Monday, July 31, 2017

The Ultimate Taboo (#erotica #taboo #inspiration)

Bondage woman
By Lisabet Sarai

Erotica often generates its emotional and physical charge by pushing the envelope—focusing on sexual activities that are popularly viewed as wicked, sinful or forbidden. Erotic fiction allows readers to experience the naughty thrill associated with breaking taboos, without any personal or societal consequences.

On the other hand, writing stories that address prohibited topics can be dangerous for an author, at least if you want to sell your work. The line between publishable erotica and unacceptable smut is both narrow and blurry. One misstep can see you tumbling into the adult dungeon, or even banned outright.

What, then, constitutes the most extreme possible transgression? Is it incest? Bestiality? Necrophilia? Scat? These days, what’s the riskiest thing an erotic author can write? What story element is most likely to kill your chances that readers will see and buy your work?

You may be surprised by my answer.

Based on my observations, the ultimate taboo in erotica is an unhappy ending.

You can write a story that’s dripping with sensuality, sizzling with heat, full of outrageous sex acts. You can bring your readers to the edge of climax, even push them over. If your characters don’t end up satisfied, though, it’s likely your readers will not be either.

Every now and then, I run afoul of this taboo. The thing is, my reasons for writing erotica are not necessarily the same as the reasons my audience has for reading it. I started writing sexually explicit fiction in order to explore the frontiers of desire. I wanted to take my fantasies and bring them into the light, to vicariously experience situations I’d imagined but lacked the opportunity (or the courage) to make real. Furthermore, I was curious about the deep-seated entanglement of sexuality with other aspects of our psyche. This includes not just positive emotions like love, joy, pride, and pleasure, but also darker elements: shame, guilt, anger, obsession, self-doubt and fear.

My readers, on the other hand, are mostly looking for a tale that will arouse and entertain them. I like to think that the quality of my writing makes a difference, but I suspect that the most important criterion for a story’s popularity is the extent to which it turns the readers on. Obviously the erotic effect of a story depends somewhat on the skill with which it is told. Still, I suspect most readers do not share my fascination in the deeper or more abstract themes that sometimes pop up in my work.

Readers identify with the characters. Hence an ending where the characters do not get what they wantan ending that is ambiguous, ironic or even tragic—can spoil their enjoyment.

Unfortunately, sometimes I break this taboo against unhappy endings. I can’t help it; my premise leads me in a certain direction and I have to follow. I’m not going to force the narrative toward an unbelievable conclusion. I know that distorting the flow would be a mistake, at least from an artistic perspective. From a marketing perspective... well, that’s a different matter.

I have one story (“Trespass”), a science fiction retelling of Romeo and Juliet that ends with the death of both protagonists. That was rejected from a record five anthologies, before it finally found a home in a Coming Together collection. More recently, I wrote a lesbian tale called “Countertransference”, about the attraction between a psychiatrist and her young, psychotic patient. As you might expect, this taboo relationship does not end well. I’ve received three rejections for this one so far. I’ve considered self-publishing it, but I doubt that the effort would be worthwhile.

For some reason, my paranormal tales particularly tend toward darkness. None of the seven stories in my paranormal collection Fourth World offers an unequivocally happy ending. Need I mention that sales for that book have been abysmal?

Most of my novels end happily, but Exposure has an emotionally ambiguous conclusion. Though that novel features one of my strongest and most vivid heroines, I doubt it has sold more than half a dozen copies.

Why do I keep violating this taboo? Why don’t I just write sunny, sex-positive smut that will arouse my readers without making them suffer—or think?

I guess the answer is that I don’t control my inspirations. I don’t believe I have a muse, but I know that my stories arise at least partly from my subconscious. And there are some dark things buried there.

Dark, but true. I can ignore those truths. Or I can incorporate them into my fiction, and pay the price for my transgression.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fads Sweet Fads

Ah, Fads. Here in Australia (and my brief spot of research suggests ONLY in Australia), we have these silly little lollies. Or candy, as our good friends in the US of A call it.

"Fads Fun Sticks".

I've actually never tried these candies, though I'm sure they live up to their name. The "fun" part, that is...I can already see they live up to the "stick" part.

No, I've never eaten them...but I know exactly how they taste!

"What?" you cry? "Madness!" you exhort. "Are you some kind of knucklehead?" you suggest, somewhat boorishly.

No, I strongly refute at least two of those questions/statements.

Because Fads, when I was a kid, were known by a slightly different name.

Yup. Here in Australia, we used to give our kids Fags to put in our mouths. And they were tasty. Not only that, but they were just about the coolest lollies around.

"Why?" you enquire, near breathless with boredom anticipation.

Because "fag", in Australia used to be the slang term for "cigarette".


Here in Australia, up until the early 90's I believe, we were still selling our kids candy cigarettes, with a name which even primary school kids knew had homophobic connotations.

None of this really has anything to do with writing, I realise. I'll just have to live with that...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tried and True

By Annabeth Leong

I wrote my first vampire story well after the fad had passed. It was about the fad, though, and an editor who wasn't over it. To this day, it remains one of my favorite stories. I felt exuberant while I wrote it, and I both amused myself and turned myself on.

Because I spent most of today on a train, I'll give you a healthy chunk of the story, which is titled, "Vampire Vikings and Other Desperate Attempts at Originality," and was published in Like a Circlet Editor: Erotic Fantasies of Our Office.


Come on," Lacey whispered. She scratched down the back of my neck and toyed with the collar of shirt. "Remember last time? You thought we'd done everything possible, but I showed you didn't I? That vein in your inner thigh? And then, later, the tiny one that beats along your clit?"

The memory made me shudder. I hadn't told Lacey, but I'd had my clit pierced after that for the constant reminder. Every time I shifted and the stainless steel bar repositioned itself, I thought of her face between my legs, penetrating my most sensitive flesh with the very tip of one delicate fang, and then her tongue darting out to lick where her fang had been. I'd been too afraid to let her suck me there—at first. Once I'd given in, Lacey had introduced me to a new level of orgasmic intensity as her feeding directly from my clit drove my nerves to the point of insanity.

"You remember." The unmistakable smile in her voice was accompanied by a firm hand winding around my body to take possession of my breast. "How can you tell me the readers aren't interested in this anymore when you still want it so badly?"

I leaned into her palm, my nipple hard inside my bra. She'd bitten me there once, too. That was the third time we were together, when she'd asked if she could milk me. I had felt so fertile and alive that night, holding her cradled in my lap, feeding my breast to her, watching the peace that came over her face as she suckled. I had squeezed my breast to the point of bruising trying to give her as much blood as I could, just because I didn't want the experience to end.

"Tell me that you still want it," Lacey prodded. "Tell me we're going to work together again. You can send all the others away."
I began to nod because she'd used her most hypnotic tone, but the mention of others reminded me what I was supposed to be doing. With great effort, I mentally crawled out from under Lacey's spell before it closed in on me completely.

Dozens of other creatures waited outside my office for informational interviews. A senior editor and I had indulged in a long brainstorming session the day before, coming up with really unusual stuff. "Competition is increasing. We need something different to keep sales up," she had said. "Were-binturong? Phoenixes? Snake women?" She had paused, then repeated that last one. "Snake women. That's something you could write a whole book about. Think about them twined around each other, those long, forked tongues, just a touch of venom—enough to make you swell."

The fantasy that followed had been fervent enough to shock even me. In the end, I'd given her the key to my vibrator drawer and slunk out of my own office. The worst part was she obviously wanted to do snake women herself, so I was left with the other, less inspiring ideas and a command to "make it original."

I put out a call for the wildest stuff I could come up with along with a few themes gleaned off our most recent reader survey. To show my commitment to the job, I'd even managed to track down a were-binturong, though I suspected few readers would see the erotic potential of a creature whose genus name translates to "bear-weasel."

There were some decent possibilities, though. The head shots from some of the elves had been really striking. I could almost go for one of them, maybe in a dungeon, done up in a blood-red gown, a rust-colored stain dripped from one corner of the mouth...

Damn it. That senior editor had told me to be original, and my last book hadn't done well at all. Of course, I wasn't entirely convinced that readers hadn't wanted to buy the book. There had been a little side-boob on the cover, and I strongly suspected that some of the major e-retailers had pulled the book from their virtual shelves for long, vital swathes of time. Maybe this wasn't a content problem. Maybe this was a cover art problem. Or a censorship problem.

I could have convinced myself if not for the way the senior editor had started our private meeting. She had snapped her fingers in front of my face three times and then pronounced in loud, slow, careful tones: "Vampires. Are. Over."

I took a deep breath and turned to Lacey. "Sweetheart, you're a cliché." It was true. She stood beside my desk wearing a black leather cat suit sewn with red thread and an oversized pair of Hollywood-style sunglasses. Her nails were long, blood red, and decorated with spider decals, and her skin was pale as milk, pale as cream, pale as snow—you get the point. "At our last editorial meeting, we talked about the importance of getting away from the same-old."

She squared her shoulders. "I'm not a cliché. I'm a trope." A curve of red lips revealed the baby fangs I'd always loved for being so cute and feminine. "I'm a familiar jumping-off point. I'm not the same-old, baby, I'm the tried-and-true."

To make her point, she grabbed the back of my office chair, rolled me out from behind the desk, and straddled my legs. We sailed a few inches across the floor before bumping into the overflowing bookshelf behind my desk, but I didn't care because she'd already bent her head and brought her mouth to mine. She smelled of iron and freesia, and her perfect ass ground against the top of my thigh as she settled herself in place. A tendril of cool, black hair worked loose from her updo and tickled the side of my face. She kissed me with the expertise of deep familiarity combined with the passion of a long separation. Fuck.

I hadn't followed the distinction drawn between tropes and clichés at that last meeting, anyway, and so I had no defense against Lacey's argument—which grew more compelling by the moment as she untucked my shirt from my skirt and ran those fingernails over the flesh of my bared belly.

My favorite thing was for her to bite my shoulder first then work her way toward my neck, sinking her fangs deeper and taking more blood every time. She could do it from behind, one hand pinching my nipple and the other on my clit. Or I could work my own clit, and she could hold both nipples, tugging me by the breasts until I stood sandwiched between my office wall and her long, cold body, giving up my blood without care because her teeth in my flesh made me need to come so badly.

I broke away from her kiss, and for a second I almost asked her for that fantasy. Then I forced myself, yet again, to remember what the other editors had been telling me. "Lacey, I can't. You know I can't. They told me that this year I have to find something new."

"You don't want anything new," she said, but the bravado in her voice was breaking. Her throat caught on a plaintive tone, and she turned the sound into a snarl as she wrenched herself away from me and toward my desk. I knew what she would find there, and I cringed, waiting for her reaction.

"Were-binturong? Seriously?" Lacey cackled. Then her voice turned darker, hurt. "Werewolf? I thought you said they were overgrown hairbags?"

I sighed. "That doesn't matter. Werewolves are over, too. I was just brainstorming. You have to get the bad ideas out before you can access the good."

"So what's the good? The stuff at the bottom of this list? Fairies? Angels? Vikings? I can do all of that."


She turned to me, her eyes bright and wide. "I'm creative. You know that. Let me show you."

"Lacey, I don't think..."

"Be right back," she said, before I could finish my sentence. She went out the door this time, probably so she could stake her claim on me in front of the other creatures, and I sighed as I watched her go. I'm not sure if that was because of the way her leather outfit hugged her ass or because I had a bad feeling I wouldn't be getting a bonus this year.


If you'd like to read the rest of the story, you can find Like a Circlet Editor at this link:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mooks Trending (#The Mooch #Scaramouche)

Mooks Trending   (#The Mooch  #Scaramouche)

Where I come from—New Jersey—there’s a term for a particular type of low level hoodlum. He might range from his 20’s to his 60’s. If he’s not currently married to an abused wife, he’s probably still living with his mother. Any number of alimony-deprived ex-wives have long since thrown his sorry ass out. He doesn’t hold a steady job but has convinced himself that he’s the sharpest razor in the pack, sucking around other hustlers and con men, staying hip to what he calls opportunities.

The Mooch has an inflated image of himself, usually checking out his own reflection in department store windows, the way he rocks his strut in his cheap (hot damn) flamboyant suits, ogling all the women under forty, seeing them notice his stare as he passes. Thank God he didn’t approach me.

Those flashy clothes don’t really set him back much, even when they look brand new. A pal shows up every month with a truck full of designer knock-offs. Good thing they don’t cost much because they seldom last more than a dry cleaning or two. Then they shrink, fall apart and look like shit. Still, he wears them.

Who cares? There’s plenty more where they came from. A sucker’s born every minute. We’re all on our own. Nobody’s watching out for you. Be your own man. Do others before they do you. Fuck ‘em all, man. It doesn’t matter as long as you get yours.

We’ve all encountered this species, no matter where we live. Just that Jersey gets more than its share. :>) Then last January a whole gaggle of Mooks migrated south to Washington.  

Take Paul Manafort, our president’s original campaign manager who — wait? Wasn’t Lewandowski first? (We get these Mooks mixed up) Yeah. Lewandowski. He was a Mook. The guy who assaulted a female reporter on one occasion and later throttled a protester. That Mook.

Lewandowski slipped somewhere under a rock and then they got Manafort. Another case. Several cases, in fact. Cases dealing with dictators in the Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola.

Then we have the Russians. A seamy mix of event promoters, agents, former agents, government lawyers, sanctioned bank executives and unnamed oligarchs linked to Russian Oil. Meeting with our president’s son and son-in-law. And, yes. Manafort.

That Manafort cat sure could wheel and deal.  Wheeled and dealed his sorry ass right out of the campaign. Several government agencies are still delving into his affairs. Affairs before, during and after Trump’s campaign. Another Mook.

Maybe these guys don’t have the chops to run a straightforward campaign. Maybe they’re just Mooks. A whole bunch of fucking Mooks have created a whole Mook fucking fad in our nation’s capital.  And beyond.

In fact, there’s a new Mook in town. One Anthony Scaramucci. “The Mooch”.  “Scar”.

There’s a character in the Italian Comedia Del Arte: The Scaramouche. Defined as “A cowardly boastful clown.”  ( You just can’t make this shit up.

The Mooch even looks his part. This is a guy from Central Casting. The big New York and Chicago gangsters of the twenties coined the style. You could put Scaramucci’s image with a bunch of 20th century hoods and he’d fit right in.

As Trump says, ”All the best people.”  Right before he says, “You’re fired!”

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When is a fad not a fad?

When is a fad not a fad? When it’s a scientific and cultural breakthrough, that’s when.

I think I’ve always been a tad suspicious of passing trends. It’s a trait I learnt from my father, though it’s possible to miss some really good stuff by being over-cautious.

My dad was an electrician. He ran his own shop renting out televisions, radios (yes, radios) and all things electric. A stream of little old ladies would come into the shop each week to pay their three shillings or whatever it was for the weekly rental of their washing machine, their fridge or their electric iron. Some of the televisions had little slot machines on the back – the forefather of pay per view – and my dad would go round to his customers’ houses to empty the little money boxes from time to time. Those were days of sameness, of knowing what you wanted and needed in life, and it was my dad’s role to provide it.

It was not his job, as he saw it, to pander to passing fancies. Therefore, when colour television started rolling out of the factories and his customers muttered about maybe trying one of those new sets, just to see how the snooker looked, he wasn’t playing. “It’ll never catch on,“ he announced. “Too expensive. I shan’t be stocking any.”

Problem was, his competitors had a more flexible approach to customer satisfaction so it wasn’t long before my dad’s more adventurous clientele jumped ship. After a while he grudgingly accepted that perhaps colour was the way to go and he allowed the contraptions in his shop. For the most part, though, he and the little old ladies were happy with their slot machines and rented fridges and life trundled on.

Next came hi-fi. Another fad. Another flash in the pan. My dad was unimpressed. “Who listens to music anyway? Everyone watches the television, especially now it’s in colour.” So he ignored the advent of stereo speakers, ghetto blasters, music centres. Yet more customers with cash burning holes in their pockets drifted away to spend it elsewhere, though the little old ladies remained loyal. Mostly.

The age of home computing was upon us. Well, some of us. My dad’s customers, naturally, would not care for such nonsense. He was convinced of this so he turned his face away from the Sinclair ZX and its cronies. “Grown adults wasting their time on silly games. It’ll not last…”

My dad retired years ago. His business was sold off in bits, the stock to one competitor, the rental contracts, those that remained, to another. Some of his stuff was snapped up by the National Museum of Film and Television which just happened to be in the town where we lived. The shop premises themselves are now a hairdressers. My dad plied his trade through much of the twentieth century, a period which saw some of the most momentous advances in electronics as well as the cultural upheaval of the sixties and seventies yet he managed to benefit hardly at all from any of it. He was surrounded by people he went to college with who were making fortunes out of the passing fancies, the fads, the daft ideas that would never catch on. They saw opportunity where he saw only risk and unnecessary meddling with things that worked perfectly well as they were.

My dad was an entrepreneur, of sorts. He had to be to run his own business and make enough to bring up four children but I wonder if he might have been happier as the curator of a museum. Certainly he was never cut out to be at the forefront of a technological revolution.

Even as a child, I was convinced he was missing a trick. Colour television was wonderful. I loved to listen to music, to play computer games. I like change, thrive on newness and risk. I always have, which is probably just as well given the somewhat unpredictable fortunes of an author. I hope I have a healthy attitude to risk and opportunity because if I hadn’t been ready to stick my neck out, to try something new and unproven, I’d never have written my first book.

And then where would I be?

Monday, July 24, 2017

All Fads Come to an End--or Do They?

Sacchi Green

Otherwise, they’re not fads, right? Not that I’m any expert. I’ve always been so behind the times that if I happen to notice a fad and check it out it’s about to become soooo last week/month/year. Most of them sail by without me noticing them at all, or did until social media made everything known by everyone every minute. Way back in ancient times I was only vaguely aware of Pet Stones (a Fake Fad if ever there was one,) but collecting virtual Pokemon critters couldn’t be missed. That one is still going on, apparently; one doesn’t hear so much about it any more, but I just saw a news article about a Pokemon convention in big trouble because something went wrong and the attendees couldn’t log on or plug in or whatever it was they’d come to do. Hell hath no fury like a fad’s tru-fans deprived of their promised treats.

I’ve probably partaken of fads without even realizing it, but the first one I can really identify was in college, when “wheat jeans” were all the rage. Clothing is a fertile field for fads—I suspect the term  “fads” is the flighty offspring of “fashion”—and while I couldn’t afford to pay much attention to fashion, one did have to have jeans, and the non-blue natural cotton color ones weren’t all that expensive, so even in my cut-rate co-op dorm at an elite womens’ college (we did all or most of the housework for a reduction in fees, and were the go-to group when there were temporary campus jobs available or babysitting for faculty offspring or pretty much anything to finance taking a train or bus to Yale or Harvard for the weekend) most of us managed to not be behind the times by stuffing our behinds into snug “wheat” colored jeans. In fact on our dorm’s page in the college yearbook that year we featured a photo of a row of our pale-garbed behinds as we posed leaning over as though looking out the wide front window. Years later when the fad for “designer jeans” came along, I realized how lucky we’d been in our impecunious youthful innocence to have a fad we could afford to indulge in. Although the even later fad for “distressed” jeans (holes in the knees, gaps here and there, threadbare patches) would have been still cheaper, since we could easily “distress” our own. I’ve noticed lately that the holey jeans have come back in fashion, which means, of course, that they must be on the way out again if I finally noticed.

Since I’m personally tone-deaf when it comes to fads, the characters n my stories aren’t particularly aware of them either, but all this reminiscing about jeans has reminded me about one story where the main character came close to losing hers. So, herewith, I present snippets from one of my pet stories.
Bull Rider
Sacchi Green

Sin City of the 70's, still sizzling in the 80's. Cheap pot you could smoke in the coffeehouses, but that's not what lit my fire. Sex shows and leather-toy shops? Coming a whole lot closer; but what really ignited a slow burn low in my Levis were stories of the working girls displaying their wares behind lace-curtained windows. Something about the dissonance between elegance and raunch struck a chord.


I still needed to drown my sorrows in whatever fleshpots I could find. I was not going to leave Europe without at least a taste of decadence.
You don't get to taste much, though, without a few guilders clinking in the pockets of your jeans. Which I didn't have. Damn near didn't even have the jeans. First French-tourist jerk-off to point at my ass and say, "'Ow much?" came close to losing his business hand. "Chienne! Pour les Levis!" he hissed, rubbing his numbed wrist.
"More than you've got!" I stepped away, and he scurried in front of me with a fistful of bills. "No way," I said, lengthening my stride until he dropped back. Before I made it across the Centraal Station plaza I'd had two more offers, Spanish and Japanese, and damnsure would have taken one if I'd had any alternate covering for my BVD's. But, after that fiasco at the Equestrian Tournament, I'd left behind everything except my hat, buckskin pants, and fringed jacket. And I'd pawned the leathers to raise plane fare home. Too damn cheaply, if even torn jeans reeking of horses and stable muck were in this much demand.
Maybe the stable muck was the selling point. Authenticity. I could've made a fortune if I'd known enough to dirty more jeans! The question now was, could I parlay all that authenticity into getting laid? I had 24 hours before my flight to find out. And a conniving little preppie to purge from my system.

(snipping all the good parts about riding a mechanical bull in a bar in Amsterdam, moving along to a houseboat on a canal)

By morning, when Margaretha dropped off some coffee and hot rolls and my hat filled with cash, we were both sore and exhausted. And as high if we'd just won the gold.
"Take all this." I dumped the money on the bed between Anneke's splayed legs. "If my half is enough, could you get my leathers out of hock and send them to me? I'll find the pawn a minute...if I ever manage to move..."
"Maybe I shall find a way to deliver them in person." Anneke rolled over to straddle my thigh. "You won't mind, Toby, if I wear those snug trousers a bit, maybe ride in them? And think of you, and get them very, very wet?"
"We could send them back and forth," I said, "until they're seasoned enough to travel on their own. But in person would be a damn sight better." I found the energy to flip her over; maybe the coffee was kicking in. I nuzzled my face into the pale-gold fur adorning her finely seasoned pussy. "Just how wet did you have in mind?" Exhaustion forgotten, I was ready to ride again.

Okay, the pants under discussion at the end were buckskin leathers, not jeans, but the jeans were hanging around somewhere, probably under the bed. Come to think of it, jeans in one form or another have become such staples of wardrobes everywhere that if they were ever a fad (yes, I know they began as sturdy work clothes about the time of the California Gold Rush, but they weren’t fashionable, as such, until much later) they can’t be dsimissed as a fad anymore, so, in a sense, I was right in my title here. All fads come to an end, sometimes because they’re not fads any more, they’re classics.  


Sunday, July 23, 2017

How Time Makes Fools of Us All

by Jean Roberta

What would I know of fads? I like to think my taste in most things (clothes, literature, art, music) is “classic,” but sometimes this just describes the fads of yesteryear.

When I began writing stories with explicit sex scenes, I hoped that erotica wouldn’t turn out to be a fad. So far, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The presidency of Donald Trump is one fad that I (and many others) hope will end as quickly as an English teacher can spell “IMPEACH.”

The trouble with any fad is that no one knows when or if it will end. Motion pictures with sound were described as a silly fad when they were new. After all, "silent" movies with a musical accompaniment were universal, since they didn’t require the actors to speak in any human language.

Rock-and-roll was described as a vulgar, passing fad by harrumping adults in the 1950s and even the ‘60s. In the mid-sixties, there were three major bands that I knew of, and they were often compared, as though only one could survive for another year. They were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Dave Clark Five. No one knew at the time which of these would turn out to be a fad.

School dress codes of the time were unbearable. Teenage girls were universally criticized for wearing skirts that showed their knees. The conservative types (and even leering boys) who assessed the moral fiber of each miniskirt-wearer didn’t understand that when a handful of designers have launched the latest style, manufacturers start producing it, and soon nothing else can be found in the stores. Short skirts weren’t all about sexual availability. And when girls were sent home to change clothes, what were they supposed to change into? Pants/trousers were considered even less suitable for school than short skirts.

At the time, my mother told me that men’s trousers had always been fairly baggy, and always would be. Apparently she hadn’t looked at any all-male rock band on TV. Nor had she noticed Henry VIII showing off his legs in a pair of hose in a full-color reproduction in a coffee-table book we had, titled World-Famous Paintings.

I was told that university education (and worse, professional training) for women was a passing fad that would have to give way to reality. How could women possibly become doctors or lawyers? Well, okay, there might be a few, but those gals were clearly freaks who were probably infertile.

Here is a passage from my historical novella, The Flight of the Black Swan, in which Emily the narrator contemplates a possible career as a couturiere for the drag queens who are her shipmates. She has shockingly chosen to wear men’s trousers, altered to fit, instead of the fashionably voluminous skirts of the 1860s.

As I stood at the rails, admiring the view, or wandered about the ship in search of occupation, men consulted me about fashion and adornment. Could I make a gentleman’s waistcoat out of brocade, assuming there was some to be had in the Bahamas? Would I consider making a lady’s gown to a man’s dimensions out of an old sail which could be dyed a beautiful dark blue once indigo was procured? Did I think pearl or diamond jewellery to be better suited to a rather sallow complexion? Did I not think that parting one’s hair exactly in the middle made one’s nose look too long?

Watching the clouds, my companions sighed about the virtues of fine cotton: its softness against the skin, its fresh smell when freshly-ironed, its fluidity, its elegance, and its scarcity since the beginning of the American war.

Early in our voyage, I asked Roger and Martin about our mission. “Husbands,” I asked them, “are we to settle in the Bahamas? And how will we survive?”

Martin cleared his throat. “We may do, Emily,” he told me, “but first we need to intercept a blockade-runner.”

Roger had explained to me that the attempts of the Union government to cut off supplies to the Confederacy were regularly thwarted by cleverly-manned schooners from the southern states which sailed to Nassau to trade cotton and tobacco for items more useful to the southerners. He hadn’t told me that few of the Green Men valued the life of a darky more than a bale of cotton or a pound of tobacco.

“Cotton?” I shrieked, completely out of sorts. “Are we sailing to the New World like adventurers of old just to steal a shipload of cotton? Are you stark raving mad?”

“Get hold of yourself, Emily,” admonished Roger. “Have you never heard of expeditions to the Far East for spices and silk? Some adventurers made fortunes for themselves and improved the lives of all their countrymen. And cotton is not all we need. Tobacco, especially in a good cigar, makes men more amiable. The best physicians attest to this. Green Men aren't spartans, dear. We need beauty and pleasure as much as we need air.”

His argument was persuasive, if lacking in moral rigor. So we were not all set on defending universal freedom after all.

Now I knew that I could earn my own fortune as a dressmaker for men, who would pay me in coin and in adoration if I could dress them in ladies’ attire – and gentlemen’s suits as well. For an instant, I imagined myself as a designer to rival Monsieur Worth in Paris. I could ease my conscience by repaying my parents for the extraordinary expense of my education, which had caused them hardship.

(If you would like a link, try copying this:

As we all know now, the American Civil War—like other wars—was a passing fad because one side won. (And as is often the case, the side that won the first battles was not the side that had the last word, so to speak.)

Keeping up with fads is as tricky as balancing on an endless tightrope. Anyone who grabs hold of the latest thing is likely to be considered ridiculous, especially after the fad has passed, but those who don’t even seem to know what the latest thing is seem dense or deliberately ignorant.

Is erotica about Bigfoot or dinosaurs a fad that has passed? If so, I hardly noticed it.

Excuse me while I go scroll through various social media to find out what is trending so I can explain why I’m “above” being influenced by particular fads.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stay tuned

Sorry my post is late, folks.

July 21 is what Spouse and I call our private anniversary: the date when we first spent the night together, 28 years ago. (Our public anniversary is the date of our Halloween wedding in 2010.) We went out for supper.

Is celebrating anniversaries a fad? Probably not.

I will post something here tomorrow.

- Jean Roberta

Thursday, July 20, 2017

All's Well That Ends Well/Time to Say Goodbye

by Giselle Renarde

There's a radio program I've been listening to for the past ten years. It's on from 10pm until midnight. The host has the perfect voice for that time of night. She shares the perfect anecdotes for that drowsily contemplative space of hours. Better still, she plays the perfect music.  Over the years she's introduced me to music from Bjork, Tanya Tagaq, Owen Pallett, Anohni, and so many other artists whose talent I've grown to crave and adore.

Over the past month or so, there's one particular song that kept making its way onto the playlist. I noticed it sticking in my head. I heard myself singing it around the house, and I didn't mind because I liked it so much.  The song is by Blood and Glass, and it's called Punk Shadows. The first lines in this song are exactly what you see as the title of this post:

All's Well That Ends Well
Time to Say Goodbye

Two weeks ago I was at the cottage ("the cottage" = someone else's cottage), staying in a room without a radio. For me, for someone who would chose music over food, being without a radio at night is like... I don't even know what. Tragic.

The owners of this cottage are family friends, and these people are very choosy about who they invite. My mother had warned me not to use "too much internet" but there was one night when I couldn't help myself. I knew I had to tune in to my radio show. An imperative. Something was telling me I couldn't miss it.

I listened online, time-shifted, because it was already past midnight.

That night, the host announced she would be leaving the show. The show would be leaving the show. The radio program I'd been listening to for the past ten years would be no more.

How do I describe how I felt, hearing this news? Gutted. Yes, gutted. There's no other word for it. I found this out two weeks ago and I'm still in mourning.

I don't begrudge the host her choice. I'm not mad at her for leaving. It's not personal in that sense. I just feel a deep, deep sense of loss in knowing this show will be coming to an end.

Maybe part of the reason the news hit me so hard is this:

At the beginning of my relationship with my girlfriend, we chatted for hours every night via instant messenger. We still do, but nine years ago I didn't have a wireless modem. Every night, I chatted with her on the Mac in my bedroom with my radio right behind me. This radio show I'm telling you about--it was the soundtrack of those early chats. I associate the show with my relationship. The idea of the show ending automatically triggered panic: is it foreshadowing things to come? When I left for the cottage, Sweet and I weren't on the best of terms. Time apart helped a lot, but when I heard the news of my show ending, I didn't feel that I was on the firmest footing with my girlfriend.

The other thought that popped into my head was this:

I need to tell my readers I'm not going anywhere.

Loss is a part of life, sure, but like Cameron said the other day--I'm not catching a fad wave with my writing career. Some of you have known me a good long time. I've been doing this job for more than a decade. I plan to continue. Forever. Or at least until I die. You can count on me. There's not much in life you can count on, but stick by me. I have been there. I will be there.

The only real commitment I've ever made in my life is to my readers. I don't know if that's sad and pathetic, or if it just goes to show how highly I value the people who read my books. I treasure this writing career. When I think about dying, I don't wonder who will take care of my cats (that's a no-brainer: my brother will do it), I think, "Who will take care of my work?"

There's nothing I can do to prevent the inevitable end of my favourite radio program. That's going to happen whether I like it or not. But hopefully this post will set a few minds at ease. As Cameron mentioned, lots of authors bolt when the coffers are running on empty. I'm not one of those.

My coffers have always have been empty. I'm still here.

If you'd like to commune with me through music, I created a playlist to accompany my novel In Shadow. I hope you'll give it a listen. A lot of these songs came to my attention through the radio show whose praises I've been singing in this post.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Drowned" A Faddish Sketch

(This is a weird, possibly offensive germ of a story.  A first draft with a spell check that seems like it could be something interesting with a little work)

Her hand pushed the weathered screen door, she stepped into the chill of the Caffe Buono coffee shop.  The ever present smoky aroma of the coffee roaster in the back, the hushed chatter of the people at the tiny round tables and the clink of cups created the feeling of stepping from one world to the next.  In both worlds she felt alone.

She scanned the faces, some of whom looked up as she moved into the new space of noise and smoke and boundaries.  Where was he?  She was sure it was a he.  It sounded like a he on Facebook.  There was an older man sitting in the back typing, tight in his world.  He would not be the one.  Would be extra creepy if he was.  Some scholarly kids with laptops, maybe, but not interested in her.  Was there someone, this was the appointed time, was there someone, some young man looking at her with interest asking the same question on her mind.  Is this the person?

She continued to stand in the door, scanning the tables, the faces, waiting for some unplanned intuition to speak to her.  There was nothing for it.  It was possible the guy wasn’t even here.  Maybe he had decided to off himself without her.

She went to the counter and glanced over the chalkboard listings.  A new one "Affogato".  

"What’s Affogato?" she asked the counter guy.  Could he be the one?  He looked too cheerful.  But what did that prove?

"Affogato means drowned," he said.  "It’s ice cream with a double shot of espresso poured over it."

"I'll have that."


If she found the guy, would be hungry?  Would a person like her, under these circumstances be eating a scone?  "No scone."  It occurred to her that a person even eating a scoop of ice cream might be too cheerful or even celebratory for all this.  She handed him her credit card.  He swiped it on an iPad and passed it to her and she signed with her finger, a bright curlicue.  It reminded her of Fourth of July picnics at night, waving a sparkler through the night, running down fields.  She felt a pang. She looked to the door.  It wasn't too late to run, just run.

"Thanks," said the counter guy.  "We’ll call you."

She stepped away and stood against the wall.  She waited.  Affogato.  That could have been a code word if she'd known there was such a thing. I'll be the one sitting alone eating an Affogato.  I'll be the drowned girl. 

Drowning seemed like a particular bad way to go.  Violent. Your body would fight you, resist the betrayal the mind had imposed on it.  Drowning was not the way.  What were the logistics of this thing?

Everything had logistics.  If you were a thief, the logistic was not breaking in, it was about not getting caught.  If you were a hacker, it was about not getting caught.  If you were trying to kill yourself it was about not getting caught by your own body, your fear at the last moment.  If you jumped off a building and had second thoughts on the way down, it would be too late.  How many people had second thoughts after the commencement of seeing it through?

"Affogato." The counter guy was looking at her.

"Drowned," she said.  She took the dish.

Drowning wouldn’t cut it, she thought.  It doesn't make a statement to those you leave behind.  It can be accidental.  One does not want to be accidental.  This is about you, she would want to say.  You broke my heart, you did this.

She found an empty table near a group of boys and just sat.  The ice cream did look a little drowned as the hot coffee began to consume it into a frothy cream.  The whole business, it was just ungrateful.

"You wouldn't drown yourself would you?" said a bios voice behind her.  She turned.

"Facebook?" she said.

"Yeah," he said.  He sat down.  "I'm -"

"You're not going to tell me your name are you?" she said.  "I don't want to know your name."

"Okay," he said.

"Want a bite?"  She raised the spoon.  "No cooties yet."

He took the spoon and put it in his mouth.  He looked kind of cute. Suspiciously cheerful.  If he should have been dressed in black like a sulky Hamlet - to be or not to be, maybe not - it would have been more obvious. Nothing about this was obvious.  She wondered if even her weariness showed.

"Gonna miss ice cream," he said.

"I don't believe in that shit," she said.

"Ice cream?"

"After life.  Regret."

"Oh let's not talk about that shit.  How you going to do it?"

"I'm looking for ideas."

"I can't believe you haven't thought about this."

"What about you?"

"I'm thinking of freezing to death.  It's like going to sleep. "

"How you going to do that?"

"I know a guy who has a meat locker.  Gets about 35 degrees."

"Is that enough?"

"I guess."

"What about a gun?"

"I don't have a gun."

"You can get one.  That's what I'm thinking."

"We're doing this together right?  That's the deal we said."

"Well what's a good gun?  I don't have much money."

"Maybe a little gun is cheaper than a big gun.  Maybe a 22?"

The next table over had gone quiet.  Chairs turned.  Guys leaned in.  "Naw,
man.  Don't use a 22."

They turned and looked the guys.  "You been listening?"

"Twenty two?" said another kid.  "That's stupid.  That's like using an ice pick on yourself.  Shoot yourself in the head, you don’t die, just an impromptu lobotomy."

"Wait, wait," said the girl. 

"Hemingway used a shot gun," said another kid.  He put the barrel under his chin, and just sort of wrapped his toe around the trigger - BOOM!"

Now people were looking.

"Don't use a 22, not if you're serious.  Serious people, shot gun."

"Would you use a shotgun?" said another kid.

"Hell, I'd use a nerf gun."

"What??  Get the fuck out."

"No, man, you get these nerf guns, they look real.  You go somewhere, you wave it around, some cop shoots you."

"Fuck, that's sick."

"Well, what isn't?" 

"Well, for one thing, it makes you look like an asshole.  Threatening people with a gun.  Little kids.  It makes you look like a total asshole.  Get your name on the news, but it's the wrong message.  It's not 'you done broke my heart, fuck you Cruel World,' its like ‘Mommy made me nuts and I wanna cry but I got a cop to shoot me cause I’m too chicken shit to off myself.'  That makes you a punk.  You couldn’t do it.”

“Plus you're wasting your fifteen minutes of fame."

"Fifteen minutes.  I like that."

"Warhol said that."

"Who the fuck's Warhol?"

"The guy that's doing your mama!  You don't know who the fuck Andy Warhol is?  Get the fuck out of here.  You’re repugnantly ignorant."

"Warhol is cool," said another kid.  "He did Marylyn Monroe.  And soup cans and shit."

"A shotgun?” said the girl, “that’s what you're telling me?"

"Course you could end up just blowing your teeth down your throat, like that guy on the show 'Preacher'?  That motherfucker is gross."

"No!  That clown in American Horror Story!  That's what he did!  Blew his face off with a shotgun.  So he has this mouth mask.  That was some fucked up shit."

"Naw man, don't use a shot gun."

"I think we're getting off the subject," said the boy. 

"You're not going to freeze to death," said one of the other kids.  "Not in high summer in Georgia.  But if you did freeze to death when it's a hunnert fucking degrees out there, that would be cool. Now that would a statement."

"Irony," said another kid.  It's got irony."

"It does, it does."

"What's wrong with pills?"

She ate her ice cream.  Worked the spoon around the bowl.  Feeling the boy’s eyes on her she put her tongue out.  She had a long tongue and licked the edge of the bowl.  Then the inside of the bowl.  With their eyes on her she licked the spoon, long and slow.  She worked that spoon.

Their eyes were on her.  All their eyes. 

“You got talent,” a boy sighed.  “Don’t waste that talent you got.”

She set the bowl down and stood up, looking towards the door.


She turned and all the boys were looking at her.  "Feel better now?" said one.

And then she knew.  She did.  It was out of her system.  It had been a dumb idea.

"I know what I'm going to do now," she said.  "I'm going into show business.  If I'm going to die on stage I want to get paid for it."

She walked away without looking back.

Outside, the heat and the sunshine felt beautiful.