Thursday, May 24, 2018

When does the mellowing begin?

by Giselle Renarde

I should have known it was a dream. This sort of thing never happens in real life: I was having a frank and honest discussion with my mother... about the menopause. And then I woke up.

Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned an elementary school teacher who told my mom not to worry too much about me, that life would round out the rough edges? Remember I said I'm still waiting for that to happen?

Well, I wish it would happen soon. I'm really getting sick of myself.

Summer came about three months early this year, and that's something most Canadians get excited about. Not me. Summer in the city means more people in the streets, more construction, more dirty-and-gritty.

In the summer, it is impossible for me to leave my house without getting into some sort of altercation. My sisters call me a New Yorker. My mom's afraid I'm going to get shot one of these days. It amazes me that nobody's thrown a punch. A few have come close, but I'm pretty sure I know what's stopped them: I'm five feet tall and I weigh 87 lbs. If you're bigger than that (and most people are) and you come at me swinging, nobody's going to be impressed.

I'd say I start at least 98% of the arguments I get involved in, with strangers on the street. In the sense that I speak first. Yell, usually. At drivers, at cyclists. I yell at them because they're breaking traffic laws and endangering my safety: failing to stop at STOP signs, driving through red lights, making illegal turns, driving on the sidewalk. I see this stuff literally every time I leave the house. So basically every time I set foot outside, my life is in danger.

You'd think after the attack last month, drivers would be more sensitive. But no. Pedestrian deaths in this city have skyrocketed over the past few years. It's bad.

So when people drive their cars or bicycles right-the-fuck at my body, you bet your ass they're going to hear what I think about that. I'm not impressed.

I'll tell you the one that happened yesterday, because it's fresh in my mind--but I've got hundreds of stories like this one. I've lost track, honestly. So I was walking along the sidewalk and there was this team of surveyors who had their equipment set up on the sidewalk, and there was me and some dude walking along, and this cyclist (who had been riding on the road previously) mounted the sidewalk and came right at us.

She was playing chicken with us. She wanted us out of her way, even though it's actually illegal for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk here. I've seen it so many times I can tell when people are playing this game, deliberately trying to scare other humans. That's what she was up to.

Don't fuck with me, lady. Seriously.

She was coming at me and this dude, and I was just like "Get off the sidewalk!"

The words were barely out of my mouth and already she was telling me to fuck off.

She won her game of chicken against me and the dude. What were we supposed to do? She was coming right at us. So I jumped off the sidewalk in one direction and the poor dude had to jump into the street.

The surveyors moved to protect their equipment, blocking it with their bodies so she wouldn't crash into it. That worked. She didn't tell them to fuck off, not that I could hear. She got off the sidewalk and went off looking for other pedestrians to harass, I guess.

I've been in this exact situation (minus they surveyors--that was new) more times than I can count. But here's what really scared me yesterday: I had this visceral reaction to being told to fuck off. I've been told to fuck off hundreds of times by hundreds of strangers, but yesterday... it wasn't even anger. It wasn't an emotion. It was this surge of primordial rage.

I wanted to bash in her skull.

I have one of those metal water bottles that's sort of club-shaped, if you can picture what I'm talking about. I just kept thinking how glad I was that my water bottle was in my bag and not in my hand, because if it had been in my hand I think I might have hit her with it. Hard.

When I told my girlfriend this story, she was like, "Good thing you didn't or you'd have landed yourself in jail." And I think she's right.

I've been thinking about why I feel it necessary to stand up for myself so loudly every time I feel even the slightest bit threatened. Stuff like this always seems to go back to what we learned in childhood, right?

When I was a child (and even into adulthood), I viewed my mother as weak because she allowed herself to be subjected to domestic violence in many forms. I didn't know about trans-generational trauma and stuff like that. All I knew was that my mom was weak and I didn't want to be like her. So I spoke up all the time. My mom told me I was too loud, so I got louder.

I learned another very valuable lesson in childhood, also from my mother (sort of), and that's that the police don't give two fucks about womenfolk. My mom called the police pretty often, when my dad was getting violent. Sometimes they showed up, but even when they did they were like "Don't worry your pretty head. Just let the man tire himself out. There's a good girl."

After my parents divorced, the violence escalated. Suddenly the threats weren't just against my mother, they were against us kids too. My dad would break into our house, bust up our shit. One time he broke in with a can of spray paint and wrote horrible things on our walls. It was... traumatic.

We went to the police. Oh so many times. The police did nothing.

So the lesson I learned in childhood was that you need to stand up for yourself because nobody else is going to do it for you. Especially not the police.

Last year one of the altercations I got into started exactly like the one above: cyclist mounted the sidewalk and rode straight at me. I was like "Get off the sidewalk," but this guy didn't just tell me to fuck off and go on his merry way. He jumped off his bike and came at me, started shouting at me, calling me a "mouthy bitch" and all this.

That day, I thought to myself: This is it. I'm going to get punched for sure this time.

I just kept walking in the other direction because, honestly, I didn't want to get punched. Maybe my diminutive stature worked in my favour, because the guy kept cussing me out but he didn't get physical. Finally, he picked up his bike and went off.

The reason I'm telling you this is because that whole incident happened in front of a cop. Seriously. A police officer was standing directly in front of us the whole time this guy was coming at me, and he didn't do a damn thing. I guess he was waiting for me to get punched. Maybe then he would have stepped in.

So now I'm stuck. I've been a "mouthy bitch" for nearly 40 years. Do I even want to change, at this point? I don't know. Not really. But I also don't want to be stressed and angry. I don't want to get in altercations all the time.

You're supposed to mellow as you get older, right? When is that going to happen for me? Because I'm thinking, with the impending menopause and all... won't that just ramp up my already substantial rage? I barely have control of my emotions as it is. If I get worse, Sweet's right--I'm going to wind up behind bars. As we've learned, cops are not my friend.

Listen to me: I'm expecting change to come at me from the outside in. If I really want to mellow, it's got to start with me. I need to make a choice.

But not tonight.
Tonight, I'm going to leave you with an announcement about a new book that's fully of angry, antagonistic, confrontational sex between a young woman and the man she used to date... who now pays her for sex.

It's called MERCY: Sex with an Ex for Money, and it's amply worth the $3.99 you'll pay for it. Five stories, four of which have appeared in anthologies over the past 12 years. The final story has never been seen by the public. I wrote it just for this collection.

Enjoy. If you have a secret soft spot for hate sex, I can pretty much guarantee that you will.

Read "Mercy: Sex with an Ex for Money"
as an ebook from Amazon:
in print from Amazon:
Google Play:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Makes Us Human?

As luck would have it, I was driving home earlier today and wondering what to write for my post on OGG. There was an item on the radio featuring Peter Tatchell and his thoughts on what makes us human, and as I listened I thought, well, that's it.. 

For those who haven’t heard of Peter Tatchell, he’s a well-known and lifelong human rights activist known mainly for his campaigning on LBGT rights though his repertoire is a lot wider than that. In the opinion of Mr Tatchell., what makes us human is our propensity for protest. And, he goes on to argue, this is a Very Good Thing. I tend to agree.

Little in the way of social progress or enhanced rights and freedoms were ever freely given by those in power. Rather, they were won by the tireless and courageous struggles of campaigners such as Peter Tatchell who saw an injustice, something that needed to be put right so they stood up for themselves – and as often as not for a whole lot of others too.

I think perhaps my favourite stander-uppers were the Pankhursts. It is one hundred years this year since some women in the UK got the right to vote, and only because of the unswerving determination of the suffragettes. There had been women’s movements campaigning for political equality in the 19th century, but they were relatively quiet and peaceful about it. They were polite middle-class ladies.

Not the Pankhursts and their ilk, though. These were still middle-class women, but they had an altogether more belligerent approach. They were downright stroppy, heckling politicians, breaking windows, chaining themselves to railings, slashing paintings, setting fire to buildings, throwing bombs and went on hunger strike when they were imprisoned. One suffragete, Emily Davison, ran out in front of the king’s horse during the 1913 Derby and was killed.

All of this civil disobedience eventually combined with the exigencies of the First World War which had the effect of escalating the importance of women’s contribution to running the country while the men went off to die in the trenches. The government gave in, and women over 30 got the same political rights as men. It wasn’t until 1928, though, that suffrage was extended to all citizens over 21.

Mr Tatchell also mentioned another of my favourites, which I believe is linked to the votes for women movement. There was massive public protest in the UK in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher tried to introduce her deeply unpopular new system of financing local government. The Poll Tax as it was known linked payment of a local tax to the right to vote and it caused outrage. I wonder if the memory of the struggles of the suffragettes still lives in many of us, certainly women, and any threat to that hard-won right was not to be tolerated. The people – including me - took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands. They refused to pay. They protested, and this flagship of Tory policy collapsed. The combined efforts of Her Majesty’s Opposition had failed to prevent this piece of nonsense becoming law, but people power saw it off within months.

I wonder if we are all sort of hard-wired to want things to be good, or at least better, and to reject what we don’t like. The pace of change can be slow, and obviously we differ in our opinions of what is good and desirable and what needs to change, but all of that leads to healthy debate. Peter Tatchell argues that nothing is more democratic than protest, and I think the freedom we have when we live in a country where any one of us can stick our hand  up and say ‘hey, that’s not right’  and live to tell the tale is not to be underestimated.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Lewd and Proud - #pride #smut #erotica #reputation @Archer_Larry

Porn cartoon

By Lisabet Sarai

Hello! My name is Lisabet, and I write smut.

Oh, sometimes I call it erotic romance, or literary erotica, or even speculative fiction, but as far as the world is concerned, those fine distinctions don’t mean anything. As long as my work focuses on the experience of sexual desire and includes explicit depictions of sexual activities, I’m simply another pornographer. Certainly that’s Amazon’s position. Unless I’m especially careful, clever and/or duplicitous, my work is likely to be shuffled off to the adult dungeon where it will languish forever in obscurity. (Of course, that may happen even if my stuff doesn’t get quarantined, but the adult label is the final nail in the coffin.)

Meanwhile, in the enormous, financially powerful romance genre, so-called “steamy romance” is still viewed as the red-headed step child. This is the attitude of authors as well as (I assume) readers. Plenty of my romance colleagues won’t host me as a blog guest because my characters get down and dirty, even if I offer to create a purely PG post. Indeed, I’ve read (and fumed over) ignorant comments on romance writers' forums that dissed the entire erotica genre as nothing but gratuitous sex with no plot or characterization.

Then there’s my brother, also the creative type, who tells me I’m incredibly talented and wants to know why I don’t write a “serious” book. Oh, he also says he doesn’t want to read something that arouses him.

Well, guess what? Lots of people do. And I’ve decided that maybe I should be courting those readers.

After years of feeling embarrassed and apologetic about my chosen literary niche—although I often feel it chose me rather than the other way around—I finally decided it was time I really did write some porn. 

Last year I released my first book that I’d say was pure stroke fiction. Hot Brides in Vegas actually does have a plot, and lots of characters (mostly bodacious babes, with a few insatiable studs), but it’s a pretty big stretch from my more “literary” endeavors. Set in the outrageous world of strippers and swingers created by my ERWA colleague Larry Archer, Hot Brides tells the story of three young women who come to Las Vegas for Francesca’s lavish wedding.

While Fran’s fianc√© Jake and his buddies set out for a stag night, exploring the fleshpots of Sin City, she and her bridesmaids Laura and Chantal are stuck at the resort under the watchful eye of her stern Aunt Giulia, who has promised Fran’s father that his daughter will come to the altar a virgin.

Frustrated and annoyed by these double standards, the girls hatch a plan to escape their chaperone and have some fun of their own. With the help of a susceptible concierge, a butch ex-cop limo driver and a scandalous French couturiere, they find their way to The Foxs Den, the most exclusive gentlemen’s club in the city. Owner Larry Archer and his crew of strippers, bouncers, voyeurs and sluts are more than happy to welcome the delectable trio as contestants performing at the club’s famous Amateur Night.

Writing Hot Brides was a breath of fresh air for me. I turned the censors and critics off and simply wrote the wildest scenes I could think of. I produced the 30K novella in record time (for me), banging out (so to speak!) 3-5K words at a sitting. Furthermore, it’s remarkably goodin my own unbiased opinion!for fiction with no redeeming social value whatsoever.

My reviewers agree. One called it “pure wicked escapism”, which really sums up the story well. Meanwhile it has sold better than anything I’ve written in quite a while (though I wouldn’t say I’ve really conquered the obscurity problem).

In fact, I enjoyed writing Hot Brides so much that I’m working on a sequel. More Brides in Vegas reunites Fran, Laura, Chantal and their swains with Annie, another contestant they met at Amateur Night, for Annie’s wedding to Jake’s friend Ted. Since Annie and Ted don’t have a lot cash, they’ve organized the wedding at a vintage eighties motel on the outskirts of town, one of those sprawling places where the rooms are arranged around a courtyard with a big swimming pool. The newlyweds don’t realize this is a favorite site for swingers’ parties.

I’m hoping to finish the first draft of More Brides this weekend, and to publish it by early June. And I’m proud to say that it has even more sex than the first book.

I think it’s about time I lived up to my bad reputation!

You can check out a couple of excerpts from Hot Brides in Vegas at the links below.

And if you’re actually interested in buying a copy...

Friday, May 18, 2018

Respected Novelist Fan-girling on Dragons

Hi everyone! I’m K D Grace. I’m very honored to have the opportunity to write for Oh Get a Grip. BTW, the respectedbit in the title of my post is my neurotic effort to boost my self-confidence because I’m the new girl on the blog, taking over for Willsin Rowe. Big shoes to fill much??? I’m sure you can see why I’m a little bit nervous. 

I’ve written erotica, erotic romance and erotic PNR, but right now I’m trying my hand at Sci-Fi/fantasy and just generally having some fun with words as I try to find my way in the ever-changing market. While I hope you’ll read my bio on the About Us page and then head on over to my blog to learn a little more about me and what I’m up to, I’m really excited to get on with the delectable topic of this cycle. If there’s one thing a writer loves almost as much as writing a stonking good tale, it’s reading one … and then sharing the excitement with everyone else. That’s the part I’m really looking forward to today. 

Honestly, I never much thought of myself as a fan girl. Oh, I’ve often imagined what happens to characters in my stories after the obligatory 80K with an HEA. I’ve even written subsequent novels about some of my more interesting secondary characters. While I’ve imagined, at the end of a really good read, what might happen next, I’ve never even thought about writing fan fic for books, or films, I love. But, oh Gawd! In my head I am SO imagining fan fic for Naomi Novik’s absolutely stunning Temeraire series. 

What’s not to love about an alternate history of the Napoleonic War with an air corps of dragons …
highly intelligent dragons who talk. At first the talking bit took me by surprise, but now I can’t imagine reading a story involving dragons who don’t talk, because it would appear, dragons have quite a lot to say, and I have a burning desire to listen in.

I’ve always thought dragons got a bum rap in Western literature. But beyond that, I never gave them much consideration until I watched Game of Thrones and fell in love with the Mother of Dragons like almost everyone else on the planet. But how could I not fan girl over a free-thinking polyglot of a Celestial Dragon whose favorite book is Pricipia Mathematica. This extraordinary beast enjoys Chinese poetry, is a foodie at heart, and has a love hate relationship with a fire-breathing Kazalik dragon whose name means “little Sparkle?” 

It all starts when British Navy captain, Will Laurence’s, ship captures a French frigate carrying a rare dragon egg, which is about to hatch. There’s a shortage of dragons in England at the time, and with a war going on, they are desperately needed. However it’s a common belief that dragons must agree to be harnessed as soon as they hatch or they become feral and uncontrollable. With weeks to sail to the next port and the hatching imminent, one of his crew will have to attempt the harnessing. But when the blessed event occurs, much to Laurence’s dismay, the dragon chooses him. In a matter of minutes, Will Laurence’s hard fought for career in the navy is over, and he finds himself the chosen companion, and captain, to the young dragon, Temeraire. Their strange bonding is the beginning of an extraordinary friendship and a journey that shatters Laurence’s orderly, respectable life, and alters the course of England’s history. 
Dragons are not the sidekicks in this series. They take center stage again and again, and rightly so. Novik has created a voice and a worldview for her dragons that is both alien and intriguing enough to makes me want to pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and just sit and listen while they chat among themselves. Whether they are arguing mathematic or politics, planning battle strategies or financial strategies, whether they are gossiping about treasure or food or simply being overly protective of their captains, they are just fun to spend time with. There is a complete otherness in their society that is both unsettling and fascinating as, in the course of nine novels, they evolve from being the creatures humans most fear, and yet most need, into a world-changing, war changing, force that can no longer be marginalized. For me, one of the key ingredients in Temeraire and Laurence’s tale is that fascination with, and fear of, the “other,” which changes our perception of self. 

The novels are neither romantic nor are they erotic, though there is romance and sex and a great deal of humor at the expense of both. Turns out dragons are very matter of fact about sex, and Laurence, being a product of his aristocratic, rather prudish, upbringing is not. 

“We are at least as able to control ourselves as you are,” one of the dragons in charge of training tells Laurence, concerning Temeraire’s sexual maturity. In one of my very favorite scenes, poor straight-laced Laurence realizes Temeraire has just masturbated while bathing in the lake, missing the affections of the lovely imperial dragon he has had to leave behind after visiting China. He asks, innocently if that isn’t how Laurence deals with being so far away from his lady love. 

Novik is not afraid to kill off her characters and allow her readers to mourn their loss. It’s a time of war, after all. People, and dragons die. But what sets these novels apart for me is that Novik boldly deals with the messy, uncomfortable fears and doubts and ambiguities of human nature on a draconic scale. She is not afraid to let her characters – dragon and human – disappoint her readers, and each other, and then flounder about in their own neuroses of disappointing themselves. That means some passages are incredibly painful to read because it’s too easy to see my own flaws in gigantic proportion. But those flaws in a neurotic dragon with a heart as big as a house are incredibly endearing and somehow manage to give me hope. 

One of the best parts of these novels is watching the wonderful interplay between the dragons and their human companions and seeing how that interaction makes their companions more human in the best possible way. Novik does this without taking away the wild savage otherness of the dragons while at the same time raising that wonderful question all writers and readers love to ask; just exactly who are the real monsters? Again and again the novels addresses this issue as the tale is played out against the backdrop of the Napoleonic War, in which campaigns are often commanded behind the lines by incompetent, power-grubbing, officers, and the politics of the day, just as now, are often brutal and self-serving. Novik’s novels are a tale of duty, our perception of it, and how far we are willing to go before our conscience will no longer allow us to confuse duty with blind obedience. 

From a writer’s point of view, I would happily worship at the Temple of Naomi Novik. While the editing in the British version of the novels leaves a bit to be desired, the tale is gorgeously and brutally written. But best of all, Novik is a damn good story-teller. I heartily admit, I’m a fan girl! And while I may not write fan fic, I am happy to browse through the glorious body of Temeraire fan art and imagine in my head what happens next to my favourite characters – both dragon and human.  

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Aftermath and Appearances ( #AmReading #YA #SaintsAndMisfits #SKAli

by Annabeth Leong

Saints and Misfits
S.K. Ali

This book hits many of the common YA themes--coming of age, friendships, navigating family relationships and crushes. But at its core, it’s about how the main character deals with the aftermath of an attempted rape, both as far as how it affects her feelings and attitudes and as far as she navigates the boy’s presence in her community and among her friends.

As serious as that subject is, the book was also fun to read. The main character’s world is well described, both familiar and unfamiliar to me. She’s a typical American teenager, but her cultural and religious background (Muslim) introduce different issues from what I experienced myself growing up. The theme of saints and misfits touches on common questions in YA about fitting in, and it also points to the complexities of what it means to be a good person, what it means to “do the right thing,” and how that interacts with appearing to do the right thing.

I particularly loved that the main character navigates a bunch of complicated relationships with other girls in her life. For example, she starts out the book irritated by the seemingly perfect “Saint Sarah,” but finds common ground with her by the end. The snappish Sausun becomes both a friend and a foil--I don’t want to say too much about that particular subplot because it’s both surprising and fantastic. And the main character’s longtime friend Tats is drawn with a sense for the affection and conflict between them, as well as ultimate sweetness and true devotion.

The reason the book will really stay with me, though, is the way the main character’s feelings about the attempted rape are portrayed. All too often, I see simplistic treatments where rape makes people angry and gives them a desire for revenge. That’s never rung true for me. In my own experiences with sexual abuse and violence, I’ve found myself mired in self-loathing and denial, sadness and loss. I’ve wanted to be understood or comforted or acknowledged. It’s never really been a thing for me to wish for pain for the perpetrator or to desire vengeance. I don’t think that’s about being saintly myself, I think it’s that it just doesn’t feel useful. It doesn’t feel like it would give me anything at all.

In Saints and Misfits, I can identify with the way the main character feels about what happened to her. The arc of the book isn’t about revenge. It’s about the sense of pollution she feels and what it takes for her to stop claiming that sense of pollution for herself, and to see that it belongs to the perpetrator rather than her. When she feels angry, she often takes that feeling out on a third party, which feels true to me as well.

The theme is heavy, but the resolution felt satisfying and optimistic without being saccharine, unrealistic, or uplifting in a cheesy way. I’ll be looking for more from S.K. Ali for sure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

My Summer Reading List

By Tim Smith

It’s time to compile that annual list of summer beach reads, the books you didn’t get around to reading when you were snowbound over the winter-without-end. The books you promised yourself you’d read, including the ones you received as Christmas or birthday gifts. Then there are the freebies from fellow writers, the ones you reluctantly agreed to read then post an online review.

The reading table next to my favorite chair has a continually revolving stack of books with bookmarks throughout. I have to be in a certain mood to read a book, mainly because of what I do all day. I’m the editor of a weekly newspaper, and I spend my days reading and editing the work of freelancers. I also have to write the occasional feature when someone bails on an assignment. This has caused me to not only ignore my own creative writing when I get home, but I usually don’t read anything longer than a newspaper or magazine article. This year, I’ve decided to get through some of the books that piqued my interest, while revisiting a few old favorites. Here goes, in no particular order.

“Dead Last” by James W. Hall. Hall is one of my favorite thriller writers, and I gravitated to him originally because we share a common theme in our writing. He lives in southern Florida and sets his stories in The Keys, like I do. His characters are well-drawn and his plots are suspenseful. No matter what his anti-hero, a former soldier of fortune named Thorn (no first name) gets into, it will grab my interest and hold it until the last paragraph.

“Dirty Money” by Donald E. Westlake, writing as Richard Stark. Westlake’s “hero,” a professional thief with a moral code named Parker (again, no first name) appeared in a dozen or so novels. Westlake/Stark had a way of depicting the action with a sparsity of words, and you actually find yourself rooting for the bad guy. In each installment, Parker is usually after someone from the gang who ripped him off after the robbery, and all he wants is his cut. His code of ethics is what sets him apart from other criminal characters, as in his assertion “You never kill someone unless they deserve it.” And in Westlake’s universe, someone always does.

“The Garner Files” by James Garner. I’ve enjoyed the late James Garner’s memoir since it was first published in 2011 and I still dig it out once in a while. Garner is one of my all-time favorite actors, and the backstage tales of his film and TV work, from “Maverick” to “The Great Escape” and “The Rockford Files” portray an average guy who never took himself or his work all that seriously. This is the only autobiography I’ve read where the main character gives all the credit to his co-stars. According to Garner, he never gave a good performance in his life and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I think his fans would disagree. 

Selected books by Raymond Chandler. From “The Big Sleep” to “The Long Goodbye,” Chandler gave us an iconic private eye, Phillip Marlowe. Marlowe wasn’t your typical gumshoe. He was middle-aged, world-weary, cynical about the human race, and distrusting of just about everyone he met until he got to know them better over a drink. He had a code he lived by, but he wasn’t above breaking the rules to crack a case. Marlowe’s personal credo when dealing with the opposition? “My favorite weapon isn’t a gun or a knife. It’s a twenty-dollar bill. Sometimes you can get more with that than you can with a gun.”

“His Guilt,” by Shelley Shepard Gray. This one showed up at my office one day, sent by a publicist hoping for a review. The book is labeled as an Amish romantic thriller, which caught my interest since I’ve never read one of those before. I skimmed the first few pages and was intrigued enough to give the whole thing a try. I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve read it.  

“A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway. Only because it’s part of a set of first edition Hemingway’s I inherited, and I’ve never read it, but I think I should.

“Hurricane Punch” by Tim Dorsey. This is one of those favors I mentioned earlier. I met Dorsey during an author gathering in Key Largo a few years ago, he autographed his book for me, I signed one of mine for him, and we promised each other we’d read them. If he’s read my book, I have yet to hear about it. I know how to keep a promise, though, even if it is overdue. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Movie is Better Than The Book

Image Credit: Tom Gauld

It's rare. But it happens.

Sometimes the movie is better than the book.

That's super rare, though, as most people will tell you.

Anyone can name books they've read that are better than their movie counterparts. For example, I've read (and watched the not-as-good movie or TV show of) Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, The Relic, Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Expanse, to name a few.

But can you name a case where the movie is better than the book?

That's a little harder.

I have two: Children of Men and Love, Simon / Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.

I watched Children of Men as soon as it came out -- it looked like my kind of sci-fi. While I read and watch an awful lot of Star Trek, I'm actually not a fan of science fiction with aliens. (I think it's because all too often the aliens are bent on destroying Earth, turning it into a horror movie (like Alien) or an action movie (like Independence Day).)

Children of Men -- the movie -- sees a near future world where humanity can no longer have children. The youngest person in the world is an adult. And then a woman gets pregnant. What follows is a harrowing and tense movie as they try to get the pregnant woman to safety with a humanitarian group. I loved the movie.

Shortly after watching it, I picked up the book... because the book is always better, right?

Unfortunately, not the case here. Well, I shouldn't be so absolute in that statement. The issue was that the book took a far different approach than the movie, and I preferred the movie's approach much more. The book focussed on the sociological aspect of a world no longer having children. Dolls become a treasured thing, with fully-grown adults purchasing expensive lifelike dolls to treat like real babies. It's definitely an interesting thought experiment and is definitely a good book. I just though the movie was better.

I had been eyeing the book for a while before buying it -- but it was the strength of the movie that finally made me make that purchase.

I don't think I would have read it if the movie was bad (or if the movie had never been made). And I don't think I would have watched the movie if I had read the book first.

Anyway, this was several years back in 2006.

To find a movie that's better than the book is a rare thing and I never expected it to happen again.

Then I watched Love, Simon. (I wrote about this a few weeks back -- I, along with most of the theatre, sobbed through the whole thing because it's such a touching movie.)

Love, Simon is a rather typical teen rom-com, but with a gay romance at its core. It's super cute and speaks a lot to the "gay experience" that really gets lost in media. In the movie, someone posts on an anonymous blog that's popular with the school that they are secretly gay. Simon, the protagonist, is closeted and feels alone for being gay -- so he reaches out to this anonymous person. From there is a movie full of trying to figure out who this secret person is as he and Simon develop an over-email-relationship, to the point where they express their love for each other, despite not know who the other person is. (Well, the love interest eventually learns who Simon is, but Simon doesn't learn who the other boy is until the end of the movie.)

I loved the movie on so many levels.

So, naturally, I had to read the book.

Like with Children of Men, the book (Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda) takes on a different approach... and I didn't like it.

I wouldn't have read the book if I hadn't seen the movie. And I wouldn't have seen the movie if I had read the book first.

The book takes a different approach -- which is really good on it's own, but I was expecting the approach the movie took. There's still the same secret love and there's a blackmail subplot in both the book and the movie. But the book really doesn't focus on the romance -- it's almost a background thing. Instead, the book seems to really focus on the message that "gay kids are normal kids", which, of course, they are. Most of the book follows Simon doing normal things that teenagers do, with him keeping the secret that he's gay. It's a damn good book -- but I was expecting something like the movie.

Seeing Love, Simon and reading Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda has been an interesting experience. As soon as I walked out of the theatre, I decided I want to write a YA gay romance. Four weeks and 66,000 words later, I have a first draft that has made a beta reader cry and is already super polished. (It's been a hell of a long time since I've written anything without a sex scene.) I'm busy submitting it to agents now. With YA, I think the market is really in physical bookstores, and you need to access the traditional publishing market to get there. My writing group (and my husband, an editor) feel this is strong enough to get a publishing deal -- fingers crossed -- but if that doesn't happen, I'll be self-publishing it and cracking into another YA.

I wrote this book because I had been inspired by the movie. But if I had read Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda first, I likely wouldn't have bothered with the movie. And if I hadn't bothered with the movie, I wouldn't have written my own book.

Sometimes the movie is better than the book. And when that happens, it's a rare and treasured thing.

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

You Call That WHAT?

Sacchi Green

I’ve been using all my reading time lately on books I’ve been asked to blurb, just needing a few lines suitable for back covers or Amazon quotes, not full-fledged reviews.  The one I’m in the midst of now is something new to me, Terrence Aldon Shaw’s The Erotica Writer’s Thesaurus (with notes on usage.) But before I dive into discussion of this dense, lengthy (508 pages) work, I’ll just touch briefly on two of the novels. Both are by writers who have written for my anthologies, and I read them from beginning to end, but won’t reveal any spoilers here.

In brief, Potions, by R.G. Emanuelle, is an absorbing story along “mad scientist” lines, about a woman in Victorian-era Boston who had assisted her late husband in his experiments and is now determined to concoct a transformative potion of her own, but with complications when the widow of another scientist asks for help and together, with romantic attraction growing, they try to solve an increasingly dangerous mystery.

The other novel is science fiction, what I might call a step above “space opera”, although I’m no expert on that genre. Emily L. Byrne’s Medusa’s Touch is a thriller with a protagonist who pilots her spaceship via high-tech tentacular implants that let her mind plug in to its controls and feel at one with the ship and the galaxy. This may sound on the squicky side, but it turns out to work very well, and the far-future world-building and associated vernacular are convincing enough to keep the reader intrigued—plus there’s plenty of sex, both with and without tentacles.

Now back to the meatier matter of Shaw’s thesaurus, which is an amazing achievement, with research on terms used in thousands of sources that took many years to ferret out and organize. I haven’t read it word for word yet—there are so many of them!—but there are links at the beginning to the alphabetical headings, so one can search reasonably well for the terms that most interest one, which for most of us, of course, means the ones specifically concerned with sex. Shaw mentions in his introduction that he includes plenty of words that “at first glance, would seem to have little to do with erotica or the erotic. Take a closer look, though, at the type of words included here. Beyond the obvious words for body parts…one will also find: (1) Words representing a wide range of gesture and emotion. (2) Words that can help establish erotic context, that is; synonyms for various colors, articles of clothing and furniture, rooms and their fixtures, items of everyday use, and common expressions including expletives, “swear words,” and insults. (3) Words that can be employed to build erotic metaphors. (4) Commonly-used words and phrases (often overused to the point of clich√©) encountered in erotic fiction (words like “hot”, “throbbing”, “big”, “round”) with long lists of creative alternatives.”

This makes the book all the more useful, and so do the extensive notes on usage at the back of the book, but come on, what words would you look up first? What words do you suppose I went for right away?

I’m not going to do much in the way of spoilers here, either, but there are some entries so overflowing with entertaining goodies that I’m going to share a single term each that stands out for me from a few categories, and leave you the fun of reading the rest when you get your hands (or maybe just one hand) on a copy of the book.

Let’s see. These aren’t necessarily in the order I searched. As an editor there are certain descriptive terms that I see too often, so I was especially curious as to what other choices were presented from Shaw’s research.

Let’s go for Nipples first. One term that I hadn’t come across is “bees” or “bazingas” (which is literary Portuguese for “bees.”) I’d actually seen the word “bazingas” but not known the translation. Bees. Huh. Ouch, even. I think I’d choose something else from his list, or make up some metaphor of my own.

The entry for Anus is quite a bit longer, and it’s hard to choose just one to share, but I think I’ll go with “Cadbury cul-de-sac.” You could have a lot of fun making a choice more to your own taste.

Onward to Aroused. Yes, I got stuck for a bit in the “A” section. What’s another way to say “aroused?” How about “Foaming at the gash?” Go ahead and choose your own.

Then we have Ass, of course. Some really great stuff here, but the one I find irresistible is “Dutch dumplings.” Oddly, well, appetizing. Or not. And for the closely associated Analingus, I’ll choose the British “bog snorkeling.”

For a change of pace, let’s look at the Attractive Man section. Or, no. let’s proceed to the Attractive Woman. I’m in the mood for rhyming, so I’ll go with “trouser arouser,” which could appeal to many men, too.

Proceeding to “B”, we have an extra-long and entertaining category, Breasts. Boy, have I seen a whole lot of words for breasts in submissions to my anthologies—“orbs” makes me groan, and not in a good way—but I’ve never seen “moon balloons” before, so that’s my choice, even though I would probably red-pencil it in a submission.

Not in alphabetical order any more, but let’s check out Penis. Wow, an even longer list than Breasts. This is a hard choice, of course. I was surprised at so many references to musical instruments—I’ve been around, but never noticed that much in the way of tuneful sound effects—but I’ll go with “spunk trumpet” just because I like the sound of that.

Next, of course, Vagina, not quite as long a list of choices as Penis, but that’s the Patriarchy for you. There are still plenty of terms, and I’m having trouble deciding, but I guess “squish mitten” caught my attention the most.

Finally, let’s tackle Masturbate. Since this is the last one I’ll do, I’ll cheat and pick two, first “audition the finger puppets” and then “strum the old banjo.” I’ll never think of the old song “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” the same way again.

In my editorial capacity I should point out that in fiction, sexual terminology, just like any other variety, has to fit the point-of-view character who uses it in speech or thought. Would your character say “spunk trumpet?” It would probably go over best in a humorous vein. Another thing to take into account is whether a reader will understand a term. “Dutch dumplings,” for instance, would need just the right context, and that too would call for a humorous interchange. Sometimes the simpler, traditional terms work best and are the least likely to throw a reader out of a sex scene.

All levity aside, this Thesaurus is a major work of reference that also manages to be highly entertaining, and I’ve only referenced a tiny fraction of the information here. It’s an aid to reading as well as writing; if you come across a term that puzzles you, just look it up here. And for we writers, whether or not we write erotica, chances are we can do it even better with the help of Terrance Aldon Shaw’s book.    

Friday, May 11, 2018

Random Truth

by Jean Roberta

This is embarrassing. The only publications I’ve read in the past month or so are periodicals I subscribe to: The New Yorker, The Times Literary Supplement, and BBC History.

I was immersed in student assignments until April 30, then I plunged into writing two very different historical stories after persuading the editors to give me deadline extensions. Story #1 is a short vignette of an imaginary secret tryst between Queen Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas Wyatt (a poet) in 1536 (the year of her execution), which I sent to The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty Thirty, Volume 3. (The emphasis in the “Sexy Librarian” series is on audio appeal: writing meant to be read aloud. I hope mine works in that sense.)

Story #2 was meant to be a much longer saga of an illicit gay-male romance in England, some time shortly after an immense statue of Pharaoh Ramses II was discovered and removed from Egypt in 1816. This story was sent to Steve Berman of Lethe Press for an anthology on “Decadence.” I’m not sure I nailed the necessary opium-laced flavour of the thing. If/when the story gets rejected, I’ll have more time to tweak it further.

In any case, all this rushed activity prevented me from reading any new books.

I’ll discuss Truth, the anthology of erotic fiction and non-fiction which was produced in connection with Eroticon in March 2018, edited by Zak Jane Keir, and published by Resonance Press of the UK. I have a story in the book, and normally, I feel squeamish about reviewing any collection that includes my own work. I have done this a few times when someone has asked for a review, and no other reviewer seems to be available.

As the title suggests, the theme of this collection is sexual truth vs. sexual deceit. The pieces are all short, on-theme, and diverse. Most of them are cheeky, some are slyly ironic, and all reveal some aspect of sexual attraction that isn’t glaringly obvious. Of course, some are about the “truth” of discovering one’s own and someone else’s true sexual orientation.

Pen names abound in this book. A writer called “The Other Livvy” wrote the opening story, “What Will Happen If I Tell You This Truth?” It is short enough to quote from beginning to end:

“Sorry, I’m too busy. My work is running late. I’ll have to bail. I’m having dinner with friends that evening. My phone battery died. When did you send that message? Oh, did you mean today? I thought you meant tomorrow!
I need to feed my cats. I have to wash my hair?

No. No, that’s not the truth. That’s an excuse; a mistake.

I really want to see you, but my week is looking crazy and there’s no time. I’m free for lunch next Thursday, if that’s any good? Or Friday?
I think that restaurant is closed on Mondays, and I can’t on Tuesday.

No, I’m not avoiding you. I’m really not.
I want to see you again, but I don’t know if I have time.

Mmm, no. Not the truth either. Shit. . .
I want to see you again, but I don’t know if I can. I want to see you again but. . .
I want to see you again, but I’m scared.

I’m scared of what you make me feel; I’m scared of what you make me want.

You make me want to kiss you and hold you and bite you and hurt you. You make me want to grip your arms so tightly that my fingers leave bruises; you make me want to mark you, want to own you. You make me want to pour myself all over you, staining your skin as our sweat and bodies merge, and I don’t want to stop.

I can’t look at you without wanting to claw the clothes off your back, revealing more of the skin that teases me as you sit, so perfectly dressed, across from me. I can’t look at you without imagining your nipples beneath that shirt, and how they’ll harden under my gaze as I stare at your body, bared before me.

The way you looked at me over that bitter cocktail, with a sly, lazy smile pulling at your hot, flushed lips, made me want to slap that smile off your face. I wanted to slap you until you gasped and begged for more. The way your fingers played with your glass, sliding in the condensation and shining in the cold moisture, made me want to lick your fingertips and push them deeper into my mouth. I wanted to drag you to the floor and kneel over you and grip your hair in my fingers and force your face into my body, so you could feel and smell and taste how much I wanted you. In that dark bar, on that dark night, I wanted to dominate you.

I don’t know what made me want to hurt you, or what made me think you’d like it. Was it the exact way you deferred to me when choosing that bar? Or your defiant tone of voice? Was it the way you maintained eye contact, just too long, and the cocky* stare that went with it? Maybe it was all your bravado, your talk of danger and fear and adrenaline, although I wanted to fuck you long before you mentioned that.

But what will happen if I tell you this truth?

If you don’t want what I want, I’m not the one for you. If you’re hoping for everyday sex or an everyday life, I can’t pretend; I won’t hide. But what if you do? What if you’ll trust me and kneel before me and take whatever blows I throw at you? Am I ready for that responsibility? Can I maintain control, when just the sight of you makes me feel stronger and more powerful? Can I maintain control, when I see and feel your willing submission?

What will happen if I tell you this truth?”

Being stood up for a date of any kind (even if it’s with an assumed friend) is one of my pet peeves because it’s been done to me too often, IMO. I have to admit, though, that this story would serve as a hell of an excuse. It seems likely to surprise the person who feels brushed off.

Other pieces in the collection have more conventional plots. A story by Molly Moore, one of the organizers of Eroticon, is about a fairy named Verity who “delivers” various truths to people who need them. In this way, she serves as a supernatural matchmaker.

This book lends itself to being read in installments, but it’s not safe for work.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Every Book Needs Readers

by Giselle Renarde

Last year, I talked about filling The Well of Creativity with every kind of media I can get my face on.

At that time, I viewed myself as a dry well. I've shifted a touch, to view myself as a fallow field. A healthier outlook, I hope.

We all need to rest once in a while. I used to be obsessed with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Aspects of Love. One of the first lines in the show is: "I'm resting again--that's what actresses say when they're not in a play." Am I resting because I'm not writing? Or am I not writing because I'm resting? Either way, I'm not in a play.

Most writers are readers first. Reading is important to fill The Well. Watching movies, TV, plays, listening to audiobooks and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals--it all helps us to be better writers. But I covered that last time.

I'm revisiting the importance of reading (and watching and listening) because a new thought occurred to me the other day, another reason it's so important to be a voracious consumer of media:

Every Book Needs Readers

Before, I was thinking about the benefits of reading to me, as a creative writer and human person. Now, I'm thinking about the benefits of reading to the author of that book, and even to the book itself.

One of the reasons my will to write has dwindled is that there are far fewer eyes on my words than there used to be. Or at least it feels that way. Every time a reader picks up a story I wrote, a novel or an anthology or short, that's huge for me. Every sale is a big deal, but it's not even about the sale. I put so much time and energy, so much of myself, into everything I write. I want eyes on those words.

So now, every time I read a book, I imagine how pleased the author must be that their words are being read. Kind of silly, I know. They're probably so successful that one more set of eyes makes no difference to them. But maybe readers think that about me. After all, I'm a full-time writer. I've been doing this job for more than a decade. Maybe readers consider me established.

I hope they know how much it means to me when they consume my words. Every book I write needs readers. If my words aren't read, what's the point in writing them?

I used to think of reading as part of my ongoing author education. And it is. But lately, I've considered it more of an imperative. I'm particularly drawn toward books that are out of print, stories that aren't online, aren't available on Amazon, aren't ebooks. Yellowed paperbacks that will cease to exist once these few copies have come apart. They're on their last legs.

Every book needs readers. Doesn't matter what you're reading, as long as you're reading. But, for me, those yellowed finds are the ones I want to read... before they disappear forever.
Oh, and if you're reading these words before Mother's Day (Sunday May 13th) 2018, I just want you to know you can read some of my words for free. Years ago, I wrote a sweet romance called LOVE AGAIN. It's a second chance romance about older adults finding each other nearly 40 years after high school. Anyway, it's newly re-issued and free from certain vendors at the moment. I'd love for you to have a copy. More words to read!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

#Trancend - a truly stunning and memorable read #WhathaveIbeen reading?

Hi Grippers. It’s that time when we reflect on what page-turners have caught our attention recently. So, here’s my review of a book recommended to me by one of my beta readers. Karen has excellent taste, I know this because she likes my books! So when she told me to check out Trancend by Jewel E. Ann I was happy to give it a go. I’m glad I did.

I love reading. Don’t we all? It’s every writer’s first love, I suspect. However, it’s been a while since I put off doing other stuff because I was so gripped by a book that I couldn’t put it down and stayed up late at night to finish it. I just did all of that though, for Jewel E. Ann’s powerful and mysterious Trancend. This is the first book in a duet, and yes, I immediately went onto Amazon and one-clicked the sequel.

Jewel E. Ann is a new writer to me, but I’m a fan now and I'll
be working through her back catalogue. She is one seriously talented author. Her writing is simply stellar, poetic, beautiful, uplifting and insightful. The emotional connection she crafts between the characters is exquisitely done.

This is a fascinating story around the theme of reincarnation with plenty of suspense and mystery thrown in. The author scatters little clues and intriguing details throughout the narrative. It’s a sexy love story but explores so many facets of love at the same time.

In a nutshell, a successful university professor finds himself a lone parent with a newborn baby to care for. He hires a nanny, a well-qualified and likable young woman who adores his little girl on sight. But Swayze seems to know things she shouldn’t, couldn’t. She can tell him details of his life that happened before she was born, and sometimes things even he doesn’t know. Could she really be the reincarnated ‘soul’ of his childhood friend?

This is a story of powerful emotion, sexual attraction, love and deep, grievous loss. Jewel E. Ann explores all of those themes brilliantly and there were several points in the story where I just had to lay my kindle down and think. Other reviewers (and there have been many) have described the book as inventive and original. It’s all of that, certainly, but for me it was more. It was a brief and authentic glimpse into the inner thoughts and feelings of a woman who wants above all else to do the right thing. Swayze is loyal and loving, but with a core of steel.

This is a book to appeal to readers who enjoy sexiness and emotional content, but with characters who are intelligent, considerate and courageous. It’s a unique story and it will stay with me. It’s a rare gem, truly stunning.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Identifying with the enemy - #rightwing #TCBoyle #freedom

Giant Sequoias

As usual I’ve been reading many different books, but today I’m going to talk about only one: The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle. This one has been next to my bed for many weeks.  I found that this book deserved to be read slowly and thoughtfully, even though it’s a compelling story. Now that I’ve finished, I am recommending it to all and sundry, especially to my liberal friends who believe we’re on the correct “side” of an ideological divide and that people with opposing views are somehow the enemy. The Harder They Come confirmed my belief that it’s not that simple.

Retired high school principal and ex-Marine Sten Stenson is vacationing in Costa Rica with his wife Coralee when their tour bus is hijacked by a trio of thugs. As the native gang threatens the group of senior citizens with knives and a gun, Sten’s military training takes over. On automatic, he grabs one of their attackers by the throat to immobilize him, ultimately choking the other man to death. To his fellow cruise passengers, Sten’s a hero, but all sorts of unpleasantness follows as he is forced to deal with the local authorities and make moral compromises.

Sara Hovarty Jennings is a sovereign citizen. A forty-something divorcee who struggles with her weight, she works hard at her job as a farrier, takes meticulous care of her own personal property, loves her shaggy dog Kutya, and just wants to be left alone. She doesn’t pay taxes. She won’t register or insure her car just because the government says she must. She sure as hell isn’t going to wear a seat belt just because some law requires it. One evening she’s stopped by the police on California Route 20. She refuses to get out of the car as the officer demands. She ends up in jail overnight, with her car impounded and Kutya in quarantine because he hasn’t been vaccinated for rabies as the law demands.

Adam Stenson, Sten’s son, has always been a problem child. Now in his twenties, he’s living in a cabin in the northern California forest, drinking grain alcohol, growing drugs and becoming progressively less connected with reality. He identifies with, and takes the name of, the legendary mountain man John Colter. He’s determined to be as tough and crafty as his hero, to fight against the “aliens” who want to control him, to live free in the wilderness no matter what the cost.

When Sara encounters Adam, she persuades him to help her free her dog from the pound. They become lovers. Though Adam is peculiar, emotionally volatile, maybe dangerous, a bond develops between them. Everything unravels, though, when Adam, in the throes of his Colter-inspired hallucinations, shoots and kills two local men.

T.C. Boyle’s brilliant novel The Harder They Come revolves around these three rather extreme characters. Their beliefs and their actions should make them seem repugnant, or at least very foreign to someone like me, who espouses rather liberal political views. It is a measure of Boyle’s genius that he managed to make me feel sympathy for and warmth toward all three of theme, even the homicidal lunatic Adam.

In the real world I might label these people as right wing kooks. Boyle conveys their emotions with such conviction and their philosophies with such apparent logic that I found myself actually agreeing with them, at least to some extent. I admired Sara’s independence and courage. I felt Sten’s frustration with his aging body and his helpless despair in the face of his son’s psychological impairment, and understood how these feelings could engender deadly anger. I even could understand why Adam felt as he did, why he was so inspired by Colter, in a world where true agency is so difficult to achieve.

It took me a long time to finish The Harder They Come—more than a month, though of course I was reading quite a few other books concurrently. I found that I didn’t want to consume more than one or two chapters at a sitting, not because the book didn’t pull me in, but because I felt I needed a break to digest and to appreciate what I’d just read.

Boyle’s prose is so compact, so evocative, so precisely targeted, that one cannot help but marvel. He’s an expert at conveying the natural world as well as human emotions and behavior. The Harder They Come is set well north of San Francisco, near Mendocino and Fort Bragg, among the redwoods and the rednecks. The area used to be a thriving center of the logging industry, but that prosperity is long gone. Now Mexican gangs grow pot deep in the woods, the old rail line is used for tourist jaunts, the locals struggle, and everyone wonders what the future will bring.

The book beautifully conveys the natural beauty of the area, the wildness that still exists. It also evokes the quiet desperation of the people who inhabit the region, a desperation that expresses itself in prejudice and violence. Boyle focuses on Sten, Sara and Adam, makes them real, living, breathing human beings, but he’s also clear that they’re products of their time and environment. The Harder They Come could be viewed as a microcosm of contemporary American society, a cautionary tale on the consequences of extremism.

But Boyle isn’t on a soap box. He never is. He’s just painting pictures, encouraging us to draw our own conclusions. That’s why I feel that this novel is important. It goes beyond the stereotypes, probes more deeply into how these people—“these people” whom in another context I might be tempted to label as the enemy, as alien to me as the guys Adam murders—reason, think and feel. And my conclusion is that ultimately, we’re not that different after all.

Maybe more so-called liberal Americans should read this book.