesn’t know that.”

“Stop making excuses for him!”

“I’m not!”

Jeeze, it’s not like I was taking sides. I didn’t even know the guy. I met him for five seconds when he picked her up and all I could think was, “Cynthia, man, you can do better than this loser.” He was a balding, pudgy old guy with the personality of a lumpy bowl of oatmeal.

“What did you talk about?” I asked.

“On the date?”

“Yeah, on the date. Of course on the date.”

Cynthia tore into a packet of fruit snacks, but the plastic burst and the gummies flew across the room. “Damn it. Just my luck.”

“I’ll get them.”

I slumped onto the floor and picked up fruit snacks while she listed off the things they’d talked about at dinner: divorce, kids, lawyers, work, lawyers’ fees, child support, ex-spouses…

Finally, I just had to say, “You know, I’m no expert, but I don’t think that’s the best way to hook a guy.”

“What’s not?”

“Talking about your ex, for starters. Talking about divorce. No offense, but I’ve heard you talk to my mom about divorce. You come off kinda…”

“Kinda what?”



I sat on my feet on her carpet and scrunched up my nose. “I don’t want to say.”

“Just say it.”

I sighed. “Kinda bitchy, okay? You sound kinda bitchy when you talk about the divorce.”
To be honest, I thought she’d yell at me and kick me out of her house. She didn’t. She absently grabbed another thingy of fruit snacks and opened it properly this time. She just started putting them in her mouth and chewing them, one after another, like factory work. She stared into space and just ate a bunch of fruit snacks in front of me.

It was kinda weird.

“Sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, you’re right,” she replied, without even looking at me. “You’re right. No wonder Fred didn’t want to come in. I’m repulsive.”

Before I knew what I was doing, I’d thrown the fruit snacks on the coffee table and placed my hand on Cynthia’s thigh. “You are not repulsive.”

“I am.”

“You’re not!”

“My personality is repulsive.”

“No it isn’t!” I climbed up on the couch and sat beside her, with my body turned to face hers. “Cynthia, listen to me: you’re a really cool person when you’re talking about whatever. It’s just when you’re going on about the divorce and all that…”

“Then I’m bitchy.”

“You come off that way, yeah. Doesn’t make you a bitch.”

She finished off the fruit snacks, then turned to face me. “Do you think Fred will give me another chance?”

“Why do you even want another chance? Fred’s a dud.”

She seemed surprised. “Maybe to you. Talk to me in twenty years, when you’re a divorced mom raising a daughter on your own.”


“Yikes is right. They’re not exactly coming out of the woodworks for a shot at this.” Cynthia showcased her body the way The Price is Right models point at a new car.

“I think you’re undervaluing yourself, Cynthia. I really do. You’ve got a great body, and, like, nice hair and stuff. A nice face. You’re more attractive than you think, I think.”
She seemed puzzled.

“And you’ve got money,” I went on. “That’s a real draw for younger guys. Maybe that’s who you should be going for.”

She waved her hand. “I don’t want to marry a younger guy.”

“I’m not talking about getting married, just dipping your toes back in the water. You’ve got to start somewhere, so be a cougar. Why not?”

Her eyes widened. “You think younger guys would go for me?”


“College guys?”

“Absolutely! A sexy older woman? Why not?”

I had no idea whether I was blowing smoke up her ass, at this point, but she seemed a lot happier, so mission accomplished.

“Let me get out of this dress and I’ll drive you home,” Cynthia said. “Or you can stay, if you want. The guest room’s all made up.”
It was only midnight. I could still go out. But I was having a not-so-bad time cheering Cynthia up, so I said, “I’ll stay, if you really don’t mind.”

“Not at all. Saves me driving at night.”

I nodded as I followed her upstairs.

The guest room was to the left of the stairs, just past Lola’s, but when I turned that way, Cynthia said, “Oh, this zipper always sticks. Can you give me a hand?”

So I went with her to the master suite, which pretty much had its own wing on the second floor. In a lot of ways, I felt bad for Cynthia’s ex-husband. He was just a nice, quiet guy and he’d lost all this in the divorce. Now he lived with his mother. Yikes.

When I stepped into Cynthia’s bedroom, she closed the door behind me. I used to snoop in there when I was younger. It seemed so fancy. Well, it still seemed fancy. Lots of dark satin fabrics on the bed, in the draperies. A few years ago, I’d pawed through her underwear drawer and come across things I’d found shocking at the time. Every time I looked at her after that, I felt super-guilty.

I actually felt guilty again, just thinking about it.

Walking over to her bed, Cynthia asked, “What’s it like, Lin?”

“What’s what like?”

She twisted her long chestnut hair into a rope so I could unzip her dress. Then she asked, “What’s it like, going to bed with a woman?”


If you want to read the rest of Sitting for Cynthia, buy the individual ebook or save money by purchasing Taboo Lesbian Erotica, which includes this story along with 9 others! Taboo Lesbian Erotica is available as an ebook and in print.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hooking Up (#flashfiction #gayerotica #gayflashfiction)

I follow the guy into his bedroom, eyeing his ass in those tight jeans. I don’t normally hookup with daddy-types on Grindr, but something about this dude is making me hard. He turns around and sits on his bed, giving me a sly grin. I immediately fall to my knees in front of him and grab the zipper on his fly, yanking it down. I need to get to that daddy-cock.

“Whoa,” he says, placing a hand on top of mine. “What’s the rush?”

“It’s sex,” I say, sort of confused by his hesitation. “Get off and get out, you know.”

He wraps his fingers around my hand, holding me tight. “I thought we’d kiss a bit, enjoy the moment.”

“I don’t kiss,” I say. “Kissing is for lovers — this is just a hook-up.”

He chuckles and I get a surge of irritation. If I had known he wanted a boyfriend, I would’ve hooked up with someone else. He pulls me to my feet, then has me sit next to him on the bed. I can’t help but let out a sigh of frustration. I want to eat his load, not kiss his lips.

He doesn’t let go of my hand and we end up just holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes. He’s attractive, I’ll give him that. And his charm on Grindr was what had won me over. I guess I can indulge him, if only just for a few moments.

Not letting go of my hand, he puts his other hand on the back of my head and slowly pulls me toward him.  Our lips press together and he starts to kiss me. I don’t want to be like a dead fish to him, so I kiss him back.  He moans softly into my mouth and that sound of pleasure, that burst of warm air of him sighing into my mouth, seems to turn something in me… something… I wasn’t sure what.

With my free hand, I reach up and caress his chest, feeling his muscle through his shirt. Soon, I move my hand up to the back of his head, holding him the way he’s holding me, and I kiss him passionately. It feels unnatural, at first, but the more I do it, the more I get into it.

He nibbles on my bottom lip and I moan just like he had done. He nudges me backward and I fall down on the bed, breaking our kiss for a moment, making me desperate for his closeness again. I almost whimper in need, but then he lies next to me and rolls onto me, propping himself up with his hands. He presses his lips against mine and suddenly that warmth and connection is back. I open my mouth and let him slip his tongue inside. I caress his tongue with mine, feeling the velvety softness, tasting the beer he’d had before I came over.

As he kisses me, he starts to grind his hips against mine, rubbing his bulge over my bulge, bringing me a surge of pleasure that only kicks the passion of our kiss into overdrive. I wrap both my arms around his neck, pulling him even closer, locking myself onto him and not letting go — I can’t let him go.

But then he grabs my hands from around his neck and forces them down to the bed above my head. I whimper, desperate to have my limbs locked around him again, but then he presses into me — hard. My wrists are pinned to the bed and he puts more of his weight on me, bringing us even closer together. As our bodies rub together, I can feel everything through our clothing — his cock, his balls, and his hard nipples. And every brush of friction brings a new electric tingle of pleasure to my body… pleasure I had never experienced before.

This is all new to me. Until now, a fuck has been a fuck, a blowjob has been a blowjob. Passion had always just complicated things, slowed down the action. But now… now passion is adding to it. This older man is doing something to me that I didn’t know was possible.

Electricity seems to surge between our bodies, his breath becomes my breath, my breath becomes his breath. Sex seems to flow from him to me and back to him. He grinds his bulge against mine and every brush just makes me that much harder. Every nibble of his teeth on my lips makes me tremble just a little more. And every passionate moment sends me to new heights of pleasure.

I can feel my orgasm rising in me, coming at me like a freight train, and there’s nothing i can do to stop it — not that I would ever want to stop it. He kisses me again, hard and deep, shoving his tongue into my mouth. His hard nipples abrade mine through the cotton of both our shirts.  And the forceful shove of his bulge against mine is all that’s needed to make stars explode behind my eyes, to make my whole body tremble and shake, to make me fill my pants with my jizz, to have me wordless and boneless, panting and gasping, recovering from the most powerful orgasm I’ve ever had.

When breath and the strength to form words seeps back into me, I look up at him and into his deep blue eyes.

“Wow,” I say. It’s all I can say. It’s all my brain is capable of saying.

“I like kissing,” he says. “It makes things better… more intense.”

Before I can say anything else, he dives down, bringing those hot lips to my neck, giving me new pleasure, pinning me to the bed and taking over, teaching me what sex is really about…

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is The President And The Rentboy. He is publisher at and co-founder of Deep Desires Press and a member of the Indie Erotica Collective. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit

Monday, June 19, 2017

Generational Rift (#communication #morals #flashfiction)

By Lisabet Sarai 

(In homage to Daddy X - exactly 200 words)

Oh God, Mom. Is that really you in that corset? In public?”

What? I think I made a rather fetching Magenta. Those midnight shows—well, they were wild.”

But everyone can see your boobs! It’s so embarrassing.”

Come on, I was only a few years older than you are now, Jen.”

Still... Will you close the album, please?”

Rocky Horror was a major influence on me. ‘Don’t dream it, be it’. That was my anthem. Back then, I was ready for any erotic adventure.”

TMI, Mom!”

You don’t want to hear about how I seduced my best friend Lisa?”

God, no!”

Or the blowjob I gave my grad school boyfriend on the Greyhound bus?”

Enough, Mom!”

Or the threesome your dad and I had at the swingers club, before we were married? The orgies, later?”

Please! Stop before I throw up!”

I don’t know why you’re so upset. You know I wasn’t a virgin when I met your father, that I’ve always been a very sexual person.”

Yeah, I know. But the thought of all those other people around...”

Ding! “’Scuse me, Mom. Text from Jerry. Oh, my...!”

What? What is it, hon?”

No, don’t...”

My God, Jen! Is that you?”

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Late Start

And when I say "late start" I don't mean the fact it's Saturday when I posted this instead of Friday!

No, my late start in this case refers to what I'm reading.

I finally managed to pick myself up a copy of Killing Floor by Lee Child. For anyone who's not in the know, this is the first of the Jack Reacher stories.

So far...I'm not truly loving it. I'm certain at least a part of that is down to me, and what I like in a story. Some of it is down to me recognising certain aspects which are generally considered errors. And a whole other—completely unfair to the author—problem is the massive exposure the books have had, which unfortunately created a certain expectation within me. One which hasn't truly been fulfilled by this first book.

Okay, firstly, disclaimers out of the way. I don't know a whole lot about Lee Child, so I'm not sure if this was his first published book. But in any case, the book is now 20 years old, and the faults I see within it might well be those of a fledgeling author finding his feet. We've all been there, and we all strive to get better with each book.

There's also some clunky referencing to mobile telephone usage (specifically how to use those beasties in the solving of a crime). Again, the book is 20 years old and there ain't much technology that's changed faster than mobile telephones in the past two decades. No criticism of the author on that one.

Final disclaimer is that I seem to have a tendency not to "get" a lot of writers who many others adore. I enjoy Neil Gaiman's work but don't find myself immersed. I loved Michael Crichton's attention to detail and his research, but not so much his actual writing. And Stephen King eludes me almost completely. I don't pretend for a second that my incompatibility with these authors in any way reflects on the quality of their work. Just the quality of my connection to it.

Righty-o. Now I've got all that said, I do believe I'll finish this book. I don't know yet if I'll pursue any more of the series. There are several hurdles I'm finding.

The pacing seems a tad sedate in most parts. A lot of key action so far (and I'm roughly half way through) has happened "off screen". Sometimes that's how it needs to be...sometimes it creates a sense of the tempo dragging. So far, it feels about half of one and half of the other.

One of the problems I mentioned above—the fame of the books—has had an effect, for sure. And in part it's because I've also seen the movie Jack Reacher. Putting aside the obvious physical differences between movie Jack and book Jack (such as a whole foot of height), and whether you like Tom Cruise as a person (as portrayed in the media), there's little doubt the man can hold your attention when he's on screen. Yet his portrayal of Reacher feels quite distant from the man I'm reading in the book.

The book character has the luxury of being able to narrate his thoughts to us, of course, so we can be certain when he's having doubts. Movie Jack seems never to hesitate, always has the right answer or solution. Again, through no fault of Lee Child's, my first exposure was to the movie guy, which has helped unseat the book guy's hold on my attention.

The other main stumbling block for me is the writing style. Child writes short. Sharp, brief sentences. Sentences which cut. Cut hard. He also writes tell. A lot of tell. Repetition is key. Key to understanding. See this metaphor? It's a good metaphor. Let me explain it. You now see how good it is.

I get it. These books are more in the thriller, action, crime kinds of genres. It's not like romance or erotica. I just find the overabundance of brevity to be quite jarring.

Oh, and one more thing which I just remembered. The author breaks, or sprains, a few of Elmore Leonard's ten rules of writing. And flogs another one almost to death.

Leonard's first rule ("never open a book with weather") gets sprained, rather than broken. Weather gets described in moderate detail several times...just not at the opening of the book. Rules 8 and 9 ("avoid detailed descriptions of characters" and "don't go into great detail describing places and things") get brushed aside with great regularity. But rule 3 ("never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue") gets pounded hard. So hard that the word "said" becomes an echo, despite being needed.

These are observations more than criticisms...but as someone who loves the writing of both Elmore Leonard and Walter Mosley, I found those elements a tad grating.

So, as I say, I'll finish this one. And I guess I probably will try the next book or two in the series. I want to like them, and maybe I will when I get more familiar with them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Some Smut for a Change

by Daddy X

I seldom read erotica strictly for my own enjoyment. These days, I’m usually critiquing under my editor’s hat on The Erotica Readers and Writers Association. That’s enough erotica for any one person.

The following are reciprocal reviews for those who are doing reviews of Flash Daddy for its mass media blitz on June 16th.

Thanks to editors Lisabet Sarai and Jean Roberta for doing a hell of a job on a massive project. Imagine cutting 127 flashers down to 55 for the book.

Belinda, Ian and Sam are the other editors at ERWA. See below.

These reviews are also posted (with some possible truncation) on Amazon.

Broken Vows   by Belinda La Page

Ms. La Page hit some personal buttons in Broken Vows. Given my Catholic school background (knuckles still sore) I don't mind liberties being taken with religious themes in the name of art. And "Broken Vows " is most certainly a work of art.

The techniques the author employs to present her unorthodox characters and situations allow the reader to appreciate the lovable yet feckless slacker who finds a release for his proclivities in this well-rendered tale of good-natured transgression.

From the Top  by Ian D. Smith

From the Top is the third novel in Smith’s series Merely Players.

I’ve written OGG posts about the elusive quality of scope. Peripheral information rounding out a story helps to create a more interactive experience for the reader.

In From the Top, Ian Smith has allowed us behind the scenes of an elaborate stage production involving ancient lore, Egyptologists, stolen artifacts, actors and how it all comes together. Fascinating stuff.

We really want the characters Paul, Becky and Haley's triad to succeed. It has all the makings. Paul is one of the most principled main characters I’ve encountered in any erotic read. The threesome indulge their proclivities in an offhand, matter-of-fact fashion that comes across as easy and natural as falling into bed, which these three accomplish on a regular basis. If anyone wants to explore the ideal triad relationship, From the Top provides the perfect model.

Single Syllable Steve    by Sam Thorne

Thorne takes us into a world of the hearing impaired in this sensitive, hilarious story. And did I mention hot?

This piece came through the ERWA Storytime list over two years ago, and has been out for about two years. It has really come into its own since I critiqued an early draft in 2015.  

Celeste has her hands (and ears) full. Her bar gig isn’t the greatest, the boss verbally haranguing her for one perceived mistake after another. Just too damn much noise, distracting her from her given tasks.

Enter the quiet, stalwart bouncer, Steve—who as the title suggests—doesn’t have a lot to say. He’s a welcome relief, not to mention an enigmatic presence whose charm and rugged good looks definitely trigger our Celeste’s personal … ahem … response systems.

Makersex    edited by Annabeth Leong

Oh my.

Bots and grafts, gender modifications, toys of the trade and trade-offs thereof, come together on futuristic, dystopian worlds. Imagination reigns proud in this wide-ranging collection of dark, hyper-modernized sexual exploration.

Shades of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love persist, if not in actual story line and detail, for sure in unheard-of imagination. This collection breaks boundaries.

Annabeth’s formidable editing skills are evident in the very choice of these six wildly atmospheric, literary tales.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What have I been reading?

For me, there’s duty reading, and there’s fun reading. Mostly I confine myself to the latter – well, life’s short enough as it is – but occasionally I feel I need to make an effort

Recently my duty reading matter has consisted of manifestos from the various parties vying for my vote in last week’s general election in the UK. I consider it my duty to pay attention. I owe it to the Pankhursts. The outcome of our latest foray into the swirling, murky waters of representative democracy is now known and will be the stuff of much excited comment for weeks to come I daresay. 

As for the manifestos, they were by and large a lacklustre set. The Conservatives presented us with a pedestrian collection of austerity and veiled warnings of the perils in store should we be foolhardy enough to trust that Corbyn chap. Oh, and there was to be fox hunting again – as if the British electorate was remotely interested in that. As for the Corbyn chap, he talked the talk but got a bit muddled over his sums, when he
bothered to do any. I confess, it never occurred to me that I ought to check out the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, but there you go.

I don’t know why I ever expect anything better, but every time an election looms I rush to download the pearls of wisdom. I pore over the half-promises and grandiose claims then come the glorious day I go off and vote the same way I always do.

Probably I should just skip the manifesto bit…

And then there’s fun reading… 

Recently I’ve been enjoying some sexy novellas. I’m not always a massive fan of novellas and short stories. Generally, I appreciate a slow burn and plenty of time to develop characters and plot, but if done well a quick read is fabulous, a sort of smutty smash and grab. Lunch break lust.

In a short story every word counts. Every paragraph has to work for its living and justify its existence. Slick, expressive writing, sharply defined and believable characters, these are the stuff of the novella. Throw in a pacy plot and you have me every time.

My favourite in recent times was a the Black Light box set, Valentine Roulette. This is a series of linked short stories set in a BDSM club. Submissives and Doms are paired up, courtesy of a roulette wheel, and they spin again to select their kinky scene. It all happens on the same evening, and although each story is separate and written by a different erotic author, they all criss-cross each other.

And here’s another winning feature for me. Black Light is published by Black Collar Press, an indie, not one of the usual erotic publishers so there’s none of that publishing guidelines censorship nonsense spoiling the fun. Why do publishers describe their policies as guidelines when really they mean they’re hard and fast rules etched on tablets of pure granite? The Valentine Roulette anthology breaks the normal rules and includes breath play, water sports and lots more of the edgier stuff. Lovely.

Another mistress of the fine and noble art of the novella is of course our own Lisabet Sarai. I recently read and reviewed Damned If You Do, her sexy paranormal. Here’s what I made of it…

I loved the premise of this scorching novella from Lisabet Sarai as soon as I read the sales blurb, and the story did not disappoint.

An ambitious but struggling author receives an offer she can't refuse - success, fame, best-seller status, and all she has to do to get the royalties rolling in is sell her soul to the devil. A no-brainer, right? The devil delivers, but the price turns out to be even higher than Wendy thought.

I liked Wendy. I liked her no-nonsense attitude and her willingness to take risks to get what she wants. I also liked her ability to see herself and to understand her own motives, and eventually to make the right choices.

The sex is sizzling, both the human and supernatural varieties. Lisabet writes the most intensely sensual scenes and thus short read is packed full of them. This might be one of her finest quick reads yet, and will appeal to readers who like their alpha heroes well on the dark side and a sassy heroine who is intelligent and ready to kick ass.

So, an eclectic choice of reading matter but it keeps life interesting. Fingers crossed that there isn't another election for a while, but I won't hold my breath.

Monday, June 12, 2017

From Tall Sails to Spy Tales

Sacchi Green

When it comes to reading fiction, I’ve been an anglophile pretty much all my life. My mother read The Secret Garden and other British classics to me, and once I could read books by myself I devoured stories about English children, especially historical ones, then moved on to Sherlock Homes and Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and my mother’s favorite cozy mystery writer, Patricia Wentworth. Later—well, let’s not bother about Fanny Hill or The Pearl, but Lady Chatterley’s Lover is beautifully written. In any case, my recent reading (or listening, to be precise—I’ve been on the road a good deal lately, which means books on CDs) has been particularly anglo-centric.

 Considering the current state of the world, I might be better off switching my literary allegiance to France or Canada or even Germany rather than the UK or The USA (I do have fond memories of Anne of Green Gables in Canada and still reread some of Colette in translation from time to time,) but I also lean toward historical fiction, especially when I’d just as soon forget the world’s current state.

In any case, my recent reading has been entirely British, Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin  series of adventures in the British Navy of the early 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars, and John Le Carré’s Cold War memoir The Pigeon Tunnel.

I’ve read the O’Brian books several times before. They’re a kind of comfort reading for me in that the world and characters are presented in such vivid detail that it feels like I’m right there with them, but without their risk of seasickness or drowning or cannonballs. Every now and then I marvel that this is also the world and time of Jane Austen, with a few glimpses of the society she knew and wrote about, but in general a very different, wider portrayal of that world. A more masculine viewpoint, too, but no less nuanced and complex than Austen’s, though a fair bit less literary. A movie made a few years ago, Master and Commander, combining the title of the first book in the series with events from two of the others, does get some of the general flavor and spirit of the whole, even though the characters aren’t treated in as much depth. All in all both books and movie are good distractions from our all-too-real contemporary world.  

The Pigeon Tunnel deals with a more recent period, post-WWII up to fairly recently, and doesn’t feel all that much in the past to someone my age, but most of it is by now history-book material. Le Carré (who now freely admits to his real name of David Cornwell) is best known for his novels about the British Intelligence service, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, with a long list of other successful novels. He did serve for a fairly brief time and in a fairly minor way (at least as he tells it) as a spy of sorts, enough, apparently, to make his novels feel authentic, and enough to make some of his old associates very angry indeed when at times his books make the Service look bad, although they don’t seem to think he gets things wrong, exactly. He doesn’t seem to have been accused of revealing sensitive Service codes, etc, either, unlike writers such as Graham Greene whose Our Man in Havana and others did bring forth threats of prosecution for treason. Le Carré says of his own The Spy Who Came in from the Cold that a senior Intelligence officer described it as “the only bloody double-agent operation that ever worked.”

Le Carré’s life as a novelist has been much longer and more successful than his days as a spy, and he reflects on the question of whether Intelligence services might well be grateful when their “literary defectors” like himself and Graham Greene take to novel writing instead of spying. Writing fiction causes less harm than other trouble they might have caused, he says, and remarks (tongue in cheek—or maybe not) that the spy services might wish that Edward Snowden had “done the novel instead.”

I haven’t finished the book yet. I find the snippets of stories mildly interesting, but what has really impressed me most is what he says about writing and memory, a subject that we’ve talked about here, and one that’s been debated a great deal when memoirs are discussed.
In his introduction he says, “These are true stories told from memory—to which you are entitled to ask, what is truth, and what is memory to a creative writer in what we may delicately call the evening of his life? To the lawyer, truth is facts unadorned. Whether such facts are ever findable is another matter. To the creative writer, fact is raw material, not his taskmaster but his instrument, and his job is to make it sing. Real truth lies, if anywhere, not in facts but in nuance.” Later he adds,
“Was there ever such a thing as pure memory? I doubt it. Even when we convince ourselves that we’re being dispassionate, sticking to the bald facts with no self-serving decorations or omissions, pure memory remains as elusive as a bar of wet soap. Or it does for me, after a lifetime of blending experience with imagination.”

He does say often enough that a particular detail may not have been exactly as he remembers, so he doesn’t claim that everything is the exact truth. He’s been a journalist as well as a novelist, interviewing world leaders, following a photojournalist into battle in Vietnam, but not, he says, keeping diaries or making many on-the-spot notes, so at times he relies on the articles he wrote at the time to refresh his memory. He also reveals a fact that many of us know as writers, which is that when he has jotted down notes while “under fire,” so to speak, he’s done it not as himself, but as the characters he hoped to write fiction about. Who among us hasn’t thought “what a great scene this could make,” while something intense is happening to or close to us?

 While the O’Brian books are entertaining distractions from the present, LeCarré’s memoir is all too close to reality. He says that the title of this book, “The Pigeon Tunnel,” comes from something he saw as a boy when his father took him along on one of his frequent trips to a casino in Europe. Next to the casino was a sporting club, where pigeons were raised on the roof, trapped, released into underground tunnels that opened out on the seashore, and shot at by sportsmen. Those who survived did what pigeons do—they flew back to the rooftop where they’d been raised, were trapped again, then sent back to the tunnels. Who better than a Cold War spy turned novelist to recognize history, doomed to repeat itself?

Maybe I should re-read something like Anne of Green Gables next, for distraction.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pre-Millennial and Space-Age Reading

by Jean Roberta

For the past few weeks, I’ve been spending whole days revising my old erotic novel, Prairie Gothic, which was available as a download from a British publisher, Amatory Ink, from 2002 to 2006, when the publisher folded. I wrote the novel in 1998, when I had more enthusiasm than skill, and I had a paid two-month break from my teaching job, which in those days didn’t offer many other perks. (No expense account, no job security.)

After rereading this saga, most of which I had forgotten, I decided to keep the period flavour as well as the local colour. However, the head-hopping now makes me groan. It demonstrates my concept of “omniscient viewpoint” at the time.

What to do? There are two central characters, and several secondary ones who have valuable insights into the comedy-of-errors relationship between the two stars. I don’t want to lose all the snark from the sidelines.

The original novel was divided into nine rambling chapters of uneven length. I’ve been breaking them up into chapters of 2-4K. I think this makes the narrative more digestible, and also allows me to stay in one head per chapter, even though it seems necessary to head-hop between chapters. (For example, chapters 1-4 focus on Kelly, a young woman who goes to the local gay bar for the first time, and meets several regulars. Chapter 5 has to show the viewpoint of Kelly’s new girlfriend Vivienne, because she is visited by her bad-news ex while Kelly is in self-exile on the family farm. Chapter 11 must show the viewpoint of Rae, who has an uncanny experience with a ghost.)

This format allows me to flesh out a few details that were simply mentioned in passing in the original version. The original is only 56,000 words long, which is short for a novel. I expect the new version to be considerably longer, which will make it more of a standard size.

Once the shiny new version is ready, I plan to offer it to a certain publisher. If the novel isn’t accepted there, I plan to post it on I’m excited to know that one of my early efforts can be recycled, and not left to waste space in my “Documents,” too good to delete but not good enough to resell.

Lethe Press recently sent me two books for review. I wrote a review of the anthology, His Seed: An Arboretum of Erotica, edited by Steve Berman, published under the new Lethe erotic imprint, Unzipped, and posted it on Facebook.

Here is a brief overview:

It’s hard to believe there is a theme in erotica which has not been overdone and yet seems visceral, organic and succulent. Here it is: sex between men, in which plants play various roles. This is not a joke. Several of the stories in this collection have horrifying endings, based on the undeniable fact that plants need nutrients, some of which are found in human bodies. Of course, this fact can also lead to interdependence, or mutual cultivation.
The stories cover a wide range of genres and tones, from stories that are basically sex scenes to fantasies about the Green Man or the Woodwose, the spirit of the forest in the form of a virile man. (One of these is a moving tale by our own Connie Wilkins about a man who has lost his lover in the first world war, but he discovers the Green Man living eternally in his native England.)

Among the sex-scene stories is “The Greenhouse” by Spencer Krell, in which a semi-sentient (genetically-modified) pumpkin vine makes advances to its cultivator, Aaron:

“He’d been about to get back to work once more when he felt a slight tickle against his ankle.”
This is not random contact; this is seduction.

Even for readers who are not gay men, these stories are entertaining and unsettling. Plants are the ultimate alien lovers, beings who are clearly alive in some sense, yet who are profoundly different from human beings.

According to the editor’s introduction, this anthology was compiled on a dare. I would say the experiment works so well that it wouldn’t surprise me to see more plant-themed erotic fiction some time, but I doubt if a copycat collection could outdo this one.

The other Lethe Press book is a single-author collection of speculative fiction by A. Merc Rustad, who is identified as “a queer trans-masculine non-binary writer and filmmaker who likes dinosaurs, robots, monsters, and cookies.” The collection is titled So You Want to Be a Robot, and consists of 21 stories. I haven’t written a review of this book yet, but it is fabulous, especially for a reader who has seen individual stories by this author in various places, but not all together.

Picking a favourite story in this collection is hard, because each one pulls the reader into an alternative world that is both completely unreal and completely believable on an emotional level.

For those of us who wonder if there is any hope for democracy or justice, “The Gentleman of Chaos” is grimly satisfying. Here is the opening passage:

“People call him the Gentleman of Chaos, but he is not gentle.

By popular count, he’s assassinated thirteen kings, seventy-two princes, one thousand nobles, and five queens.

By popular legend, he’s immortal, a god of commoners, a death-demon summoned to feed on corruption, a shadow that devours the unjust. He never unmakes the innocent, it is said.

He is not gentle; I have seen what he does.

But I tell you this: part of his title is true. He is a man. And men can die.”

The rest of the first-person narrative shows how ironic this description is. For one thing, the “gentle” in the term “gentleman” originally indicated high social class; it is more closely related to “genteel” than to the modifier in “gentle touch.” For another thing, the being who eventually takes on the title in the story is mortal, but not exactly male.

This shadowy executioner is a kind of personification of karma or logical consequences. Even if there is no benevolent Deity, a ruler who slaughters everyone who might threaten his power tends to create more and more opposition. Sooner or later, the dictator's paranoia bears fruit.

One theme in this collection is that apparently inanimate objects have wills of their own, whether they are human-made robots/androids, engines, or natural phenomena such as mountains. In this sense, this book of non-erotic fantasy and sci-fi goes well with the “arboretum” of plant stories. I highly recommend them both.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Library Voices

by Giselle Renarde

Once upon a time I was a teenager at the Toronto Reference Library.

A friend had introduced me to this edifice downtown, far from the wilds of suburbia, where books were housed, of course, but in addition to books they had all sorts of other media.  Oh sure, so did my local library, but the difference with the Reference Library was that they had listening booths. 

My friend showed me how to select a CD to listen to (a CD!  I didn't have a CD player yet!  This was really the future!) and check in with the lady guarding the listening booths and put on headphones and sit... and just listen.

We were both big on Broadway musicals, so we both picked out musicals to listen to.  I don't remember what she selected, but I picked out a musical called City of Angels.  I'd never even heard of it.  To this day I remember nothing about the soundtrack, but I remember the experience.

I wasn't the kind of kid (or teen) who went out with friends very much. I had too many family responsibilities, plus the cost of going out was prohibitive. To get to the Reference Library, I had to take a bus and a subway, and, while my mother covered the cost of my transit fare to and from school (I went to a high school that was out of area for me, a good hour from my house), any time I wanted to go anywhere that wasn't school-related it was my responsibility to cover my transit costs. 

Part of the reason I didn't go out with friends much is that the things they wanted to do cost money.  I was saving my money for university.

From the time I could write words on paper, every year at Christmas I would put the same one item in my letter to Santa: a university education. My parents hadn't gone to university.  My grandparents hadn't finished high school.  I would be the first in my family to get a degree.

You'd think a mom would be proud that her child had such lofty aspirations, but something else won out over pride with my mom--either pragmatism or crab-bucket jealousy, I don't know.  Every year she'd laugh at my letter to Santa.  She'd say, "If you want to go to university, you're on your own. I'm not paying for it."

I got my first summer job when I was 8 years old.  Picking berries. Same first job my grandfather had 58 years before me.  He earned half a penny per pint.  I earned 25 cents. Thank you, inflation.

But that money didn't last long.  Because the thing about living with a substance abuser is that sometimes they steal from you. Sometimes they steal every penny of berry picking money you earn. Babysitting money, birthday money. Addiction breeds desperation.

It's true what they say: life isn't fair.

And, you see, this is why it was a very difficult decision to go out or not to go out: can I afford to spend $1.35 on transit fare?  It'll take a lot of dollar-thirty-fives to add up to a university education.

So, more than not, I stayed home. 

But that day, when my friend invited me to the Reference Library, I decided to go out. Of all the friend-dates a person could go on, the library's a pretty good one.  And not just because it's free, although that's an attractive quality for sure.  It was more the fact that we could sit side by side at listening booths and just... listen.  No talking allowed. 

Libraries were different back then.

Not being allowed to talk can really be quite freeing.  People found me standoffish as a teen, but that's really because I had so much shame about my family of origin.  I didn't want people trying to get close to me and discovering what was behind the facade.  I didn't want people asking questions.

My friend didn't ask me a lot of questions. I didn't ask her questions either. I knew it was just her and her mom.  I didn't ask about her father because I didn't want her to ask about mine.  By that time my mother had a restraining order against him. He lived in a motel room in a small town, but he often swung by our place to break into our house, destroy our belongings, and threaten to murder us all.

One time my friend invited me to her place when her mom was at work.  She wasn't supposed to have people over, but her mother would never know.  It was kind of exciting for me to take the streetcar to her neighbourhood because she lived in a gentrified area with lots of quirky boutiques.

As it turned out, her house was one of the forgotten left-behind ones.  It was the tiniest house I'd ever seen, just two small bedrooms off one main living area that incorporated the kitchen. There must have been a bathroom somewhere but I can't recall seeing it.

The bedrooms had carpeting, but the main room was just a dirt floor covered in pine needles.

My friend transferred out of my school in Grade 10.  I heard she went to an alternative school, but I don't think she lasted long there. In Grade 12, I went to a university fair at the convention centre and there was my friend! I hadn't seen her in two years. I was overjoyed to see her again. I loved her in a way I still hadn't learned to express.

But she wasn't attending the university fair as a prospecting high school student. She was working it as a security guard. She'd dropped out of high school. She hoped to return at some point but she and her mom really needed the money and, well, you know how it is...

After working part-time and summer jobs throughout high school, I was able to afford my first year of tuition at the University of Toronto, but it was tight. Throughout university, I think I spent more time working than studying.

When I finally had that degree in hand, it was really a non-event. Aside from my grandmother, nobody in my family seemed to care much about my achievement.  But I never expected them to.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

TheYellow Path

   I’m digging through an old email account I haven’t looked at for a long time.  The Yellow Path is not a story, but a series of notebooks.  My ADD addled brain has never been very good at remembering details, and most thoughts occur to me as  mayflies floating on the surface of a stream that have to be snatched immediately from below as though I were a fish and recorded on anything handy or they’re lost to the ages.  J Alfred Prufrock said he’s measured out his life in coffee spoons.  I measured out mine in notebooks.
There is something specific I’m looking for I had called, years ago, “The Yellow Path”.

I’m digging through the email folder marked simply “Back Up”.  I can’t imagine what my living environment would be without the advent of digital folders.  I’d be a pack rat buried in towers of papers and composition books.  Ghosts of ideas that had their moment but won’t leave the room.  Instead I quickly caught on to emailing myself documents, long before cloud computing came along, and from these documents, a snapshot of lost times.

My consciousness has been measured out and spread like peanut butter over a dozen sites and emails and cloud accounts and places, and yes, even the old paper notebooks that litter my bookcases at home going back to 1973.  I had tried seriously to study shorthand thinking it would make my journals unreadable to others, before I finally realized the obvious, which is that no one wanted to read them.  Then the next obvious thing, that my handwriting is so densely encrypted that even the nosiest person would give up.  Sometimes even I can’t read what I’ve written over the years.  I may as well be an archaeologist pouring over Egyptian hieroglyphs.

There they are, I’ve found the Yellow Path leading through the jungle of attachments of all kinds spanning some two dozen emails.   How to exercise.  How to clean a room.  How to clean my car.  Checklists and after-action notes, time capsule relics from my past self to me hoping to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.  But the same mistakes will always be made over and over, like ghosts reenacting a scene in a haunted house, refusing to rest no matter what you do.  

The Yellow Path simply refers to a physical notebook, a fancy little yellow one I bought at an art museum, decades ago, that fits into my jacket pocket, therefore portable for an on the spot reference wherever I go, in case I need to clean my car or give a story critique in the middle of a desert.  This is an another aspect of my life.  Though my road years ended decades ago, I’m still living on the road, evident of the things I can carry in my pocket.  For someone with an unreliable memory, that grows more melting with age, notebooks become a form of high art.  One of many vagabond things I can carry in my pocket becauseI’ve never really left the road, I’ve only stopped being a nomad.  Only the technology changes.  Before I carried very small books in my jacket pocket, like a monk with his precious codices. Now I have a cell phone that carries entire libraries.

These notebooks are so well intentioned that I want to weep for the person who wrote them, myself in a previous incarnation though in this life.  I meant so well, documented everything so sincerely and in such detail.  How many dumbbell lifts to do followed by how many chest flies.  When you clean a room, remember to check the walls for paint nicks, not to mention dead bodies and the furniture for dust. Empty the dust cup on the vacuum cleaner before you begin.  Mop the kitchen floor after you wash the dishes, not before.  As though speaking to a moron, and who says I wasn’t?

A civilization has its many incarnations.  In China, or the middle east, digs find lost and forgotten tombs of Kings whose stare once made men tremble rightly for their lives, now erased from human memory.  Words and images are carved into stones in the worlds deserts and jungles for people long extinct.  Any child walking along any lake or forest trail might reach down and dust off an arrowhead, carefully shaped from quartz or flint by some forgotten soul who, at the time, spent an afternoon meditatively chipping it out, maybe teaching his son the craft while filled with worries and hopes that any modern man would recognize as timeless.  

These sincere and obtuse little checklists.  Who was that person?  When did he change and become me?  Where do I vanish to, in the gentle oblivion of sleep?  Or finally death?  

Here is a checklist, how to pack up for a fishing trip. When did I go fishing last?  Why did I forget to take time to fish?  When was the last time I went on a picnic or a hike?  I had forgotten these things could be done.  I didn’t realize I was growing old until this moment when I ask myself – when was the last time I went hiking with my kid in the park?  Well, he’s gotten older too.  The world is moving on.

Here is a journal entry I typed about a friend I haven’t talked to in years.  Where is she now?  Should I contact her or let her float away downstream, and keep our lives that less complicated?  We go on collecting people like shards of love.  And then list their names.