Saturday, April 27, 2019

Facing the Music on Ice

Sacchi Green

When I was growing up my whole family was involved in music. We were in the church choir, and school and college glee clubs, and regional amateur productions of Broadway musicals like The Music Man. In junior high school I sang in three Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including a stint as Little Buttercup in HMS Pinafore. For many years after that, while I was raising a family, I got involved with music when I could, but various factors eventually intervened and it’s been about thirty years since I participated in the local Hampshire Choral Society. I haven’t even sung along alone in my car for several years, and when I tried a few days ago I discovered that my vocal range, never anything to be proud of, had shrunk considerably. Maybe I'd better try exercising it.

Of all the things once important in my life that I’ve drifted away from, music is what I most miss. Or maybe nostalgia is hitting me hard because I’m trying to choose two hymns (to be sung by everyone there) for my father’s memorial service, soon to be held at the church I grew up in. I don’t remember what I chose for my mother’s funeral six years ago, but I did remember her favorite aria from Handel’s Messiah, so we had a trained soloist sing that, and her song brought me the closest to tears I got that whole day, or even month.
With all that amateur musical background, I don’t know why I’ve integrated music so rarely into my writing. I wrote recently here about using the titles of WWII songs in my long-ago story “To Remember You By,” but that’s about it. I’ve been scanning the files of stories in my computer, and almost giving up, until suddenly one piece leapt right out at me as though executing a triple axel and spewing ice chips at me on the landing. Of course! “The Outside Edge,” my Olympic skating story!

You can’t have figure skating competitions without music. The choices of music are best when they fit the skater’s program perfectly, and in the case of my protagonist, a lesbian who’s fed up with acting feminine on the ice (and is having a very steamy affair off the ice with a gorgeously feminine pairs skater), the various musical choices tell the whole story of her public “coming out” on ice.

First, Jude watches her lover Suli’s performance :

Suli and Tim skated third, to music from Bizet’s Carmen. Somebody always skates to Carmen, but no one ever played the part better than Suli. The dramatic theme of love and betrayal was a perfect setting for her, and today the passionate beat of the “Habanera” was a perfect match for my jealous mood.

Watching Tim with Suli on the ice always drove me crazy. When his hand slid from the small of her back to her hip I wanted to lunge and chew it off at the wrist

 Then there’s Jude’s own long program after a mediocre short program had made medaling almost impossible:

So I skated the long program I’d rehearsed so many times. Inside, though, I was doing it my way at last, and not much caring if it showed.

I skated to a medley from the Broadway show Cats. My black unitard with white down the front and at the cuffs was supposed to suggest a “tuxedo” cat with white paws. The music swept from mood to mood, poignance to nostalgia to swagger, but no matter what character a song was meant to suggest, in my mind and gut I was never, for a moment, anybody’s sweet pussy. I was every inch a Tom. Tomcat prowling urban roofs and alleys; tomboy tumbling the dairymaid in the hay; top-hatted Tom in the back streets of Victorian London pinching the housemaids’ cheeks, fore and aft.

Suli had been right about storing up tension and then letting it spill out. Like fantasy during sex, imagination sharpened my performance. Each move was linked to its own notes of the music, practiced often enough to be automatic, but tonight my footwork was more precise, my spins faster, my jumps higher and landings smoother. I had two quad jumps planned, something none of my rivals would attempt, and for the first time I went into each of them with utter confidence.

The audience, subdued at first, was with me before the end, clapping, stomping, whistling. I rode their cheers, pumped with adrenaline as though we were all racing toward some simultaneous climax, and in the last minute I turned a planned double- flip, double-toe-loop into a triple-triple, holding my landing on a back outer edge as steadily as though my legs were fresh and rested.
The crowd’s roar surged as the music ended.
So Jude wins the bronze medal after all. Then, the next day, comes the exhibition skate with all the medalists.

Judging from the buzz among my fans, they may have been placing bets. Anybody who’d predicted the close-cropped hair with just enough forelock to push casually back, and the unseen binding beneath my plain white T-shirt, would have won. The tight bluejeans looked genuinely worn and faded, and from any distance the fact that the fabric could stretch enough for acrobatic movement wasn’t obvious.

It was my turn at last. Off came the sweats and hoodie. I took to the ice, rocketing from shadows into brightness, then stopped so abruptly that ice chips erupted around the toes of my skates. There were squeals, and confused murmurs; I was aware of Suli, still in costume from her own performance, watching from the front row.

Then my music took hold.

Six bars of introduction, a sequence of strides and glides—and I was Elvis, “Lookin’ for Trouble,” leaping high in a spread eagle, landing, then twisting into a triple-flip, double-toe-loop. My body felt strong. And free. And true.

Then I was “All Shook Up,” laying a trail of intricate footwork the whole length of the rink, tossing in enough cocky body-work to raise an uproar. Elvis Stojko or Philippe Candeloro couldn’t have projected more studly appeal. When my hips swiveled—with no trace of a feminine sway—my fans went wild.

They subsided as the music slowed to a different beat, slower, menacing. “Mack the Knife” was back in town: challenge, swagger, jumps that ate up altitude, skate blades slicing the ice in sure, rock-steady landings. Then, in a final change of mood, came the aching, soaring passion of “Unchained Melody.” I let heartbreak show through, loneliness, sorrow, desperate longing.

In my fantasy a slender, long-haired figure skated in the shadows just beyond my vision, mirroring my moves with equal passion and unsurpassable grace. Through the haunting strains of music I heard the indrawn breaths of a thousand spectators, and then a vast communal sigh. I was drawing them into my world...making them see what I imagined... I jumped, pushing off with all my new strength, spun a triple out into an almost effortless quad, landed—and saw what they had actually seen.

Suli glided toward me, arms outstretched, eyes wide and bright with challenge. I stopped so suddenly I would have fallen if my hands hadn’t reached out reflexively to grasp hers. She moved backward, pulling me toward her, and then we were skating together as we had so often in our private predawn practice sessions. The music caught us, melded us into a pair. Suli moved away, rotated into an exquisite layback spin, slowed, stretched out her hand, and my hand was there to grasp hers and pull her into a close embrace. Her raised knee pressed up between my legs with a force she would never have exerted on Tim. I wasn’t packing, but my clit lurched with such intensity that I imagined it bursting through my jeans.

Then we moved apart again, aching for the lost warmth, circling, now closer, now farther...the music would end so soon... Suli flashed a quick look of warning, mouthed silently, “Get ready!” and launched herself toward me.

Hands on my shoulders, she pushed off, leapt upward, and hung there for a moment while I gripped her hips and pressed my mouth into her belly. Then she wrapped her legs around my waist and arched back. We spun slowly, yearningly, no bed, this time, to take the weight of our hunger. And then, as the last few bars of music swelled around us, Suli slid sensuously down my body until she knelt in a pool of scarlet silk at my feet. She looked up into my eyes, and finally, gracefully and deliberately, bowed her head and rested it firmly against my crotch as the last notes faded away.

So I guess I still had music on my mind when I wrote that story, about ten years ago, and it still sends a cascade of shivers over me when I read it. i haven't done much with music lately, though. I’ll have to see what I can do about that. Besides choosing a couple of hymns.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Soundtrack for your Life

By Tim Smith

I’ve heard the term “facing the music” for years and never gave it much thought. Since we’re writing about it this month, I decided to find out where it came from. My research revealed that it means “To accept the unpleasant consequences of one’s actions.” The phrase has been used by writers to the point where it’s become a cliché. Irving Berlin even wrote a popular song called “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” Why he thought dancing was the best way to atone for your sins is a mystery to me, but Fred Astaire choreographed it beautifully in a movie.

It is thought to have originated in mid-19th century America, and came from the tradition of a soldier being “drummed out” of their regiment. Another popular theory refers to actors taking the stage facing the orchestra pit (i.e. facing the music). Still another theory claims roots in British culture, where common peasants had to sit in the west end of a church, facing the higher status folks in the east wing when singing hymns.

I have long been influenced by music in all phases of life. I studied it in college, taught it for a few years, and even had a brief professional fling as a jazz trumpet player and singer. When I hear a particular song, it often brings back a memory. Some good, some not so pleasant, but they comprise the soundtrack of my life. When I hear Sinatra lament “I’m a Fool to Want You,” I find myself remembering someone from the past. Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” will forever be associated with a sensuous turn on the dance floor many years ago. I’ve never been one who laid claim to a melody and claimed it as “our song,” but I used to joke that Marvin Hamlisch had me in mind when he wrote the James Bond tune “Nobody Does it Better.”   

I brought this love of music into my writing. I always try to work it into a scene to enhance the atmosphere. You will often read references to some of the piano jazz masters in the Nick Seven series, and the reason is simple. I like that kind of music, therefore my leading character does, too. I’ve dropped in little bits like “Nick scrolled through pages on the computer while the soothing sounds of Oscar Peterson’s piano jazz played in the background.” In my most recent mystery, “The Other Woman,” the action takes place around Christmas, so naturally I had to include holiday music to set the mood.

I actually did use the song-as-a-memory thing in one of the Nick Seven spy thrillers. He requests a certain song to be played by the jazz trio at his club, and when Felicia asks him why he chose it, he reminds her that it was being played the first time they went on a date several years earlier. It forged a prominent place in his memory, and was forever associated with that special night. Yes, I know that’s straight out of “Casablanca,” but at least he didn’t request “As Time Goes By.”

I’ve used my knowledge of the music business as fictional fodder. My current work-in-progress, “The Neon Jungle,” tackles the dark underside of the entertainment industry in Miami. The person Nick Seven is helping is a popular local musician trying to get out from under the control of a supposedly legit music mogul who is using his business as a cover for criminal activity. Do these things actually happen? Maybe, maybe not. Is any of it based on my personal observations? I’ll rely on the disclaimer at the front of the book.    

This story gave me the chance to include song references within the plot, and some of them were used as metaphors to reflect the action. A character talking about the gal that got away? I trotted out the ballad “Here’s That Rainy Day” to emphasize what he was feeling. When it was time for the happy-for-now ending, “Never Gonna Let You Go” is featured. When I was writing the action sequences, I loaded the stereo with CDs by Buddy Rich and Henry Mancini to help me set the mood and pace. If only I could transfer those tracks to the book.

Times and tastes change with each generation. There’s a scene in the comedy “10,” where Dudley Moore played a successful middle-aged songwriter lusting after a much younger Bo Derek. At one point, he’s lamenting to a bartender about changing musical tastes. He says “One day, a couple will be listening to a band and the woman will say ‘Honey, they’re playing our song!’ And the band will be playing ‘Why Don’t We Do It in the Road’.”

We’ll always have Bogart, Bergman and Paris.         


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands: A Medusa Consortium Short Story

K D Grace

Today I’m pleased to share a complete erotic story involving Elise North, the heroine of my present WIP,  A Demon’s Tale, which will be book four of the Medusa Consortium series. Elise North is a PI who specializes in cases that are unusual.  When Magda Gardener AKA Medusa, hires her to tail the mysterious Mr. Sands, it didn’t take me long to realize she was at least as interesting as Mr. Sands, and I wanted to know her story. This little ditty first appeared in the online version of Cosmo magazine two years ago. Follow the above link for more about the Medusa Consortium novels. 

In Pursuit of Mr Sands
Five hot summer nights, I followed Mr. Sands in and out of clubs and bars in Soho. Sometimes it took him the better part of the night to pick up a woman, though he could have had his choice. Sometimes he found the one he wanted in the very first bar. There was no pattern, no rhyme or reason, no similarity that I could see in his choices. He never took them home. He never told them his name. He never fucked them. But he always made them come. Their response was unanimously a mix of ecstatic release and surprise, as though they hadn’t expected it. 
He took them in alleys, in stairwells, even once on a crowded dance floor. It was always quick, always intense and it always felt a bit dangerous. He didn’t mind if the women bit or clawed or howled like wolves. They always came, but Mr. Sands never did. I wondered if he practiced some form of eastern discipline that enhanced male pleasure through refraining from ejaculation.
I’m a PI, and monitoring Mr. Sands’ nightly wanderings is my job. The woman who hired me to tail him isn’t his ex or a psycho lover. She claims she’s never met the man. But hey, everyone’s kink is different. If she gets off on my reports, then who am I to judge, as long as she pays me. And she pays me well. In fact she set me up in a posh flat with a view across the street right into Mr. Sands’ posh flat. Though it hasn’t helped much. He keeps his curtains drawn.  
Every night Mr. Sands goes out at exactly ten, and every night I follow him. Every night I watch as women flirt and eyeball him longingly until he finally makes his choice. Some nights he wines and dines the lucky girl. Some nights, he simply takes her hand and leads her off to do the deed. Last night, his choice was a porcelain-skinned woman with ginger hair. He led her from the bar without so much as a word. She was breathless, wide-eyed, her full breasts bouncing in her scanty bronze sheath as she struggled to keep up with him in stilettos she was none to steady on. I could almost feel the sense of urgency that might have been hers, might have been his. The dress was tight enough that the lack of panties was evident, a bit too tight for a woman so well curved. But Mr. Sands didn’t seem interested in fashion or conventional beauty.
He pressed her up against a small loading dock in the ally, taking her mouth as though she were his favourite dish, slapping her hands away from his fly, though even I could see his bulge through my binoculars. There beneath the streetlight, he freed her breasts into his hands, thumbing and raking peach gumdrop nipples and heavily stippled areolae. 
She sounded like a kitten mewing for its mother as he scrunched her dress until her Brazilian was as bare as her breasts. She gave a little yelp as he hoisted her up onto the loading dock and palmed her thighs wide apart forcing her back onto her elbows. One shoe dropped to the pavement with a muted thud as he cupped his hands behind her knees and pulled her closer to his face. Then he fingered her, studied her, caressed her as though he’d never seen a pussy before. All the while, she moaned and whimpered and squirmed against the hard concrete. “Please,” she begged. “Oh please.” But he ignored her keening. 
When, at last, he spoke, his voice was velvet against bare skin, “You’ve been pretending. But you don’t need to for me.” Then he buried his face between her thighs, and she bucked and gyrated against him tugging and pulling at her breasts. Once again, he slapped her hands away and reached up to knead her almost as though he were raising his arms in an act of worship. He pinched and thumbed while never slacking in his efforts between her thighs. Her cries became guttural, like he’d awakened something feral in her, something that could now no longer be caged. He slid his hands down to cup her bum and drew her closer, as though he might crawl up inside her right next to that feral thing he’d awakened. She came with an animal howl that sent shivers up my spine and made the view from the binoculars shudder with the hammering of my pulse. At last he pulled away and wiped his face on the back of his arm. Then he mantled her close, covering her lips with kisses, she all but sobbing into his mouth. 
Finally she spoke in little gasps of effort. “I’ve never had an orgasm before.”
“I know,” was all he said, as he bent to retrieve her shoe and gently slipped it onto her foot. 
I stood in shock at her revelation, at his. The woman had never had an orgasm? Did he choose his women that way? But then how the hell would he know? I was so lost in my speculations that I had to scramble back into an alcove in front of a service entrance to keep from being seen as Mr. Sands escorted her back to the bar. 
And just like that it was over. I knew the drill by now. The woman would return to her friends with a smile on her face, and Mr. Sands would go home. 
I followed him, as I always did, then took the lift to my flat. Inside I stripped to tank and panties, wilted from the relentless heat. It was one of the few summer days each year when it hadn’t cooled down much at night. I poured myself a glass of cab. Usually unwinding from a night of tailing Mr. Sands meant a little hands-on. I had a vibrator, but there was something about our nightly rendezvous that gave me the urge to touch myself. Maybe the total lack of penetrative sex in those steamy encounters made me empathetic. My last task every working day was to open my curtains and make sure Mr. Sands was at home. He always was. Though his curtains were perpetually drawn, I could make out the cinnamon glow of lamplight inside. Occasionally I could see the shadow of movement back and forth beyond the drawn drapes. That was my cue for some ‘me time,’ as I fantasized about what he did after he came home late at night unsatisfied. 
With wine glass in hand and my mind on the night’s intriguing discoveries, the curtain was completely open before I turned to find that Mr. Sands, for once, had followed suit. He stood looking right at me, wearing only grey track bottoms slung low around his hips, his chest glistening from the heat. I froze gaping, as he sipped a whiskey and brazenly looked me up and down. I’d been compromised. My client had warned me to make sure he never saw me. But I was confident, maybe a little arrogant. I was good at my job. I should have shut the curtains and left. But I just stood there like a rabbit in the headlights, my nipples stiffening beneath my tank top as surely as if he’d stroked them as he had the redhead’s. The quirk of his lips, the trailing of his gaze over my body sent shockwaves of heat core deep. The clench between my thighs, the subtle shifting of my hips wouldn’t have been noticeable by anyone. Hell, I could make myself come on a crowded bus and no one was the wiser. But he knew. I was certain he knew.
I raised my glass for a much-needed drink and miscalculated, dribbling red wine across white cotton and a distended nipple. His gaze was not subtle as he nodded to my breasts. I knew exactly what he wanted. Slowly, I lifted the glass and drizzled the cab across my breasts – all of it, gasping at the shock of it, biting my lip, closing my eyes just long enough to savor the sensation. When I opened them, he slid a hand inside the front of his track bottoms. It wasn’t difficult to tell he was hard, nor that he was substantial. I took in the shape of him as brazenly as he had me, giving my own little nod. But he only shook his head and raised an eyebrow making it clear that it was tit for tat. 
Caught in his gaze, I could scarcely breathe, I could scarcely believe the risk I was taking. He knew where I was. He knew what I’d done. And yet I lifted my wet shirt  off over my head, the AC tightening my nipples still further. As he watched, I slid a hand into my panties mirroring his movements. I fingered my way down between my thighs, gasping at the slick swell of me, my tide pool scent filling the room as I began to stroke.
His own stroking had exposed the base of his cock in its nest of dark curls, and my mouth watered. I nodded again, wanting to see that tool he’d kept hidden all these nights, desperate to see him lose that cast iron control.
He gulped the rest of his whiskey and set the glass aside. Then he slid the other hand beneath his waistband to scoop and cup his sac, and I moaned my approval as his efforts revealed just a little more. And then it was a stand-off, neither of us blinking, neither of us flinching, we rubbed and stroked and flaunted ourselves, each in an effort to will the other into that final reveal. He shifted and pumped and moved in such a way that I could make out almost every detail of his heavy package from beneath the tease of fabric. The lust in his eyes was laced with something slightly wicked. Strange I’d never realized fear could be such a turn-on. I wanted to run and hide even as I wanted him to fuck me with his eyes.
I pulled my fingers from my panties and raised them to my mouth, giving him a hungry stare as I tasted my own slickness, then I sucked. He bit his lip and his body jerked. For a horrible moment I thought he’d come without me. But he took a deep breath and nodded. It was time. I slid a thumb into the edge of my panties and, with the other hand, counted down. Three…two…one. We both dropped our drawers. After that things got serious. He stepped closer to the window, as close as he could get to me. One hand cupped, the other stroked and tugged the heavy length of him as though it were seriously in need of taming.
Without looking away, I reached behind me and pulled the Queen Anne chair close. Then I plopped down splaying my legs over the arms so that he could see my efforts, fingers darting and circling, dipping and scissoring, butt raised high to give him a better view. The look on his face was utter concentration. I imagine mine was the same. As his orgasm burst in heavy spurts against the windowpane, I convulsed my own release, nearly upsetting the chair. 
Afterwards we just stared at each other, still cupping ourselves, too stunned to think, too spent to move. But at last, he bent, pulled up his track bottoms and tucked his cock. He studied me for a long moment, the hunger in his eyes making me squirm in that place between arousal and fear. Then he waved a finger at me as though I’d been a naughty girl. Finally, he blew me a kiss and drew the curtains. The next morning, to my relief, and my disappointment, Mr. Sands was gone. But I’ll track him down. He has secrets I want. It is my job, after all. And I’m good at what I do.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

To All the Wives I've Wronged Before

Image by PhotosCopyright from Pixabay 
A post by Giselle Renarde

I sometimes wonder when my misdeeds will catch up with me.

You know how I love all these true ghost story shows on TV? (Sure you do.) Well, sometimes you'll come across an episode involving demonic infestation. You don't just have a ghost in your house. You've got a full-on demon. It's a dangerous situation.

Sometimes the paranormal investigators will be able to pinpoint the moment the homeowner might have opened the door to this demon, and often that event occurred YEARS prior. The homeowner will be baffled by this. How come so many years--decades, even--went by before this demon ever showed its face?

The paranormal experts usually say that a demon will lie in wait until you're happy. Married to the perfect person? Great job? Cute kids and/or pets climbing all over you? That's the time a demon will choose to attack. Because they seek to destroy happiness.

If you know that I like ghost shows, you also know that I've been involved in my share of adulterous relationships. Seeing that life is irony, it wouldn't at all surprise me if someone's wife came at me after all this time.

A few years ago, an ex told me he was pretty sure his wife had stumbled upon the emails we'd sent each other when we were involved in an adulterous relationship. He said, "If I know her, she didn't just read one--she read them all." But these people do not talk to each other, so if she did read that series of emails (a string that started twenty years ago and ended almost a decade later), she never confronted her husband about it.

And she never confronted me.

So it's possible there's a wife out there who knows every nitty gritty detail of my affair with her husband (at least, all the details captured by email) and she's just sitting on that information. What would need to happen--in her life or in mine--for her to come after me? Would she lash out? How?

The wives of the married people I've slept with have always been kind, good-natured individuals. I can't imagine any of them coming at me with a rifle--except that I can imagine that scenario, and I've imagined it many times--but you never know what might happen. The fantasy, and one I've written about more than once, is that she comes at me and I'm like, "Well, I can sleep with you, too. It's only fair!" and great sex ensues.

It's possible that only happens in erotica. But it's a preferable fantasy to being slaughtered by wives.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

New York Heat by Cameron D. James (#amreading #gayromance #gayerotica)

What better book to promo during the "face the music" month than New York Heat, which takes place in a gay nightclub?

New York Heat
Cameron D. James

When tragedy threatens to pull the community of Club 21 apart, new owner Dan realizes just how strong the strength of love runs in the nightclub family.

Club 21 is New York City’s hottest gay nightclub. The drinks are cheap, the music is infectious, and the go-go boys are the stuff of dreams.

For Dan, it’s where his life will forever change. With his signature on the dotted line, he goes from bartender to owner. And with that change, he realizes that both his responsibilities and his stress have skyrocketed.

Club 21 is home. The staff are family. Like a mama bear, Dan is fiercely protective of his clients and his staff, especially his go-go boys, whose carefree dancing inspires Dan to make Club 21 the best it can be.

Especially Ken, once a fling, now the love of his life. There’s so much that needs to get done at Club 21, but Dan is terrified that all the long evenings will drive his young go-go boy lover away. Dan doesn’t want to lose him, but if anything ever happened to his staff—his family—Dan would never forgive himself...

Content warning: New York Heat contains a scene of mass violence and the death of a main character.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Music of the Past

By Ashe Barker

Sorry to be a day late posting. Still, better late than never...

I have a crumpled plastic carrier bag in my loft. It contains my record collection, the 45s I bought as a teenager. They cost about £1 each back then, which was a significant portion of my disposable income so much time was spent rifling through the current Top Twenty hits to sift out my favourites, the ones I would invest my cash to acquire.

Of course, there were my then equivalent of one-clickers. David Bowie for one, Rod Stewart for another. For the most part, though, they were just an eclectic mix of catchy tunes I liked at the time.
I no longer have a device capable of playing my old 45s. Our turntable record player bit the dust years ago and we never invested in a replacement, not in the era of Spotify and digital downloads. So, these treasures of my youth remain in their carrier bag in the loft, hauled down into the light from time to time to propel me on a trip down Memory Lane.

I am  a child of the seventies, and I have other relics from my youth. A pile of Jackie magazines, for example – for the benefit of non-Brits, this was the magazine for teenage girls in the UK during the seventies, full of pop news, fashion and sweet romance. I keep them for old time’s sake, but never feel the urge to open them these days.

There was other reading matter, too. During my teenage years I loved the historical novels of Jean Plaidy, especially the factual ones featuring real heroines such as Elizabeth I or Mary, Queen of Scoots. Most of those found their way to thrift shops decades ago, to make way for the raunchier stuff of my adult years.

There was the television of the seventies also.  Sexy heroes such as Bodie and Doyle from The Professionals, or the more exotic Starsky and Hutch. If ever I catch a re-run on classic TV they seem so dated now, though I will confess to a lingering admiration for Martin Shaw.

I suppose we outgrow the icons of our youth. Time and technology move on, we develop new and more sophisticated tastes. We leave the past behind.

But not so the music of our youth. I might not be able to play my records these days, but I can download them and still listen, and the magic never dims. Even music that I considered to be merely mediocre back in the seventies, transports me back to a different era every bit a powerfully as my classic favourites. The memories they evoke are vivid, nothing is lost across the decades. Without You by Nillson to this day will transport me back to school, when I used to listen to it on the school playing fields on  a hot summer afternoon. The first time I ever heard Bohemian Rhapsody I was about seventeen. I watched it on TV, my three year old sister on my knee. The pair of us were transfixed. To this day, I can’t hear that music and not experience again the stunned amazement which engulfed me then.

Music has a quality which other memorabilia seem to lack. It never ages, never grows old, never loses the power to transport. It evokes not just the visual image of a memory, but the emotions too, the scents and sounds, the reality of ‘then’.

So, my carrier bag of memories will remain safe in my attic, a tangible reminder of an era past. But those songs transcend any physical form. Even though I can’t play a note or carry a tune in a bucket, music touches me more deeply than any other medium and I suspect it always will.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wicked Game – #Exposure #Striptease #Mystery

Exposure cover
By Lisabet Sarai

In my post two weeks ago, I talked about how my body responds to music, and how my characters often mirror these feelings. To demonstrate, here’s a snippet from Exposure: An Erotic Murder Mystery. The protagonist of this novel, Stella Xanathakeos, is an independent, self-confident woman who just happens to make her living as a stripper. Like me, she answers when the music calls.


Sex, blood and betrayal: it's all in a day's work.

Stella is just minding her own business and having a bit of fun, working as an exotic dancer at the Peacock Lounge. Through no fault of her own, she witnesses a double murder and gets pulled into a shady dance of deceit with political bigwigs, mob bosses, dirty cops and scheming widows. Now she's everyone's target; her only chance is to sift through the lies and expose the truth.


Ginger’s routine is hot and raunchy. She wears an animal print jumpsuit, gold and black. She shakes her tawny hair around her face like a mane. The costume is all zippers. Little by little she sheds pieces of the skin-tight garment to reveal the real skin underneath, creamy dark brown, glistening with sweat. She’s a jungle cat, sinuous, dangerous. I imagine I can smell the musk from way back here. My nipples tighten to aching nubs under my silk blouse. I squeeze my thighs together, creating ripples of sensation in my cunt that grow more intense the longer I watch Ginger’s performance.

By the time she’s finished, I’m actually panting. I’m amazed at my reactions. After all, I’m a professional. I know it’s all show business.

Maybe it’s the alcohol. Maybe it’s the after-effects from last night, the explosive sex cut short by terror. I don’t care. I’m having a wonderful time. I’m glad I came.

Who’s next? I wonder. Then the music starts, and it’s like someone plunged a knife into my heart. Chris Isaak. “Wicked Game.” My song.

Before I realize what’s happening, I’m walking between the tables, making my way to the stage. It’s like I’m in a trance. I climb the stairs to the platform, swaying already in time with the haunting tune.

The audience realizes that something odd is going on. The men fall silent, their eyes following me as I move dreamily around the stage. “Strange what desire will make foolish people do,” the singer’s hoarse voice croons as I slowly unbutton my jacket.

I shrug and it slips from my shoulders, making a green puddle on the stage. My blouse is beige silk, high-necked, buttoned up the back. My nipples poke lewdly through the fabric of the demure garment. I cup my breasts, slowly stroking my thumbs across the protruding flesh. Pleasure shimmers through me, sparkling in the shadowy chasm between my legs.

I scan the audience, but I’m not really seeing anyone. I’m not using the stare. I don’t sense any particular person’s lust. I’m just floating in the sea of their collective desire.

I turn my back on the audience, working the buttons of my top. My hair is coming loose from my businesswoman’s twist. Tendrils keep getting caught in my fingers as I struggle to release myself from the confining embrace of the silk.

Finally I get the last button undone. In triumph, I pull it over my head, turning to face the audience as I do. The clips holding my hair in place surrender completely. Black curls tumble over my shoulders, hiding my breasts.

I flick my hair back and smooth my hands over the satin of my bra, caressing the fullness it hides and constrains. The song rises to a climax. My sex spasms every time I stroke my fingers across the smooth, taut fabric. My tits ache for freedom, for nakedness. I reach for the front clasp of my bra, eager to release them.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

The Magic in the Rhyme . . and the River

by Jean Roberta

The history of literature is intertwined with the history of music. All the earliest written stories are in the form of narrative poems which were probably chanted or sung.

Even though modern (relatively speaking) fantasy stories are written in prose, a magic spell that doesn’t have metre or rhyme just wouldn’t seem magical enough to work. It would seem too prosy.

So when I wrote “Madame Blanche,” loosely based on “The White Cat,” originally written in French in the 1600s by the Countess d’Aulnoy, I knew there had to be a rhyme in it somewhere.

In this story, Princess Valerie and her two brothers must compete for their father’s throne by going on a quest to find the perfect dog to keep their parents company in their old age. The princess, who has studied the martial arts and presents herself in public as a young man, comes upon an enchanted castle inhabited by a court consisting of cats who wear clothing and act like ladies and gentleman.

Do you see the problem? Madame Blanche, the chatelaine (who is also currently une chatte), is under a spell which prevents her from appearing as her true self, a human princess. Prince Val (as he would prefer to be known) feels he is also trapped in a body which doesn’t represent his true self. As usually happens in French fairy tales, once these two characters fall in love, they can appear as their true selves, and not only to each other.

This story was first published in Rumpledsilksheets: Lesbian Fairy Tales, from Ravenous Romance, 2010). It is due to be republished any moment now in my own collection of reprints and new stories, Tit for Tat and Other Lesbian Encounters from Renaissance Publishing, Sizzler Editions. (I don’t have a publication date.)

If you have any recorded lute music, that would make a good soundtrack for this excerpt. Welcome to the Land of Faery:


Val rode through one village after another on her quest, and the people addressed her as “Your Lordship.” But the only dogs she saw were thin or half-wild and clearly not fit for a King, and so her quest seemed fruitless. As though Nature herself wished to discourage Val from riding ever farther from her own hearth, the autumn winds blew cold and gray clouds often hid the sun.

At length she came to a dark forest, and her horse was reluctant to go forward. But Val knew that many wonders can be found in such wild places, and no one ever overcame a challenge by surrendering to fear. She urged her horse to pick his way between the trees until they arrived at a clearing that reflected the light of precious jewels: glowing rubies, sapphires as blue as the sky, cool green emeralds, golden topaz, brilliant diamonds. She found herself staring at the walls of a small but exquisite castle made of gemstones, with golden doors and crystal windows.

"Who lives here?" she asked aloud, and her horse neighed as though he were perplexed as well. No gate or sentries impeded her approach, so Val dismounted and strode bravely to a shining door with a great knocker in the form of a lion showing its teeth.

The clang of the knocker echoed deep within the castle. Slowly, the door swung open although no one could be seen within. A sweet voice called out:

"Welcome, Traveler. Have no fear.
Here is linen, meat and cheer."

Val peered into a dark foyer, and saw no one. "Who welcomes me?" she called loudly, knowing she had come to a place of enchantment. She was wary, but determined not to surrender to fear.

The clear voice answered:

"One whose truest form must be
Concealed until her heart is free."

Val felt she had heard herself described. Whoever dwelt in the wondrous castle was surely afflicted, as she was, with a body which did not represent her true self.

To her surprise, a pair of hands floated through the air to seize the bridle of her horse and lead him to an outbuilding which appeared to be a stable made of copper. Another pair of hands seized her by the sleeves and gently pulled her inside, as though honored by her visit. Val’s curiosity and her determination to face every challenge prompted her to accept the strange, unspoken invitation. As soon as she had crossed the threshold, the door closed behind her with a ringing crash.

A hand holding a torch led her into a grand hall whose walls were entirely covered with murals of cats on wooden horses hunting mice, cats dancing upright in elegant clothes, cats fighting battles with drawn swords, cats seated around a table, looking as serious as judges. Val had no time to study the curious images before the hands pulled her firmly to the door of a bedchamber in which all the furniture was decorated in green silk. The pale hands lit the fire and the lamps, then exited. When Val tried to open it, she found herself locked in.

No matter, she assured herself. I have a comfortable bed for the night, and my horse doubtlessly has food, water and clean straw. She would not willingly have deprived the beast of nourishment, although her own appetite had quite fled. Whatever awaited her in the enchanted castle, Val knew that rest would help her to preserve her strength. She removed her clothes and donned the soft nightshirt she found folded on the bed before climbing under the coverlet and falling into a deep sleep.


Another historical story I wrote, "The Water-Harp," is about a beautiful orphan named Dorcas who has been raised by nuns, who then offer her a job in the laundry they run, since she is sensible enough not to go into private service. She has noticed the way men look at her, whether they are single or married. The young lord of the local manor meets her when he brings in his clothing to be washed (in truth, he likes to survey the laundresses). In due course, he whisks her away to become his mistress.

They make love beside the river where Dorcas has always noticed that the song of the water changes its pitch at a certain point. The "water-harp" that has played a distinct tune for a generation is actually the corpse of the lady whose portrait hangs in the manor. To find out more, you have to read the story, in Underwater, an anthology of water-themed fantasy stories from Transmundane Press (2016).


The weather was sunny, and neither of the lovers wanted to stay in the manor. They walked together to the riverbank, where the ceaseless babbling of the water replaced human conversation.

They sat down, and Edmund pulled out a simple flute. “My angel,” he said, “do you know ‘Laura, I am in your thrall?’”

Dorcas cleared her throat and found a note that she hoped would be pleasing. She sang as Edmund played the melody.
“Laura, I am in your thrall. My heart is yours for keeping. And you shall dance behind my pall when I have died from weeping.”

Edmund did not wait for Dorcas to finish all the verses before pulling her onto his lap. His crotch hardened and she knew she would have the bittersweet pleasure for which she had been waiting all her life. She wanted him, understanding, at last, how orphans are made.

Edmund undid his trousers and pulled out his shirttails while Dorcas unbuttoned her gown as quickly as she could.
He laughed. “My little minx. You shall be paid for your song. I’ll have you right here.”

She was beyond caring what any passerby might see.

He sighed at the sight of her naked body and suckled her breasts, one after the other, as he wrapped his hands in her hair. He was too eager for patience or subtlety. His strong hands cupping her buttocks sent a rush of warmth all through her loins.

She spread her thighs to give him welcome.

“I will try not to hurt you any more than necessary.” He guided his prick into her narrow opening and pushed it steadily deeper.

She groaned, and he paused.

“Halfway in,” he assured her. “You’re a brave little soldier.”

She focused on the sweetness behind the pain, and at length, she enjoyed feeling him fully rooted in her.

Edmund moaned as he moved in rhythm, thrusting in and easing out with rising intensity.
“My darling,” he said in her ear.

The pleasure surged in her like a tide, and she responded, hesitantly at first, with her own movements. Dorcas was glad she had explored herself alone in the years between her first blood and this new initiation. Her maidenhead did not present much of an obstacle.

He reached his crisis before she did and closed his eyes as he plunged as far in as he could. Releasing his seed inside her, he pressed his warm lips to hers. When Edmund withdrew, he showed her that he was not ready to quit the field.

“You too,” he told her, spreading his fingers between her lower lips. He found the focal point of her pleasure and squeezed until she covered her mouth to smother a shriek. A palette of brilliant colors burst behind her eyelids as her whole body erupted in ecstasy.

They lay wrapped in each other’s arms for a long moment as the sun caressed them. Dorcas became aware of the fugue-like rushing of the river in several lines of melody, just beyond their reach. This was the spot she had discovered before.
The setting sun left their damp skin chilled.

“We must get dressed, darling. We’re not really creatures of the wild. We can’t go home like this.”

Dorcas pulled on her gown like a sleepwalker. “Edmund, we must remember this spot.”

“Always.” He smiled at her. “It will always be sacred to us.”

“We must return here tomorrow with oars or pikes. I want to know why the water sounds different here than farther upstream. It’s like a musical instrument, a kind of water-harp that plays a certain chord just here.”

“You are very attuned to nature,” he said. She could see that he thought he must humor her moods.

“And you are not,” she told him. “Each for our own reasons.”


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Remembering “Something to Remember You By”

Sacchi Green

“Something to Remember You By.”

I'm pretty sure I've blogged on this before, but it can't have been very recently, so here goes anyway.

I can’t type the title of this WWII song without longing to share more of its lyrics, and wishing even more that I could somehow impart the emotional impact of the tune. But “Fair Use” permissiveness for song lyrics and poetry in general has very strict limits, so all I dared to use in the story I wrote was the song’s title. For whatever reason, titles can’t be copyrighted, so I even used most of this one for my own story’s title.

In my story “To Remember You By” I referenced a wide range of song titles to evoke the mood and intensity of the WWII setting. My parents were in their youthful prime then, and I was exposed to the music of that era in the movies they watched and the records my mother sang along with long after the war was over. I’ll never be able to tell how many readers may have heard the tunes and lyrics in their heads as they read my story, or how much that may have affected their enjoyment, but it’s been published several times since its first appearance in Hanne Blank’s anthology Shameless: Women's Intimate Erotica from Seal Press way back in 2002, so a fair number of people have probably read it. There was even a condensed version printed in Penthouse when Seal Press persuaded that magazine to take a few stories from the anthology as samples of what kind of erotica women were writing. The timing was bad, because Penthouse went into some temporary form of bankruptcy just then and never paid us for our work, but I was almost as disappointed that in condensing my story they took out all the musical references.

 Ah well. “To Remember You By” was also reprinted in one of the editions of The Mammoth Book of New Erotica, and it was the lead-off piece in the first collection of my own stories, A Ride to Remember from Lethe Press in 2011, while a sequel, “Alternate Lives,” about the same characters thirty-five years later, was the end piece. Maybe I’ll share that one with you sometime.

Okay, enough reminiscing. Time to face the music! (Fair warning: one of the characters is bisexual.)

A long excerpt from the much longer story, "To Remember You By"
Sacchi Green

     "Transferring?" I leaned far forward, and felt, as well as saw, her glance drop to my breasts. The starchy wartime diet in England had added some flesh, but at that moment I didn't care, because all of it was tingling. "When do you go?"
     "In two weeks," she said. "I'm taking a week in London to get a look at some of the sights I haven't had time for in the whole eighteen months I've been over here. Then there'll be one more week of ferrying out of Hamble on the south coast. And then I'm leaving."
     Two weeks. One, really. "I've got a few days here, too," I said. "Maybe we could see the sights together." I tried to look meaningfully into her eyes, but she stared down at her own hands on the table and then out at the dance floor where a few couples, some of them pairs of girls, were dancing.
     "Sure," she said. "That would be fun." Her casual tone seemed a bit forced.
     "I don't suppose you'd like to dance, would you?" I asked, with a sort of manic desperation. "Girls do it all the time here when there aren't enough men. Nobody thinks anything of it."
     "Somebody sure as hell would," Cleo said bluntly, "if they were doing it right." She met my eyes, and, in the hot gray glow of her defiant gaze, I learned all I needed to know.
     Then she looked away. "Not," she said carefully, "that any of Flight Captain Jackie Cochran's hand-picked, cream-of-American-womanhood pilots would know anything about that."
     "Of course not," I agreed. "Or any girl-next-door nurses, either." I could feel a flush rising from my neck to my face, but I plowed ahead. "Some of us might be interested in learning, though."
     She looked at me with a quizzical lift to one eyebrow, then pushed back her chair and stood up. Before my heart could do more than lurch into my throat, she said lightly, "How about breakfast here tomorrow, and then we'll see what the big deal is about London."
     It turned out we were both staying in the club dormitory upstairs. We went up two flights together; then I opened the door on the third floor landing. Cleo's room was on the fourth floor. I paused, and she said, without too much subtlety, "One step at a time, Kay, one step at a time!" Then she bolted upward, her long legs taking the stairs two, sometimes three, steps at a time.
     Night brought, instead of a return to common sense, a series of dreams wilder than anything my imagination or clinical knowledge of anatomy had ever managed before. When I met Cleo for breakfast it was hard to look at her without envisioning her dark, springy hair brushing my thighs, while her mouth... But all my dreams had dissolved in frustration, and I woke up tangled in hot, damp sheets with my hand clamped between my legs.
     Cleo didn't look all that rested, either, but for all I knew she was always like that before her second cup of coffee. When food and caffeine began to take effect, I got a map of bus routes from the porter and we planned our day.
     London Bridge, Westminster, Harrod's department store; whether I knew how to do it right or not, every moment was a dance of sorts. Cleo got considerable amusement out of my not-so-subtle attempts at seduction. She even egged me on to try on filmy things in Harrod's that I could never afford, or have occasion to wear--what on earth, we speculated, did Harrod's stock when it wasn't wartime?--and let me see how much she enjoyed the view. I didn't think she was just humoring me.
     In the afternoon, after lunch at a quaint tearoom, we went to the British Museum and admired the cool marble flesh of nymphs and goddesses. Cleo circled a few statues, observing that the Greeks sure had a fine hand when it came to posteriors; I managed to press oh-so-casually back against her, and she didn't miss the chance to demonstrate her own fine hand, or seem to mind that my posterior was not quite classical.
     Then we decided life was too short to waste on Egyptian mummies, and wandered a bit until, in a corner of an upper floor, we found a little gallery where paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite movement and other Victorian artists were displayed. There was no one else there but an elderly woman guard whose stern face softened just a trace at Cleo's smile.
      Idealized women gazed out of mythological worlds aglow with color. The grim reality of war retreated under the spell of flowing robes, rippling clouds of hair, impossibly perfect skin.
      Cleo stood in the center of the room, slowly rotating. "Sure had a thing for redheads, didn't they," she said. "You'd have fit right in, Kay."
     I could only hope she herself had a thing for redheads. Standing there, feeling drab in my khaki uniform, I watched Cleo appreciating the paintings of beautiful women. When she moved closer to the sleeping figure of "Flaming June" by Lord Leighton, I gazed with her at the seductive flesh gleaming through transparent orange draperies and allowed myself, experimentally, to imagine stroking the curve of thigh and hip, the round, tender breasts.
     "I don't know how this rates as art," Cleo said, "but oh, my!"
     A hot flush rose across my skin, of desire, yes, but even more of fierce jealousy. I wanted to be in that bright, serene world, inside that pampered, carefree body, with smooth arms and hands not roughened by scrubbing with hospital soap. I wanted to be the one seducing Cleo's eyes.
  "She could have a million freckles under that gown," I blurted out childishly. "The color would filter them out!"
     A tiny grin quirked the corner of Cleo's mouth. As always, I wanted to feel the movement of her lips. "Freckles are just fine," she said, "so long as I get to count them." She turned, and leaned close, and shivers of anticipation rippled through me. "With my tongue," she added, and very gently laid a trail of tiny wet dots across the bridge of my nose. I forgot entirely where we were.
     Then she bent her dark head to my throat, and undid my top buttons, and gently cupped my breasts through my tunic as her warm tongue probed down into the valley between. I couldn't bear to stop her, even when I remembered the guard. My breasts felt heavy, my nipples swollen, but not nearly as heavy and swollen as I needed them to be.
     Cleo's gray eyes were darker when she raised her head. "Where," she murmured huskily, "is a bomb shelter when you need one?"
     But we knew that even now, when Hitler's Russian campaign had distracted the Luftwaffe enough that there hadn't been a really major attack on London in over a year, every bomb shelter had its fiercely protective attendants.
     The guard's voice, harsh but muted, startled us. "There's a service lift just down the corridor. It's slow. Though not necessarily slow enough."
     She gazed impersonally into space, her weathered face expressionless, until, as we passed, she glanced down at Cleo's silver wings. "Good work," she said curtly. "I drove an ambulance in France in the last war. But for God's sake be careful!"
     In the elevator Cleo pressed me against a wood-paneled wall and kissed me so hard it hurt. I slid my fingers through her thick dark hair and held her back just enough for my lips to explore the shape of her lips and my tongue to invite hers to come inside.
     By the time we jolted to a stop on the ground floor my crotch felt wetter than my mouth, and even more in need of her probing tongue.
     There was no one waiting when the gate slid open. Cleo pulled me along until we found a deserted ladies' room, but once inside, she braced her shoulders against the tiled wall and didn't touch me. "You do realize," she said grimly, "what you're risking."
     "Never mind what I'm risking," I said. "One nurse blotting her copy book isn't going to bring everything since Florence Nightingale crashing down. But you..." I remembered Frank's bitter voice asking, "What kind of woman?"  Tears stung my eyes, but it had to be said. "You're holding history in your hands, Cleo." I reached out to clasp her fingers. "Right where I want to be."
     "Are you sure you know what you want?"
     "I may not know exactly what," I admitted, drawing her hands to my hips, "but I sure as hell know I want it!" I reached down and yanked my skirt up as far as I could. Cleo stroked my inner thigh, and I caught my breath; then she slid cool fingers inside my cotton underpants and gently cupped my hot, wet flesh. I moaned and thrust against her touch, and tried to kiss her, and her mouth moved under mine into a wide grin.
     "Pretty convincing," she murmured against my lips.
     I whimpered as she withdrew her hand, but she just smoothed down my skirt and gave me a pat on my butt. "Not here," she said, and propelled me out the door.
     On the long series of bus rides back to Charles Street we tried not to look at each other, but I felt Cleo's dark gaze on me from time to time. I kept my eyes downcast, the better to glance sidelong at her as she alternated between folding her arms across her chest and clenching and unclenching her hands on her blue wool slacks.
     Dinner was being served at the Red Cross club, probably the best meal for the price in England. Cleo muttered that she wasn't hungry, not for dinner, anyway, but I had my own motive for insisting. The band would be setting up in half an hour or so, and with the window opened, you could hear the music from my room. Well enough for dancing.
     So we ate, although I couldn't say what, and Cleo teased me by running her tongue sensuously around the lip of a coke bottle and into its narrow throat. Her mercurial shifts from intensity to playfulness fascinated me, but the time came when intensity was all I craved.
     "I don't suppose you'd like to dance, would you?" I repeated last night's invitation with a barely steady voice. "If I tried my best to do it right?" I stood abruptly and started for the stairs. Behind me Cleo's chair fell over with a clatter as she jumped up to follow me.
     I reached my tiny room ahead of her--nursing builds strong legs. I crossed to the window to heave it open, and then the door slammed shut and she was behind me, pressing her crotch against my ass, wrapping her arms around me to undo my buttons and cradle my breasts through my sensible cotton slip. I longed to be wearing sheer flame-colored silk for her.
     When she slid her hands under the fabric and over my skin, though, I found I didn't want to be wearing anything at all. "So soft," she whispered, "so tender..." and then, as my nipples jerked taut under her strokes, "and getting so hard..."
     A melody drifted from below; "Something To Remember You By." I turned in her arms. "Teach me to dance," I whispered.
     We swayed gently together, feet scarcely moving in the cramped space, thighs pressing into each other's heat. Cleo kneaded my ass, while I held her so tightly against my breast that her silver wings dented my flesh.
     "Please," I murmured against her cheek, "closer..." I fumbled at the buttons of her tunic. When she tensed, I drew back. "I'm sorry...I don't know the rules..."
     "The only rule," Cleo said, after a long pause, "is that you get what you need."
     "I need to feel you," I said.
     She drew her hands over my hips and up my sides until she held my breasts again; then she stepped back and began to shed her clothes. Mine, with a head start, came off even faster.
      The heady musk of arousal rose around us. A clarinet crooned, "I'll Be Seeing You, in All the Old Familiar Places." I cupped my full breasts and raised them so that my nipples could flick against Cleo's high, tightening peaks, over and over. The sensation was exquisite, tantalizing--I gave a little whimper, needing more, and she bent to take me into her mouth.
     I thought I would burst with wanting. My swollen nipples felt as big as her demanding tongue. Then she worked her hand between my legs, and spread the juices from my cunt up over my straining clit, and my whimpers turned to full-throated moans.
     Cleo raised her head. Her kiss muted my cries as she reached past me to shut the window. "Hope nobody's home next door," she muttered, and suddenly we were dancing horizontally on the narrow bed. I arched my hips, rubbing against her thigh, until her mouth moved down over throat and breasts and belly, slowly, too slowly; I wanted to savor each moment but my need was too desperate. I wriggled, and thrashed, and her head sank at last between my thighs, just as in my dreams. Her mobile lips drove me into a frenzy of pleading, incoherent cries, until, with her tongue thrusting deeply, rhythmically into my cunt, my ache exploded into glorious release.
     In the first faint light of morning I woke to feel Cleo's fingers ruffling my tousled hair. "If I were an artist I'd paint you like this," she whispered. "You look like a marmalade cat full of cream."

There's a lot more to this story, both before and after this excerpt, so if you want to read it all go over to I'll leave it there for a week or two. Then maybe I'll post the sequel, "Alternate Lives."


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Music: A Personal History

I worked as a DJ in the miniscule, low powered, top 40 station at my university back in the day. That was when vinyl wasn’t retro and cool. It was just the most affordable way for broke university students to buy their music. If we had cars, we all dreamed of having a good sound system. Of course that meant mostly eight tracks or possibly cassette players. I drove an ancient Ford Galaxy 500 the color of an army tank and not much smaller. Since it had no stereo system, I just left the radio on. When the key turned in the ignition, the radio started. When the engine shut off, the radio stopped. In my world, there always, always had to be music.

We lived for music in those days. I can remember the pure pleasure of buying the latest album from B&B Records in Kirksville, Missouri. It was the only place in town where you could buy the latest album for a fiver. There was always a mad rush back to the dorm afterwards, or back to my house before I started university, to have a listen. While it was always fun to share the latest with friends, the best part, the most important part, was that ritual of shutting myself in my room and cranking the new album on my cheap stereo. Then I’d settle on my bed with a glass of tea and the album jacket, which usually had the lyrics printed on it. It was total immersion into a world that somehow touched me, like it did most people my age, in ways nothing else could. I think perhaps that was because in my teens and early twenties, I experienced the world through music. I was too young and innocent to have yet been knocked down by love that didn’t work out, or transported to heavenly realms by love that did. I hadn’t yet had sex that shook me to my very core, or heartbreak that threatened to destroy me. I hadn’t yet explored the big wide world or had adventures that would change my life. I lived and breathed through the music, going through the mundane motions of getting an education so that one day I could move out into that mysterious world of which music spoke to me so seductively. 

Music at that stage of my life was voyeurism into the many lives, loves, tragedies, adventures and beginnings that were not mine, but moved me as though they might have been. It made me yearn for a life larger than my own with the burning impatience of the very young, who somehow are certain things will go better for them and they won’t make the same mistakes as the people in the songs that tug at their hearts.

And then I graduated, moved away from Missouri, and found myself thrown in at the deep end of that real world that I’d only experienced in music. It was a different kind of total immersion. My first real job was in small market television in Kalispell Montana, where I did not find my true love. I ended up in Oregon and then went to former Yugoslavia. In Croatia, Ididfind my true love in a time that the country I’d come to think of as home was breaking apart and the Balkan war started. I was exposed to the seamy underbelly of organized religion and everything I thought I knew about the world I lived in and what I believed to be true crumbled. 

During that time of my life there was very little music. I lived in the experience. The immersion into survival was nothing at all like what I’d thought it would be when I was a teenager sitting on my bed listening to songs of love and loss and adventure. I’m an introvert and a writer, so I’ve always spent massive amounts of time in my head. But in that headspace music was replaced by my own thoughts and ruminations, and silence spoke volumes. The quiet became music in its own right, healing and soothing the scars that life left. Sometimes I just wanted to maintain a place of neutrality in myself, to just go through the motions away from anything that could overpower me like music might threaten to do. At other times, I was just lost in the experiences that life threw me, often faster than I could embrace them. It wasn’t that music no longer had the power to move me or to touch me on a deeper level. It was that I didn’t want to be moved to a deeper level. I knew the darkness that level could hold, and I often felt like I was already drowning in it.

Then a few years ago, on a holiday in Dubrovnik Croatia, my husband and I stepped into a pub that had live music – a bloke with a guitar and a really great voice. He played covers, and we listened, tapped our feet, sang along, even danced with the drunk revelers who had spent their day toasting in the sun. The next night, we came back to listen again. 

Somehow those two nights in that pub in Dubrovnik cracked open that space where music used to live in my life. My husband and I discovered that Guildford is a place alive and bustling with music. There’s a contemporary music school here, and almost any night of the week you can find a pub where some kind of live music is happening. We’re spoiled for choice. For the price of a pint, we can listen to some seriously amazing talent all evening long. 

But it’s different now, the way the music moves me and the places inside me where it resonates. I’ve lived a life. I’ve known love and loss and adventure and sorrow and depression and joy. I’ve known those long stretches of the mundane into which the tiniest breath of magic can make me rethink everything. And I’ve learned what it means to be terrified and yet move forward anyway because there’s something worth the effort waiting just beyond the fear. Perhaps it’s just the filter that has changed. Perhaps music now helps me to face my mortality as it helped me face my inexperience in my youth. Music is continuity. It’s there with or without our participation, always touching someone, always progressing, always finding a space and an emotion that can be expressed best through music. While there have been years in my life in which I hardly noticed music, there is powerful magic in being able to come back after being away so long and find a different kind of comfort, a different kind of pleasure and find that the joy is still there. I no longer feel like the voyeur, but rather one who has been there, who bears the scars of the journey and houses the memories of all the highs and lows along the way. That continuity that music offers is like embracing an old friend that I’ve not seen in a long time, and while we’ve both changed, we somehow can still pick up where we left off and continue our conversation.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Another Summer Beach Read

By Tim Smith

This month I’m highlighting the second book in my Key West Heat series, “Beauty and the Beach.” This one was released last year. It’s a short fun read about two people who enjoy a casual romantic relationship while working together. They find themselves on a small resort island called Sunset Key, a short distance from Key West, Florida.

“When supermodel Brandi Knox is hired for a tropical-themed magazine spread, she insists on having her favorite photographer, Justin Malone, do the job. He arranges the shoot on Sunset Key, near Key West. The two have been involved on and off for several years, in a friends-with-benefits situation. This time, their feelings for each other seem to have developed into something deeper. When the sun finally sets on their latest assignment, will they still be just friends, or something more?”

The inspiration for the main characters came from personal experience. I’ve been a photographer since I was in high school, and I still do occasional work as a freelancer. In addition to weddings and family portraits, I’ve done a lot of amateur model shoots with aspiring Christie Brinkley wannabes. For the record, most of them didn’t have what it takes for the runways, but it was still fun. I needed a fresh romance idea and came up with this scenario, about a fashion photog and a supermodel who have worked together for a few years and have a friendly, flirty relationship. There is more than just co-worker fantasy between them, though. Since this is an erotic romance, the encounters are hotter than the Keys humidity. Here’s an example:

They turned their attention back to the sunset. When it crested, then disappeared over the Gulf, they heard the loud cheering of the crowd on Key West. Justin looked in that direction and saw the hoard of people dispersing on Mallory Square in search of more liquid refreshment.

“You’re right, this is much better,” he said.

Brandi sipped her wine, then cradled her glass. “Our very own private paradise. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind living like this.”

“I had you figured for a cabin in the mountains type of girl.”

“That would be nice, too. You should come visit me sometime. My place has a great view of the Smoky Mountains.”

“Sounds idyllic.”

She reached over and traced a pattern along his forearm with her fingernail. “Ever made love in the mountains?”

“Uh-huh. The higher altitude adds an extra rush.”

She laughed. “And all this time I thought it was just lusty euphoria.”

Brandi moved over to sit on Justin’s lap, facing him. She straddled her long legs over his, then rested her arms on his shoulders.

Justin pulled her face to his and kissed her deeply, probing her mouth with his tongue while his fingers massaged the back of her neck. He inhaled her freshly-bathed scent and musky perfume, and the aromas increased his arousal.

Brandi ran her fingers through his hair and kissed him with growing passion while grinding her crotch against him. After a few minutes of tongue dancing, Brandi pulled her face back and caressed his cheek. “You’ve got me feeling frisky tonight. Did you know you have that effect on me?”

“And do you not feel the tent pole poking you from underneath?”

She gave a soft, wicked laugh. “Oh, yeah, I feel it.” She gyrated her pelvis against him. “Dry humping you in public is fun.”

Justin placed his hands on her ass and fondled her. “Real humping is more fun.”

Brandi continued moving on him. “What is this fascination you have with my booty?”

“Can’t explain it. It just is what it is.”

She kissed him. “You like to photograph it, play with it, make love to it…”

“I’ve never heard you complain.”

“Not since you broke it in. You made me weak in the knees the first time you slid that pole of yours between my cheeks. Made me come buckets.”

Justin pulled her face in and hungrily kissed her. “Now you see what effect you’re having on me.”

“Then let’s do something about it, before I slide off your lap.”

This story has humor, realistic atmosphere, likeable characters, and a hot interracial romance. Just the thing to raise your internal thermostat before you dive into the pool to cool yourself off. You can find it at the link below. Happy reading!

Amazon "Beauty and the Beach"