Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Slow Seduction

I’d been chasing this twink for weeks now. He’d show up every Friday night at the bar, sometimes Saturday too, and I’d get hot and bothered just watching him work it out on the dance floor. With a drink in hand, a lithe body in sticking-to-his-skin sweaty clothing, and a radiant smile that beamed across the whole club, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

But he ignored me the first few times we crossed paths. I’d watch him from my seat at the bar and sometimes he’d glance over my way mid-bump-and-grind, but the eye contact would be fleeting at best, non-existent at worst. I had a good twenty years on him — I had to be double his age — and no matter how fit I was, nubile twinks didn’t go for daddies like me. They wanted the jocks and twinks, so their sex would be like porn.

But all I wanted was to buy him a drink.

The fourth consecutive Friday of being in the club at the same time, I finally broke the ice.

“Hi,” I said as he came up beside me at the bar so he could order a Smirnoff Ice. God, he was even more delicious up close.

“Hey,” he said, barely giving me a second glance.

“You’re a good dancer.”

That made him smile — and, God, his smile was gorgeous. “Thanks, man,” he said to me, then he nodded as the bartender handed him the bottle. He took a swig and I watched his Adam’s apple bob with the swallow. “You should join us out there.”

I chuckled and looked at his small group of friends, all of whom were dancing and oblivious to my obvious attempts at picking up their friend. “I don’t know about that. I’m a terrible dancer.”

“You need one of these,” he said, tipping his drink back for another swig, “to loosen up. Just have fun!” And with that, he sauntered off, hips swaying to the music as he wove his way through the crowd and back to his friends. He looked my way a few times that night, but with eye contact that lingered.

I went back the next night and he was there too. I watched him dance — he was with only a few friends that night, but still seemed to have as much fun as when his entire group was there. He had an energy that attracted me and drew me toward him.

Fuck it, I thought, and flagged the bartender down for a Smirnoff Ice. With some liquid courage, I sauntered onto the dance floor and did my best not to look like a fool. The boy’s face lit up when he saw me join his small circle of friends. I realized then that I still didn’t know the guy’s name and he didn’t know mine. Right now, though, it didn’t matter. I took another swig of alcohol and sugar and tried to let the music flow through me, tried to match what the boy was doing.

He grabbed my free hand and helped me ease into a smoother rhythm. My heart started to beat faster, but not from the dancing — it was from the electric touch of his fingers on mine. He laughed as I made a goofy move and I started to relax a little more, overcoming the self-consciousness I fought against.

Several songs later, I was as sweaty as him. I headed back to the bar for another drink and winked at him over my shoulder as I peeled away from his group. When I got to the bar, I saw I had been victorious in my attempt — he had followed me.

“I never got your name,” I said. I held out my hand for him to shake. “I’m Tim.”

He grasped my hand and shook. My thick fingers dwarfed his fine features. “I’m Caleb.”

“Can I buy you a drink?”

We spent most of the rest of the evening chatting at the bar while his friends kept dancing. I caught them looking over at us and gossiping, but they didn’t interrupt. As we talked, I learned that he was more than just a pretty face — he was smart, studying chemical engineering.

I sat a little closer to Caleb and he seemed to like it.  When a slow song came on, I dropped my hand to my thigh and brushed my fingertips against his leg. He put his hand on mine and held it as we carried on with talking. I felt my heart race again with a new feeling — this was no longer just sexual … I wanted this boy … I wanted Caleb.

We kept holding hands long past the end of the slow song, until the bar was starting to close down. Caleb’s friends had apparently ditched him, likely thinking he was in good hands. I already like his friends, I mused. When the DJ finished his set and the house lights came on, we stood, still holding hands.

“Do you need a ride home?” I asked.

He smiled rather mischievously. “I’d love that.”

He didn’t let go of my hand, so we walked together out of the bar and toward my car. When we entered and closed the door, he pulled me close and pressed his lips hard against mine, kissing me with a passion that easily matched what I’d been feeling all evening — what I’d been feeling since I first saw him weeks ago.

Overwhelming lust consumed me and as he kissed me, I struggled with his clothes and mine, lifting up his shirt and undoing his pants and him trying to do the same to me in our frantic and chaotic moment of passion. I wrenched his hard dick out of his pants a second before he did the same to me and I went down on it, taking it in my mouth, sucking on that youthful shaft. He moaned and quivered and leaned back in his chair. He never let go of my dick; he started stroking it in time with my sucking. With his other hand, he wove his fingers through my hair. It was a tender gesture, a caring one, and it only spurred me to suck him deeper.

Maybe it was the effect of the alcohol or a sign of how horny we both were, but he came quickly, filling my mouth with his tart heat. I swallowed it all down and licked him clean. He sighed with immense satisfaction, but when I sat upright again, he immediately dove down toward my crotch, sucking on my dick like I’d sucked on his. His warm, tight, wet mouth wrapped around my shaft and slid down to the base. The muscles of his tongue and cheeks and lips and throat all rippled and moved against my sensitive skin. This boy was talented. Or maybe I was just so fucking horny. Or … it was likely both.

I had a shocking lack of stamina and seconds later I exploded in his mouth, shooting jet after jet of cum. He swallowed it all down, not letting a single drop escape. And when I had finished shooting and he had finished swallowing, he carefully licked my head and shaft, cleaning off the last bits of cum.

He sat back in his seat and we both stared out the windshield, struggling to regain our breath. Our dicks, now limp and glistening with spit, still hung out of our pants.

“That was…” I said, struggling to find an appropriate description.

“Incredible,” Caleb said. He smiled and I couldn’t help the expression of sexual triumph that was likely plain as day on my face.

After a few more moments of comfortable silence, we packed away our dicks and I started the car.

“Where am I taking you?” I asked.

He looked at me and bit his lip rather demurely. “How about your place?”

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Trouble with Triumph

Sacchi Green

Triumph is closely identified with winning, defeating competitors, or odds, or one’s own self-doubts. Scoring high in a marathon, for instance, could involve all three. There’s nothing wrong with triumphing, especially if what you’ve won, like a political position or a job advancement, puts you in position to accomplish worthy goals, which would be further triumphs.

But while some people handle triumph well, even gracefully, some get addicted to it. Going from one triumph to another can be fine for a while, but letting triumph itself become the whole point can do tremendous damage. Think, for instance, of people triumphant in terms of wealth who are driven to accumulate more and more, depriving others of resources they really need, because they’re addicted to playing a game where money is the fuel of triumph, and of power, and therefore of a sense of self-worth. The worst of these addicts play not only for wealth, but for the joy of defeating others. It’s not enough to win; someone else must lose, and the more painfully, the better. I don’t know whether there are many who feel this way, but we happen to have elected one of them who sees life in terms of “negotiations” that he feels must result in triumph for him and loss for someone else. Sort of the zero-sum equation.

You knew I was going there, didn’t you. And you probably see where I’m going next. That same addict to triumph hungers for power and prestige, and has, to even his own surprise, achieved what might be the pinnacle of both, but without understanding the responsibilities involved. He loves to stage rallies with his rabid supporters, and promise them anything, but has no idea of how or whether those promised could ever be kept. He doesn’t understand the way the government works, or what the consequences of his actions or inactions can be. He needs continual assurance of approval, even adulation, without knowing how to earn those. He may not aspire to be a military conqueror along the lines of Alexander the Great, who went from victory to victory, conquering much of what was seen at the time as the known world and is often ranked among the most influential people in history, but then again, he may not know enough history to have heard of Alexander. If he has, he certainly wouldn’t want to be personally at the head of his troops in warfare as Alexander was, and has used every means possible not to serve in his own country’s military when he was the appropriate age. He does, however, want to use the military power of his country to achieve some kind of personal glory and a sense of triumph.

Enough of that. Things are what they are, and we do all we can through voting and activism to work toward our own vision of political triumph. But as writers, on a personal level, we’ve all have our few moments of triumph and of loss. I felt something like triumph when I sold my first story for publication and for real (though scant) money. I actually sold two at about the same time, but I think the first to see print was in the long-gone Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Other modest sales in fantasy and science fiction were thrills, but the first, I think, was the closest to triumph. My first erotica sale, though, to Best Lesbian Erotica 1999, felt like a triumph all over again. So did my first contract to edit an anthology, and later my first contract from a more established publisher, one who’d ignored my anthology proposals before even though I’d had many stories in their previous books, but eventually called on me because they’d had trouble with another editors and people I’d worked with by then had recommended me as someone who could handle the administrative part of editing.  I guess triumph is measured by what you feel more than by any other criterion.

I’ve had what I’ve perceived as triumphs again from time to time in the way of awards for my anthologies, two of them Lambda Literary awards and five Golden Crown Literary Awards. I admit that I enjoyed the hell out of going up onto the stage to accept the Lambda awards, but with mixed feelings. One reason for that was that those awards were for my contributors, not for my own writing. Once a collection of my own work was a Lambda finalist, but otherwise I was just the name on the cover, the administrative editor, which was fine, but not exactly a cause for triumph. Another reason was that there were never as many entries in my category of Lesbian Erotica as there were in most other categories, so “triumph” didn’t mean as much.

Still, I admit that I became an awards junkie in a small way.  I’m trying to get over it, and pretty much succeeding. For one thing, erotica in general is becoming less and less well-regarded. Maybe the dross of lowest-common-denominator schlock available has driven out the questionable gold. The Lambda Awards have now combined the Gay and Lesbian erotica books into one category, and the list is still pretty short. Calls for Submissions for erotica anthologies are few and far between, also reflecting the lack of interest in short stories as opposed to novels. I’ve been told that the Golden Crown awards committee is having a very hard time finding judges willing to read erotica. Sigh. Sic Transit Gloria…um, what’s the Latin for Erotica? Maybe just Eros?

Well, there are other times for triumph. Such as, finishing a novel. I’m slogging away at coping with an experienced novel editor’s edits of a novel I’ve more or less written, and when I’ve finally finished, I’ll think I’ll feel some degree of triumph mixed with the relief of being done with it, and, most likely, never get involved in novel writing again. When I think of all the short stories I could have written, wanted very much to write, in the time it’s taken me to wrestle with this 65,000 word document, it’s downright depressing. If there’s a moral to all this, it’s something similar to “choose your fights,” but more like, “choose the kinds of triumphs you can love to aim for.”

(I hope it's okay to add that I do, in fact, have a new Call for Submissions out in the usual market listings, including the ERWA one, for what should be called Best Lesbian Erotica 2019, but under new management is titled Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume Three. And my Volume 2 is coming out next month.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Victorian Salvation

by Jean Roberta

In Victorian novels (as well as those from earlier eras), heroines are saved from starvation and disgrace by offers of marriage from gentlemen of means, or by inheriting money from unexpected sources.

I seem to be a Victorian heroine, not that I was facing starvation or any more disgrace than I’ve faced for the past forty-some years.

Last week, I went to a lawyer’s office to pick up a very large cheque (5 figures in Canadian money) and bring it to the bank to park it in the joint account I share with my spouse Mirtha. This windfall is the last installment of my inheritance from my parents, who both passed away in 2009. There will be no more money from that source, and I will probably never hear from my two sisters again, since they will have no reason to forward me their emails about family financial affairs.

The amount in my bank account is already earmarked for some big projects: fixing the roof of the house where my younger stepson lives, still owned by Mirtha and me, and renovating the basement of our own house. (Since all the stuff down there will have to be cleared out, this project can wait until spring.)

I’ve already registered us to attend Eroticon in London, England, in March 2018. I hope we can meet up with erotic writers I already know.

I’m not sure an inheritance can be considered a “triumph,” since I didn’t do anything to earn it, but it’s certainly good news.

A character in my most recent story is saved from entering the oldest profession by parallel news about money from an estranged relative. The story itself is far from a triumph, since it was rejected by Delilah Devlin for her upcoming “bad boys” anthology about pirates. She explained that some of the stories she received had enough sex in them, but not enough romance for her "bad boy" series. Fair enough.

Considering that my story, “Launched,” takes place in the imaginary world of my novella, The Flight of the Black Swan, romance between a woman and a man would be quite a stretch.

The narrator, Lady Florinda, escapes from the family mansion in 1861 rather than be forced into an arranged marriage. She dyes her hair and finds a job as a barmaid called Flossie in a certain pub, the Fairy Ring, that caters to the Green Men’s Society of gentlemen who prefer other gentlemen.

Two of Flossie’s devoted customers turn out to be bisexual, and the three of them enjoy a romp in her little bed-chamber, where her two friends encourage her to join them on a stolen ship, The Black Swan, to evade the police. She says she just couldn’t, but tells them she will join the demimonde on land.

One of the men, himself a nobleman in disguise, gives her some good news:

Bruce used his shirt to wipe my face, my belly and my thighs. “Dearest, please don’t sell yourself to every man in London. I couldn’t bear to think about the treatment you could receive. You have resources, you know.”

If he meant my face and my body, how else could I use them except to barter for the necessities of life?

He changed the topic of conversation, or so I thought. “Did you ever hear of Lady Cassandra Hightart, your father’s cousin and my aunt by marriage?”

“Yes,” I told him, “but she never came to visit. I thought her cold and rude, or possibly insane.”

“That’s what you were told.” The look of sympathy in Bruce’s ocean-blue eyes was unsettling. Colin looked from one of us to the other as though watching a game. Or a duel.

“Your father never forgave her for leaving most of her fortune to you in her will. She took a fancy to you when you were a tiny girl just learning to speak, and you asked to use her parasol to shelter your favorite doll from the rain. She decided that if she never had children, she would make you her heiress. That was why she was banned from your house.”

For a moment, I was speechless. Bruce held me as I tried to digest the news.

“She has gone to her reward, as you probably know.”

“I didn’t.” I was growing indignant at my father, whose control over me was more important to him than my welfare. My mother surely would have protested against his methods had she lived.

“How smashing!” said Colin. “You’re going to be a lady indeed. Not to us, though.” He squeezed one of my nipples.

My body reacted, but my mind was whirling. “What do I need to do?” I asked Bruce.

“Before we go to sea, I shall introduce you to the solicitor handling the will. After that, it should be a simple matter of blocking your father’s interference. You’ve come of age, so he can’t claim to act in your behalf.”

Tears poured from my eyes, but now they were signs of joy. “Thank you,” I sniffed. “Thank you for this.”

“You can still whore about,” Colin advised me. “All the best ladies do.”

Another consideration presented itself to me. “How long have you known about Lady Cassandra’s will?”
Bruce looked away from me. “I knew before my own disgrace. Then, of course, I was banished from my own home, and I never had a chance to speak to you before finding you here. Why would I tell you something that might send you away from me? From us.”

So Bruce had resigned himself to my refusal to join him on a stolen ship, even if Colin hadn’t.

All we three had left to do was to clean up after ourselves in every sense. Luckily, there was some water in the pitcher on my trunk, which I used as a dressing-table, and I poured it into the basin to wash myself as well as I could.

I would have many opportunities for luxurious baths in hot soapy water in the future. For now, I wished to make myself presentable while avoiding an emotional scene with my two dear friends, from whom I would soon be parted. When I wiped my cunny with the edge of my wash-cloth, it was smeared with blood.

“Flossie.” Bruce’s low voice sounded almost like a lullaby. “Please let me keep the evidence as a souvenir.” He pulled the cloth from my hand, and I let it go. If he wanted a souvenir of my entry into sexual womanhood, that meant he didn’t intend to forget me.

We were all washed with tears again when we said our private goodbyes. Colin looked very downhearted when he realized that our paths had already diverged considerably. “We can send you letters,” he promised. “I’ll bring paper to write down our adventures, and when we meet other ships, I’ll ask them to take our epistles to you, in care of Mr. Robin Straw at The Fairy Ring.”

“I’ll watch for them, Colin. Please write to me too, Bruce. If you wish to send me private messages in code, use French or Latin, and I will use a dictionary to decipher them.”

My hairy, muscular man pressed me to his chest, and I could feel his heart thumping. “We’ll return someday, Florinda, and we hope you won’t shun us when we do.“

“Not even if I’m the wife of a prince. I wouldn’t marry any of them, but if I did, you would still be my honored guests.” For that, I received a kiss on the mouth from the man who held me, and a playful smack on the bottom from the other.

Bruce reluctantly opened his arms to let me dress myself in clean underthings and the same gown in which I had come upstairs, in what felt like a different age. I couldn’t afford to stop appearing as Flossie the Raven-Haired Barmaid until my affairs were settled.

And that is how I was launched into my present life, before the Black Swan played a celebrated part in the American war, and returned home in triumph. Just as my heart-brothers, the Green Men, have no regrets for anything they have done, neither have I.

I don’t know when this story will be launched on the world, but it probably won’t be any time soon. It could become part of a fleet of stories in the world of the Green Men.

Since I’m not planning to quit my job, however, I have a mountain of student essays to mark before launching into any new writing projects.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The journey toward paying the rent starts with a single sale

by Giselle Renarde

Sometimes I lose sight of what's really important.

It's very easy to be swayed by all sorts of factors, even when you're a strongheaded person. Greed is a communicable disease. If you surround yourself with people who always want more, more, more, you're bound to catch it.

Humility is a quality I greatly admire, but it's never been my strong suit. The thing about selling books for a living is that books don't cost a lot of money. Each individual sale doesn't bring in a ton of dough. If you make your living as a writer, as I do, you have to sell a lot of books to pay the rent. Each individual sale is a drop in the ocean.

It's taken a drastic downturn in book sales for me to realize what a huge compliment every single sale is.

I don't know why it's taken me so long to realize this. I don't buy a lot of books myself. I read every day, but I get my books from libraries. The last book I bought was Janet Mock's Redefining Realness. In Canadian dollars, it was just over $20. I'm a low income earner. I saved up to buy it. I love that book. It's outstanding. I held it in such high esteem that, when the audiobook came out, I encouraged my library system to purchase a copy. They did. Sweet did the same with her library system, and they purchased the audiobook too.

Buying Redefining Realness was important to me. It was an experience. I still read in print, but the first bookstore I went to didn't carry it.  Saving for the book, going out on multiple excursions to find it in the world, and then buying my own copy... this was all very meaningful to me.

That was one sale of one book for Janet Mock. It was a memorable experience for me. I cherish that my copy.
My copy of Redefining Realness, with my favourite sections flagged.
I'd never considered that, when readers buy my books, they might be having similar experiences--and if not similar experiences, at least similar feelings. There's so much hope and anticipation infused into a book purchase. Readers are really hoping to find what they're looking for inside your story. Your words matter to them.

It's hard for me to imagine readers holding my words in high esteem, because I don't hold myself in high esteem. When I think there are people out there, people like me, who don't earn a lot of money but they've saved up to buy a book I've written, I feel humbled. I take that as such a huge compliment.

And it's not just the spending money aspect. It's the spending time aspect, too. So many people are so busy, and there's so much entertainment out there in the world, and in here in our computers. There are so many ways to be entertained and amused. It blows me away that people spend their time with my words, with my work.

In order for me to pay my rent and put food on the table (and in my cats' bowls), I need to sell hundreds of books every month. If I only sold one, I'd be in trouble. I think that's why I lost sight of how incredibly important every single sale is. The journey toward paying the rent starts with a single sale.

I never used to feel particularly emotional about book sales. I do now, more and more. The fewer books I sell, the more I value each individual sale. Each reader. Each minute spent consuming my work.

I need readers. I need sales. Without them, I wouldn't have anything to eat. I wouldn't have a roof over my head. But I'd lost sight of two very important truths: each reader is a blessing; each sale is a compliment. I hope to hell I don't lose sight of that again.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ode to My Potted Tropical Plant

Steady on at 36 degrees, the dark holds itself in stillness
ghost frost breathing seas over the glass
in the muted house
Retreating at the snap of the light.

My brave plant there, carried inside last night
Out of reach of the frost killing fingers of the alien American night.
Displaced in its small pot
Like an adventurous cripple in a wheel chair,  
Mobilis in mobili.
Under a broad leaf, a tiny green tree frog
Its ancestors brought in by banana boat
Generations past, dayo, dayo, me wanna go home,
Until the lady frogs gentled him into peace.

Does it know there is any other of its kind alive somewhere?
I give you the golden apples of the sun's lost light glide
And the white apples of the moon.

Paled by darkling night, naked, grudging night
forever greened by the light of the lording sky,
that belongs to no one.
Welcome to my kitchen.
Now, you.  Thrive.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


My daughter got a tattoo yesterday. I’m not a great fan of body art personally, and would never have let her have a tattoo when she was still young enough for my preferences to be relevant. But she’s an adult now so it’s her decision, and she’s been and gone and done it.

I’m surprised to find that I like the tattoo. It’s a tasteful design, nice colours, and located on the back of her shoulder so can be easily covered up if the occasion demands. But my main reason for liking it lies in what it represents.

People in the UK may recall an incident which took place on 24 October 2014 and was widely reported at the time. For reasons I still find hard to fathom a man killed his wife and two teenage daughters, then he hanged himself. The deaths were discovered by neighbours a couple of days later when the family failed to emerge for school and work on Monday morning. The younger of the two dead girls was my daughter’s close friend at school.

Obviously, the ramifications of such a horrendous incident are wide-ranging. The extended family, the community, colleagues, friends, acquaintances , all wondering what went wrong, why no one seemed to have an inkling that such a brutal act might take place. Were there really no clues, no signs that something was horribly amiss?

Apparently, there were not. It was a seemingly senseless act, but on this day three years ago a bright, lively family was wiped out in a matter of minutes.

My daughter was distraught.

We went to the house and left flowers, our contribution to the massive pile of tributes and cards already there. We talked. She raged and questioned and blamed the father, a natural enough response but by no means the entire story. He was ill, that much is obvious, and it was his illness – and perhaps the failure of those around him to recognize it – which caused the tragedy. I am no expert on mental health issues, far from it, but I can’t accept that there was any conscious, sane, malicious intent underlying his actions.

The whole family, including the father, shared the same funeral, a Hindu service attended by hundreds of people. We were there, of course, as were many other staff and students from their school. It was an occasion when I was reminded that despite the diversity of communities in the UK we have much more in common than that which divides us. Jo Cox (the murdered MP in case anyone is wondering) was right about that and I suppose that is a triumph of sorts.

But back to the tattoo. The tattoo, and the timing of it, are my daughter’s way of commemorating her friend. I know she will never forget Neesha. She mentions her often and treasures the few photographs she has of her. Neesha was not a particularly devout Hindu but she did like to sketch the traditional lotus symbol of her religion. My daughter saw her doodles often, and it was one of those that she had etched onto her shoulder yesterday, a triumphant reminder that memories never die.

Neesha’s lotus is permanent. It will grow old with my daughter. If anyone asks, she will tell them, but mainly it’s there for her, her own way of keeping her friend close.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Over Adversity (#triumph #luck #courage)

Reaching the Peak image

By Lisabet Sarai

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life. Though I wasn’t exactly born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I’ve never been poor or hungry. Through a combination of hard work and lucky breaks, I managed to get a stellar education without ending up buried in debt. I’ve had several stimulating careers; none of them has made me rich, but they’ve all provided enough money for me to be comfortable and independent, and enough challenge to satisfy me, intellectually and emotionally. Between work and leisure, I’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively. Living in several foreign cultures has expanded my understanding of the world.

Aside from terrible eyesight, flat feet and some arthritis, I don’t have any physical handicaps, and for more than six decades, have escaped any serious health issues. My relationships have been lucky, too: caring and supportive parents, strong connections with siblings, a few lifelong friendships, a couple dozen lovers in my wilder days and a marriage of more than thirty years duration since I’ve calmed down a bit.

I’ve always been gratefully aware of my good fortune, but lately I’ve been feeling humbled and embarrassed. As one natural disaster after another unfolds around the globe—as humans inflict horrible suffering on one another in a dozen different conflicts—as my friends and acquaintances face disability, disease and death—I can’t help but wonder why I’ve been spared.

Recently I ran a contest for members of my “VIP Email List”. I do this every few months. My usual strategy is to ask anyone who wants to enter to send me an email, answering some question, often about marketing issues. Then I randomly draw winners from the emails I get.

This time, I simply asked my readers to send me a bit of news about what they’d been doing recently, or what they had planned for Halloween. I received maybe a dozen responses. I was shocked by how many of them talked frankly about the problems they’d been facing. One reader’s home had been destroyed by Hurricane Irma, another by Hurricane Harvey (she even sent me photos of the flooding). A long time fan shared frustrating news about her daughter’s most recent, unsuccessful surgery. Another woman told me about her tango lessons. She used to belly dance, she confided, but since her MS has worsened, tango is the only sort of dance that fits her physical limitations. Then there’s the fan who serves as caretaker for her disabled husband and autistic son. She told me she’s looking forward to spending a quiet Halloween curled up in a chair reading.

The thing that struck me about all these emails was their mostly cheerful tone. These women were all dealing with adversity far beyond anything I’ve experienced, but they didn’t seem discouraged or demoralized. This was life, their notes implied. We don’t have any choice but to handle it as best we can.

Personally, I think this deserves the term “triumph”. These women are quiet, unsung heroines, managing in the face of difficult odds. I find myself wondering if I’d have their strength, if our positions were reversed.

I have a second cousin once removed who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a fairly rare genetic disorder that condemns the sufferer to increasingly severe paralysis, usually leading to early death. You can find out more about this debilitating disease here: http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/2017/06/charity-sunday-1-fightsma-donation.html Danny’s mom and dad basically spend their entire lives dealing with his limitations. I can scarcely imagine how difficult it must be for them, as well as for their other son and their extended family. Yet they post photos on Facebook of family gatherings, where everyone is smiling, including little Danny— grinning behind his oxygen mask. How do they do it? Where do they find the courage to live this life, to play the awful hand they’ve been dealt by Fate? Yet they do, one day at a time, and I believe there may be more love in their home than in most.

That’s my definition of triumph.

Then there’s this story, about a Syrian refugee who has managed to fulfill his dream of becoming a dancer:

Talk about overcoming obstacles—though in this case they’re economic, geopolitical, and cultural barriers rather than physical ones.

These stories inspire me, but they also make me uncomfortable. I haven’t been tested like this. I’m afraid that if I were, I’d be found wanting. I feel soft, spoiled by my good fortune, not to mention slightly terrified that the ill luck I’ve managed to escape thus far is waiting just around the corner.

Then I realize that even if something awful happened tomorrow, I’d still have a million reasons to be grateful. And I wonder if this is the key to survival, to triumphing over adversity—recognizing that no matter how bad things get, they’re always a lot better than they could be.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What Am I Re-Reading

Yep, I typed that correctly. I'm not reading new stuff right now...I'm cramming.

See, I've pretty much over-committed myself for submitting stories to anthologies and such, with two short deadlines looming on me. One for a short-n-smutty bunch of stories through Shameless Book Press (for which I've also created the e-book, 3D box set and print covers).

The other one, though, will be my second story to release through the lovely Milly Taiden's Sassy Ever After Kindle World.

So I'm running myself a tad ragged with re-reading the stories in her series, as well as re-reading my own already-released story in that Kindle World, Sassy Healing. My story will be a follow-on from that one, though the focus has shifted (heh) from the two main characters therein, across to a secondary character and a brand new character.

Up until I jumped onto that particular pony, I had been reading yet another zombie/post-apocalypse story, This Is The Way The World Ends: An Oral History Of The Zombie War by Keith Taylor.

I know Keith in passing, which is to say we're both on a particular writers' forum. Through that forum, I was interested in the way he gradually shaped this work, which I saw only in little bursts of comments on particular threads.

The book itself uses the same style of mock journalism which I'm told World War Z uses. I haven't managed to read Max Brooks's book so far, though I've tried a couple of times, so I can't compare truly.

What I will say about Taylor's book (which I've not yet finished) is that it's definitely not the kind of book you should read if you're after cheap action-based thrills with gore a-plenty. This is the thinking person's post-apocalypse story. The action, when it comes, is meted out skilfully, and not a single stroke of it is gratuitous. Indeed, it's the rarity of violence which helps to give it more power. Every moment of horror hits like a nail rather than a bus, and it pierces the reader far more strongly for that very reason.

Taylor's research is amazing, too. The book truly takes a global view of the world ending. All continents and many countries are represented (perhaps excluding Antarctica, but I haven't finished the story yet as I say...)

There's one moment in particular which has resonated with me, even a few weeks after I read it. I won't go into details, just so I don't hit you all with spoilers. But it's a moment of suburban life which starts out calmly and actually descends into lethal violence in exactly as calm a manner. It truly served as a demonstration of how quickly all societal normality could be stripped away when faced with the end of the world.

I look forward to finishing this one. But it'll be a while. As I said, I have those pesky deadlines. But the other thing is...this book is loooong!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Serial Apps

by Annabeth Leong

Lately, I’ve been enjoying a website and app called Serial Box. The site aims to be “the HBO of books.” They use a model similar to that used by television studios (with a showrunner and teams of writers) to create written entertainment, which they then release in the form of episodes and seasons.

I first found out about Serial Box because Circlet’s publisher, Cecilia Tan, was commissioned to write for a serial called Geek Actually, which is billed as geeky Sex and the City. I downloaded the app to be friendly and check out her new project, and quickly got totally caught up.

Geek Actually is sexy and romantic, but it doesn’t seem tied to the demands of HEAs in the same, tyrannical way we’ve all talked about. As a result, the romantic connections feel fresh and unexpected, and the characters all have cool arcs. I particularly like Aditi, who’s in an open marriage with her gay best friend, and Christina, who bites off (a lot) more than she can chew in a relationship with the hard-partying Hollywood starlet, Vivi.

I discovered through reading Geek Actually that I really like the format of these serials, so since this summer I’ve read at least one season of every serial that Serial Box puts out. They’re all high quality, to the point that I liked stories I didn’t expect to just because they’re done so well. For example, I’m not usually so into stories about royalty, but was unexpectedly captivated by the transplant queen who’s the main character of Whitehall.

But oh my stars, let me tell you about Tremontaine, which has just started up its third season. It’s got the feeling of your favorite regency historical, full of dazzling parties and costumes and behind the scenes manipulation (along with swashbuckling swordplay), but set in an alternate history in which there’s a transatlantic chocolate trade. As a result, there’s a fascinating cultural interplay, and relief from the endless misogyny of stories set in historical England (the South American traders have a matriarchal society). It’s full of queer characters. And it’s my favorite kind of story, in that I find myself liking even the characters I want to hate.

I can’t say enough about Tremontaine, and it’s so exciting for there to be new episodes every week.

I got so into the serial format that I also downloaded an app called Serial Reader, which is set up for reading classic works of literature. I’m currently making my way through Wuthering Heights, which I was always embarrassed not to have read. I’m glad to be reading it—it’s quite a pageturner, once it gets going—though I also mutter angrily throughout my reading sessions because it’s full of hideous racism and classist bullshit. So, yeah, classics.

Anyway, one of the reasons I’ve been liking serials is that I often have trouble making my way through long novels, though I recognize their rewards. I got burned one too many times by a certain epic fantasy series that I read in my youth, I think. These days, the sight of a thick novel fills me with dread and I usually stick to shorts and novellas. With serials, I feel like I’m reading shorts and novellas—but when I saw the collected edition of Tremontaine’s first season and saw how much I had read, my mind was blown.

And a technical detail. You can read on Serial Box’s website, but the app is also quite nice, and allows you to switch between reading text and listening in audio format. I found the transitions smooth (it actually keeps my place correctly!), and the audio editions are well done. Modern technology! It can be cool sometimes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Icy Jazz Mrs. Fletcher, Ghachar Ghochar, Hopps Hopps Hopps

 by Daddy X

Ordeal by Ice
by Farley Mowat.

To paint this detailed history, Mowat takes us through four centuries of first person accounts of the search for the Northwest Passage. While there’s plenty of starvation, scurvy, depression and general privation to go around, details crop up in the individual accounts that bring danger, adventure and entertaining situations into play.

Ship’s logs show how ocean travel had advanced through sail, steam and sometimes oars. And how the dynamics of ice stay the same. We’re amazed at the ways in which pioneers approached these voyages, hauling with them whatever comforts they thought necessary in a Eurocentric mindset. Many times it was this abundance of supplies (and extreme efforts to preserve and protect said provisions) that brought these voyages to ill fortune.

Timelines were critical. If Captains couldn’t get their ships clear of the ice during a slim few days in September, it meant yet another year before they’d again have the chance to get home.

As elsewhere in the imperialist world, these explorers avoided the indigenous peoples of the northern lands, seeing  them as animals, savages or worse. They did so to their own peril, not from attacks or ill will on the part of the native inhabitants, but from arrogance and unfamiliarity of the terrain they wanted to explore. Not until the intruders allowed themselves to learn from the people who thrived in these inhospitable environs did they even come close to conquering the ice.

by Toni Morrison

Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Joe Trace sells beauty products door-to-door. His wife Violet does the neighborhood women’s ‘heads’ in her kitchen at twenty-five to fifty cents apiece depending on what the clients can afford.

I’m not giving anything away by saying that Joe Trace killed his light-skinned, eighteen year-old lover, Dorcas. We learn on the first page that Violet slashed the body at the girl’s funeral and had to be removed from the church.

Though everybody knew that Joe Trace had shot Dorcas, he was never arrested because here were no witnesses. Just like now, in 1920’s New York, it seems like the murder of another negro didn’t hold much weight. If something untoward occurred in the ghetto, the authorities would just as soon just let it be as long as it stayed there.

Violet is prone to lapses in judgment. Even before Joe met the fresh young Dorcas, Violet had been found sitting in the middle of the street one day and had to be carried home.  Other idiosyncracies resembling Tourette’s go by largely unnoticed. After all, doesn’t everyone have things to be ashamed of in this city?

Violet and Joe don’t allow the dead girl’s memory to fade. In fact, they keep an 8x10 glossy of her in a frame on the mantle. Her creamy complexion and vibrant youth remind them to cry together.

Due in part to Morrison’s enviable use of vernacular, a reader ends up with a vivid sense of Harlem in the 1920’s. Between the lines we see that any big-city ghetto is basically on its own.
The next two books were suggested by a literary friend in New York who has given me much support. She used to be Momma X’s boss in the publishing trade.

Mrs. Fletcher
by Tom Perotta

This is the first book I’ve read by Perrotta. I see a half dozen others of his that might be worthwhile. I sure did enjoy this one.

Enter Eve Fletcher, divorcee.

Eve’s son Brendan is packing for college when his girlfriend comes by to… ahem… see him off.

The youngsters retire to Brendan’s room, and, in a reasonable amount of time, Eve goes up to retrieve him because they need to leave. Standing outside the boy’s door, she hears: “Fuck yeah. Suck it bitch.”

Well, with such an auspicious beginning, we know we’ll be dealing with sex here. What we learn is the dynamics of love and gender in the modern age and how sexuality forms a part of that dynamic.

Ghachar Chochar
by Vivek Shanbhag

A thin little book. Just 106 pages. In some ways it reminds me of Hesse’s Journey to the East, if not in subject matter, in its allegorical delivery.

A poor, but basically happy family live in an unnamed city in India. The dynamics of the household is traditional, with particular duties ascribed to each family member. Everybody knows and respects each other’s place. It all works fine until the only money-making family member makes a deal that greatly expands the their business and the family’s status in the neighborhood. Money is no longer a problem. The mother wonders how she’ll ever learn to cook standing up. Problems arise. Toes are stepped on. Others are meant to feel worthless. Personalities morph.

The ways money corrupts sounds like a worn theme, but Shanbhag has a way with beautifully concise prose.


The next book was loaned to me by Jonathan Meader, a friend for whom Walter Hopps sponsored a one-man show back in the 60’s at the Corcoran Workshop in Washington D.C. A while back on these pages I reviewed the husband/wife team Meader/Demeter book, Ancient Egyptian Symbols—50 New Discoveries.

The Dream Colony
by Walter Hopps w/ Deborah Treisman

On the dust jacket of The Dream Colony is a photo of a mixed media sculpture of Walter Hopps, the inimitable Gallery owner and museum curator of 20th century art. The sculpture, by Ed Kienholz,  is titled “Walter Hopps Hopps Hopps”, which refers to Hopps’ chaotic pursuits, always late, hopping around and getting things accomplished.

This pleasing, eminently absorbing autobiography utilizes crazy anecdotes and reads like a who’s who of 20th century artists and art collectors. The various tales often reveal wild situations involving famous personalities. From Duchamp to Rothko to Diebenkorn, Rauschenberg, Ernst and Warhol, Hopps knew and hung out with them all, seemingly enjoying himself (though addicted to speed) all the while.  Collectors included Norton Simon, Peggy Guggenheim, Edwin Janss and John and Dominique deMenil from Houston

This was such a fun read that I’ve picked up another autobiography, this time of art collector and general character, Peggy Guggenheim. Plus a biography of Billy Wilder, outrĂ© screenwriter and movie producer.

More on those at our next “What I’m Reading.”