Friday, May 25, 2018

Shit Rolls Downhill

by Jean Roberta

This earthy saying means that those in positions of power often mistreat their underlings, which is no surprise. But the way the shit gets rolled is sometimes unexpected by the ones in its path.

This spring has been a bad time at work for members of my family. Let me introduce you to some of our bosses.

The Screaming Supervisor

First, my spouse Mirtha was harassed by a female supervisor who accused her of bullying her “consumers” (people with physical and mental disabilities who are helped to live independently by a government-funded organization) and demanded signs of “improvement.” I know how Mirtha treats her “consumers” because I’ve been welcome to go for lunch or go to the movies with them when I have time – and when Mirtha has to deal with two people in wheelchairs who need to travel by bus, it helps to have another able-bodied person on hand. I’ve come to know most of Mirtha’s “consumers,” and they greet me when they see me anywhere. I could testify that they love Mirtha. They laugh a lot when they’re with her, and they even like the way she refuses to do things for them that they can do for themselves because this enhances their self-respect.

The supervisor’s supervisor (director of the program) seemed completely taken in by the harassing supervisor’s story. Mirtha spoke to the chairman of the board, a man we know and used to like. Mirtha asked me to send him my version of the situation, so I did. The chairman didn’t do a thing, and he told us the situation was “resolved.” Mirtha resigned.

Obviously I’m biased, but I don’t think I’m blind. I think Mirtha’s absence is a loss for the organization. She even met with the mother of one of her more talented “consumers” to discuss ways that Mirtha can stay in this young woman’s life. (The mother is willing to hire Mirtha privately.) I think Mirtha should set up her own program and apply for government funding, and several of her friends agree with me. She’s been talking to a labour lawyer, and I hope something comes of this.

Why Can't Workers Be More Like Machines?

Meanwhile, Mirtha's hunky younger son has been working for Canada Post, delivering mail from house to house. I’ve always considered mail delivery people here in Canada to be unsung heroes because they’re the last of the workers who still provide house-to-house service in extreme weather: freezing cold, blazing hot, windy enough to tear big branches off trees. Younger Son (who is now 37, not young for someone doing hard physical work) does Mixed Martial Arts, and his arms and chest look sculpted. He is much stronger than the average man of his age, but he has suffered long-term symptoms from a terrible vehicle crash in the 1990s, when he was travelling with a young drama group and their car was rear-ended on an icy highway.

Younger Son was told by a doctor that he had to take time off to get physiotherapy because the heavy loads (mostly advertising material) he was carrying were aggravating his chronic back problems. At first, the management refused to accept Younger Son’s version of the situation because they said he waited too long to make a doctor’s appointment. (He provided evidence that he phoned for an appointment as soon as the problem became evident, but the doctor couldn’t see him immediately.) Luckily, postal workers in Canada have a strong union, and so Younger Son got support. Management backed down and gave him the time off, but apparently, they made it clear that they were not happy about this, and they will be watching him.

It's Just Not Enough

For years, I’ve bragged that in my teaching job, I don’t have to deal with hostile co-workers OR supervisors, all of whom have given me amazing compliments. I do get some flak from students who resent having to take mandatory English classes, but since I have power over them, I can afford to show some noblesse oblige, i.e.: I have an obligation to keep explaining things to them as calmly as possible. If they don’t get it, they’re the ones who suffer the consequences.

Every three years, I have to list my latest accomplishments on a form (with supplementary material as needed) which goes first to my immediate supervisor (current head of the English Department), then upstairs to the “fifth floor,” where the administrators do their thing. (And what is their thing, exactly? The main business of a university is teaching, and administrators don’t do that, yet they get large salaries. I find this mysterious.) For many years now, the Dean of Arts has simply confirmed the good things the department head has written on my Faculty Review form. I’ve been at the top of my salary range (for Instructors – read on) for years now, but the Dean usually states that I would deserve a raise if I were eligible.

I was expecting similar results from the Faculty Review material I submitted in January 2018. This is why I was shocked when word came down to me from the Dean that I was performing far below expectations because too many boxes on the standard form were marked “none.” This means that I have not applied for or received big grants from government or charitable organizations, I haven’t earned an additional degree, I haven’t published in scholarly journals, I haven’t done much committee work: all the things that tenured professors are expected to do.

The Dean wrote that I will now be reviewed every year, and he will be looking for improvements in my job performance.

When the “Instructor” category was created in 1999, seven of us “sessionals” (marginal academics, hired temporarily by the course) were given job security in exchange for the amount of teaching we were doing, which was and is much more than tenured faculty have ever been expected to do. The class limit for mandatory first-year English classes was then 35 students, and it was then bumped up to 40. Instructors were expected to teach six classes per year (May 1 to April 30) if we were also doing some type of “research.” (I think all 7 of us were freelance writers at the time.)

We were told that teaching was by far our most important job duty, and if we were doing anything else, that was a bonus. For awhile, it was debated whether we could get “merit increases” (usually given for outstanding research) or “career growth implements” because we weren’t expected to distinguish ourselves by our “research,” and supposedly, we had jobs rather than careers.

Traditionally, tenure-track or tenured academics are expected to do three things: 1) teach a few classes, 2) publish or perish, and 3) help run the Ivory Tower by spending hours in committee meetings, organizing conferences, setting rules for course content, maintaining communication within and between departments.

Duty #1 is much lighter for people in this category than for Instructors. In the English Department, those folks teach on a 5/4 schedule, meaning they teach 5 classes one year and 4 the next. Upper-level English classes are filled by keen students who are usually English majors. I was once a graduate student at the university where I now teach, and my classes were small, intimate discussion groups.

Since I’ve been allowed to teach Creative Writing as part of my courseload, I've had a chance to see how real professors get to live. Last semester, my Expository Prose class (non-fiction) started out with 12 students registered, but two had to drop out due to circumstances, so I was left with 10 delightful, compatible young people who liked to discuss writing. Teaching them was heavenly. Teaching my regular first-semester literature-and-composition courses is a sentence in purgatory.

(Too many students who are not fluent in English get shuffled into these classes even though they have no hope of passing. When they realize this, they become desperate or angry, and they blame the messenger. This is probably why I got two anonymous, threatening emails last year. The sender called me "bitch" and said I needed psychiatric "help." I reported this to the administration, the union, campus security, and the city police, but everyone told me that since the critic didn't sign his/her name, nothing could be done.)

I met with a representative from my academic union, the local faculty association. (She is a very nice but clear-headed prof who teaches Religious Studies. I've known her for years.) I showed her what the Dean wrote about me, and she told me frankly it is "bullshit." She spent some time researching the job description for Instructors (of whom there are only 2 left in the English Department due to promotions, retirements and resignations), and shared her findings with me. The description is fairly brief and vague, and it doesn’t claim that Instructors have to sit on committees, organize anything but our classes, or get the kind of grants that profs in the physical sciences get when they have discovered a new planet or a cure for cancer.

My union rep advised me to send the Dean a letter challenging his decision to put me on Faculty Review once a year. She said I should mention the generally-positive anonymous evaluations I get from students, the amount of teaching I do, the incredible length of time I've spent doing it, and the fact that older women faculty tend to get treated worse than male faculty by students in general. (Union Rep said that studies have shown this.)

She explained why the Dean suddenly (IMO) started shooting arrows at me: because the biggest expense for the university is senior faculty, those at the top of their pay-range who are close to retirement. She said it's no secret that the administration would like to make us uncomfortable enough to consider retiring sooner than later so that we can be replaced by younger and cheaper versions of ourselves: someone like myself as a sessional in 1999.

Thank the Goddess for unions, I say. Now I know that I'm not alone, and I don't have to take it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Girl Who Stood Up for Herself

I’ve never been especially good at standing up for myself, that’s something I’ve often done through my characters as so much of writing is an extension of the artist’s own longings. In the following two scenes from an unpublished novella “The Tortoise and the Eagle”, my favorite character, Nixie changes her destiny in an instant as she learns for the first time to stand up for herself.

Nixie is a young milk maid on her father’s failing small dairy farm in 19th century Oberammergau Bavaria. She is homely, ostracized and has crippling epilepsy.   When her uncle Snorri invites them to visit him in Munich, she is seduced by a “nosferatu” named Woglinde and they become lesbian lovers.  In my mythology which is strongly influenced by Octavia Butler’s vampire novel “Fledgling”, vampires and humans were separate species who were meant to live symbiotically, but the relationship was damaged somehow into a predator prey relationship.  Ideally a vampire would establish a small communal family of humans around herself.  The treasured vampiric blood, when dosed in small, careful amounts would have a powerful, rejuvenating and life prolonging effect upon humans without in any way changing their humanity.  In return for this, a small human family would protect the cherished vampire member with voluntarily given donations of their blood without the need for hunting or violence.  A symbiotic relationship where two species take care of each other. 

This mythology structure is carried over into this scene where Nixie has awoken from her first death-sleep and experienced her new identity and rejoices in it.  As she goes down the stairs, naked and rampantly sensuous – and for the first time truly happy to be alive more or less – she sees Snorri, her father and Woglinde have been waiting and realizes for the first time, that instead of being loved by Woglinde, she has been used.  .  .

“. . . She left her clothes on the bed and went to the mirror.

The nose, once bent was straight and even small. The lips inviting, the chin delicate. The eyes soft and bright such as a man might be invited to fall into.  Her legs, her belly, her breasts were all equally lovely, full and curved, womanly and soft.  There was no longer the awkward lumpiness she had seen there before.  The legs were clearly lengthened in bone and stride, could leap high, chase down the running –

-  the night is dark and I am very fast, Woglinde had said.

I will not chase, she thought.  I will not kill.  I will heal.  Only heal, those whom I chose, I will be their goddess.  I am the fountain, the blood and the life.  They will love me. The sick and the old, the deserted and the lonely, I have known them, I have been them, I will take their blood and give it back to them imbued with my magic. Mine! I will save them all with our communion. I chose who deserves to be saved. 

Silent, nude, stepping with beauty, a long panther stride of hidden strength that came to her instinctively.  She left the bedroom, padded to the stairs and stood a moment trying the air.  She sensed each person in the dining room below.  She could tell which part of the room they were sitting in at this moment.  Papa.  Snorri.  Dear Woglinde.  She also knew instantly that Woglinde knew she was there.

She moved silently down the stairs and wondered for a moment if she might actually have become a ghost.  She listened to the voices of the dining room and felt the particular feelings hiding behind each voice, brushed their souls with her fingertips, perceived the anxiety in all but Woglinde's voice. 

She went down, stepped into the light.  Woglinde was at the far end of the table and Snorri and Papa were arguing in small anxious voices.  She stood in the doorway only a moment when Woglinde turned to her.  The men followed her look.

"Oh!" said Snorri, laughing.  "Shield your eyes, old man, she's not your little girl anymore."

Papa did not shield his eyes.  He looked at her long and hard.  She felt a great boldness.  There was power in her nakedness.  There was challenge in her audacity, in the pink of her youthful nipples, the ruff of silver hair between her thighs.  She walked across the room, long legged and rolling hipped to the dining table and the room was silent.  All eyes were on her and - the feeling!

Soon all the pretty boys will bow down to worship me. 

Papa rose from the table without a word.  She felt Woglinde's eyes on her, as Papa strode over and stood before her. 


He slapped her face hard with the back of his hand so that her eyes spun.

"No!" Woglinde leaped to her feet.  "Don't ever do that!"

"Again you're parading around like this in front of others.  Are you having another fit?  Are you going to fall down drooling again like an idiot?" 

"Stop that!" yelled Woglinde.  "Stop!"

He slapped her a second time and she felt a tremendous wave surge through her such that she suddenly rose on her toes.  Whatever Papa was seeing in her face made him take a step back.

Papa turned to Woglinde, eyes fevered, face flushing furious.  "Am I supposed to be afraid of my little girl now, Rhine bitch?  Is that what you've made for me?"

"She's not your little girl - your little girl is dead."

"She made?" said Nixie, looking at the two men.  "You knew.  When it was happening.  You knew all about it."  She looked around the table, smelled Snorri's guilt in the air like bitter incense, felt the night air vibrate with Woglinde's defiance.  "Whose idea was it?"

She suddenly felt a great urge to go somewhere, downstairs to look for Danzer, to be away from all people.  Smell Danzer’s honest horse hide, caress an animal's honest face, something innocent, something perfectly itself, away from people.

"I don't belong to you anymore, not any of you.  I belong to myself and who I choose to love.  You can all go to Hell!"  Woglinde came around the table and took a step towards her.  "And you too Woglinde!  You most of all.  Go die in the sun!"

She stamped up the stairs feeling the lightness and strength in her legs; sure that if she tried she could jump to the top step in a bound.  As she reached her room she could already hear someone coming after her.

"It was my idea," said Papa, stamping into the room.  I won't carry you on my back all my life."

"Nobody asked you to,” she said, turning to him, at bay.  I don't need you anymore.  I don’t need anybody anymore." 

“You have to be good for something.  Everyone has to be good for something.  A young woman like you should be married.  Should have given me grandsons to keep up the farm.  But no!  Your fancy ideas, your sickness, falling down in public like some imbecile, like a fool.  Useless girl. You cost me everything – everything! You.  Until now.  I'm old. You will take care of me."

She wrapped her arms around her bare breasts and drew the old wall around her.  She felt if she could stand very still it might all pass away and stop.

"I finally know what you're good for. Woglinde gives Snorri life and youth.  I've seen it.  She will help him live forever with her blood.  I've tasted it.  It's all true.  Even if it's the devil’s blood, at least you're good for something now. Even a milk cow is good for something.  Now you're going to be good for something.  You're going to be my milk cow.  Through you I will live.  Do you hear?"

She turned her head at the rushing in her ears and looked at the lamp on the table.  A soot shadow on the glass chimney was shaped like a little rabbit with ears.  She looked at her hands and they needed washing. She looked at the thumb of her left hand and there was a tiny piece of skin near her fingernail that felt a little sore.  She felt the hair on the back of her head begin to rise.  She put her thumb in her mouth and stood very still feeling the room shrinking fast around her. 

"I never wanted a fool for a daughter. I wanted a son!  I never wanted you at all."

"I'm sorry, Papa." 

The table cloth had a printed pattern of little black coaches pulled by little white horses and a driver with a tall hat and a whip and little heads in the coach windows.  They were happy because they were traveling somewhere.  That was the thing to do.  To travel somewhere.  Oberammergau.  The cows.  The farm.  She sucked her thumb and counted the little horses as the room began to squeeze her chest.  Six horses, each coach.  Happy people, traveling.  Would the angels come back?  No.  The angels and her lord, she would not see them again.  How did she know?  No, she knew.

"I never wanted you!  Your mother never wanted you!"

Heat rising in her face.  Sucking her thumb, shaking her head, trying to bite off the piece of sore skin on her fingernail.  "No, papa."

"You’re a useless, falling down cripple."  Papa's voice was trembling.  He had come close to her.  "Even a cow is good for something.  Well, now maybe your blood at least will be good for something.  By god - you'll do this.  Are you hearing me?"

"No, papa."  She chewed her thumb.  She shook her head. "No."

The soot stain in the lamp chimney.  It looked like a turtle now with four tiny legs.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four. Now flying over the mountains, now through the cold air back home to the farm and the quiet barn, now cool with the steam of the cows breath in the morning air.  No need for the eagle.  No need for anyone ever again. "It's all right, I'm sorry, papa."

Her eyes skipped around the room.  Looking at the window curtains which blew in with the night breeze, looking past the shouting man, looking down at her feet.  The thumb salty in her mouth.  Her big farm girl feet now pretty and light.  She would learn to dance. And the beautiful boys.  The beautiful boys would worship her and live forever.

She made a fist and hit herself in the face. 

Maybe I can make it happen, she thought.  Maybe I can call the angels and my Lord to me and they will pick me up and fly me away.

"Why weren’t you a son!"

"I think maybe you're drunk," she said "You should maybe lie down."

"Bleed for me."

She shook her head.  "That's not a nice thing to ask, Papa." 

"You do not say no to me!"

She hit herself in the face again, but the golden glow wouldn't come.  "That's not a nice thing to ask, papa.  Don't talk anymore, please.  You're just drunk."

"You will bleed for me."

"No, sir.  I will not." 

"What did you say?  Say that again."

"No, sir.  I will not."

His hand swatted her fast and hard across the face.  Nixie shrieked and bounced into the table, knocking the lamp over.  She lowered her head as he stormed toward her.

The stirring swelled in her.  A sharp eruption behind her lips.  She let it come.  An iron taste that filled her with sudden light. 

And there he was.

She moved over the floor to meet him, barely touching with her toes, moving with awkward untested power, snatching his hair in her clenched fist, tugging his head back hard, his arms windmilling as he toppled.  She fastened down tight on his throat and felt the teeth slip in easily and beautifully as though choosing the first bite of a persimmon.  She hugged him close, feeling his throbbing energy, his life, spilling into her as her brain went dull.  He pounded at her back with his fists. The beating thrilled her and she gripped him harder.  Bones cracked.  She drew in a breath, smelling his sweat.

The lamp oil spreading on the floor had caught flame.

Snorri was running up the stairs, shouting - "I'll put her in the sun!"

Woglinde burst into the room ahead of him and stopped at the sight, blocking Snorri at the door.

On the floor Nixie sat, off far away, eyes closed to all, rocking gently Papa in her arms like a doll, cooing to him.  On her cheek, a trailing blood tear stalled.

"Oh child," whispered Woglinde, "What have you done?"

And so it goes.  I love my Nixie.  I haven’t written for a while but seeing her awakens me.  I want to check back in with her soon.  Not let the light die out for us.  We love our characters because they shw these hidden sides of ourselves.

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 fiancé 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...