Thursday, October 31, 2013

Close Enough?

by Giselle Renarde

Lucky Me!  I get to write about reading on Halloween.  Mwahahaha....

Last year, I snapped up a copy of High Spirits by Robertson Davies at the Victoria College Book Sale.  I love ghost stories, love tongue-in-cheek Canadian humour, and love-love-love Robertson Davies.  How could I resist this little collection of satirically spooky stories set at Massey College, University of Toronto?

Instead of telling you about these clever little ghost stories, I want to talk about the environment in which they're set. See, Robertson Davies wrote them to read at Massey College's annual Christmas party.  They're all set at the college.

And they're great fun.  And, as alumna of the University of Toronto, I should feel a sense of affinity for the setting, but here's the thing: I don't know Massey College.  I'm a Vic grad, just like Margaret Atwood (I like to mention that as often as possible because I've never actually accomplished anything).  I don't think I've set foot in Massey College.  In fact, I had to look it up on a map just to figure out where it is.  It IS a real place, just not one in which I had any classes.

So here's my question: when we're reading fiction set on this planet, how close is close enough?

When I was younger, I sought out stories of faraway places.  I wanted to read about lands I hadn't been to and cultures I wasn't particularly familiar with: India, China, Japan--anywhere distant from here.  I guess I wanted to learn by immersion, fiction-style.

Now I'm looking at my bookshelf and thinking about the books I've bought in recent years, and I'm realizing how much my tastes have changed.  The last novel I purchased was "The Stubborn Season" by Lauren B. Davis, which is set in Toronto during the Depression.  Pretty much everything I read is set in Southern Ontario. It helps that we have a wealth of outstanding authors in this province.  It's easy to find fiction that plays out close to home.

But I worry that my world is becoming too insular. I write for a living, and I don't leave the apartment most days.  What do I read?  Not books that get me out of my city, out of my province, my country, or even my world.  I suppose I stay close to home because I find comfort in the familiar.

So it's really kind of ridiculous that I'm reading stories set at my Alma Mater and complaining because they don't take place at MY college.

Picky, picky, Giselle...

Though, I supposed the closer you get to real life in the subject matter, the more you need those sparks of recognition to shine with a special brightness.

Giselle Renarde is a queer Canadian, avid volunteer, and contributor to more than 100 short story anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bondage Erotica, and Best Lesbian Romance. Ms Renarde has written dozens of juicy books, including Anonymous, Ondine, and Nanny State. Her book The Red Satin Collection won Best Transgender Romance in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. Giselle lives across from a park with two bilingual cats who sleep on her head.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In The Demi Monde

"To be at home on it's native ground
the mind must go down below its horizon,
descend below the lightfall
on ridge and steep and valley floor
to receive the lives of the dead.  It must wake
in their sleep, who wake in its dreams."

FROM "Elegy"  Wendell Berry

This walking stick I bought from a friend is doing me yeoman’s service right now, bearing my weight as I hop from rock to rock, all of it uphill.  For a guy with bad feet and bad balance I’m doing all right, keeping up with the Sierra Club guys ahead of me.  My son is with them, turning and snapping pictures of everything on the way to the summit.

The Sierra Club from my church (They always meet at the local Unitarian Church anywhere you go) invited me along, maybe hoping for a couple of new members and I was glad to accept.  It’s been a while since we had a chance to do something father and son together and this really works.

Stone Mountain, just outside of Atlanta, is barely a hill as mountain climbing goes, about 830 feet more or less and about 3000 feet above sea level.   This is a solid, gigantic lump of pure granite in the shape of an oozing glacier of frozen lava that goes down into the earth for miles, the result of some kind of apocalyptic  eruption eons ago.  Vegetation barely grows here except where it can find enough windblown dirt to take root in.  Generations have carved, pick axed  and jack hammered their names and loves into the ground going back to the Civil War.  It’s not often a man gets to see his name in granite before he becomes famous or more likely dead.

The west side is climbable, and as I struggle upwards little kids zip by me like hollering packs of gleeful squirrels.  There’s a lot of old people here too; many of them are elderly Asians where climbing small mountains is a cultural tradition.  The north face, walled off by a chain fence, is a vertiginous sheer drop of wind blasted smooth stone that regularly kills rock climbers.  A vast bas-relief sculpture of Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson mounted on horses with hats over hearts is carved into the north face by the same guy who did Mount Rushmore.  It reminds you that this area was once a small nation that lost a war for independence.  They have their own heroes here.

The last hundred feet of the tourist friendly west face is the hardest.  My chest is burning and I’m gripping my staff with both hands like some grumpy old testament prophet as I heave myself up.  This is really starting to seem like a bad idea but I’m determined to see it through or tumble to my death.    After all my kid is watching.

The part I’m on, if you slip off you’ll roll a long way down before you catch up hard against anything, like say, the trunk of a pine tree or an old Chinese lady.  So I pick my way slow.  An old Korean couple struggles along with me, cautious, grimly determined and filled with the glow of gumption shining righteously around them.  I hope I’ve got a little of that on display. 

I practically crawl on my hands the last fifty feet, but goddamn, I’m there.  I’m at the top.  Huzzah.

An athletic blond babe in tight black spandex like a superhero goes bouncing by me, briskly radiating goddess gumption as though floating on air.  Her terrific fanny is so solid it doesn’t even jiggle.  Her powerful bare thighs below the tiny Daisy Duke jogging shorts are an alarm to cunnilingus.  I feel suddenly immensely proud.  To be so old, so beat up, gasping for breath and yet still capable of lust is something of an achievement.  One has to admire it.

I sit down slow and painful on a flat rock.  My thighs feel like I just did fifty barbell squats.  Fishing around in my pocket I pull out a tattered notebook and get ready to scribble some profound insight inspired by hypoxia, and I see the words  in red ink there –

“Are You Dreaming?”

Close the eyes, listen.  Breathe.  Smell.  Feel.  I look at the notebook again.  The words are still there.  I look at the palm of my hand as I trained myself.  The lines are where they should be.  I’m not dreaming.

Okay.  Still it would have been nice.

In the past, if this had been a dream, I’ve have tackled the blond goddess and had her down on the cold ground hard, heavy and silly in front of the little kids and old folks and awakened throbbing with orgasm and none the worse but for a change of underwear.  Anything goes in a dream.  But I’ve changed my ways.  This time I would have done it different – because I’m after something specific now. 

I have a goal.

I’ve been studying a book by Stephen Laberge called “Exploring the World of Lucid dreaming”.  LaBerge is the sleep researcher who pioneered the clinical evidence of what was once considered a medical myth, the lore of shamans and Tibetan meditation masters  – the lucid dream.  A lucid dream is that experience in which the ego awakens in the midst of a dream, while still clinically asleep, and is aware that this is a dream and not reality.  His book is not a celebration of the lucid dream – it’s a flight instruction manual.  He tells you how to do it.  How to train.  How to make it happen when you want it.

I had originally been interested in Astral Projection, because of the way it was depicted in comic books like “Dr. Strange”.  It turned out to be an extreme variation of lucid dreaming so I began thinking about that and then changed my mind about the whole thing.  Here’s why –

As I crawl towards mortality I think more about the mystery of consciousness and identity, a theme I’ve come back to many times in my fiction.  I see consciousness now as a kind of spectrum.  The conscious mind, the personality that we identify as ourselves is only a tiny part of us.  The vast portion of consciousness, the part that steers the ego, is transparent to us and out of reach.  It thinks in images, and doesn’t distinguish between fantasy and reality.  That’s why an image of a naked woman gets you hard.  That’s why a well written erotic work gets you wet.  The conscious mind makes that distinction necessary for survival, the unconscious does not.  The conscious mind is a crest of a very deep wave that goes down and down and you can’t see the wave, only what the wave does.  That means the Buddhists could maybe be right.  What we think of as ourselves may be an illusion.  What you think of as yourself doesn’t actually exist the way you think.  The way human consciousness exists is actually in a state we don’t even recognize or have words for.  The darkness.   The con man.  The unmanifested boundary between brilliance and madness unleashed.  The glove doesn’t see the fingers within.

The Demi Monde, or “half world”, is that place between worlds, between darkness and light, waking and dreaming, conscious and unconscious.  A lucid dream is when this demi monde comes to life and the waking ego awakens within the dream as it continues.  The sleeper is clinically asleep, but consciously awake in the fantastic world of the dream, where there are no consequences; freedom beyond the reach of any law of God or Man or even nature.  You lift your arms and fly.  You see a lover, you take her.  You own the world you see, at least until you awake. 

There is also a problem with this.

I’ve come to see that spirituality as a practice also exists on a kind of spectrum not only of values but of motivation.  In spirituality the motivation is critical, and is most carefully hidden away from the ego.  Humility has nothing to do with the loss of true pride, but rather the ruthless skill with which we strip aside personal games to perceive our motives and ourselves as clearly as possible.  Humility is an interior form of awareness.  The art of not kidding yourself.

There’s an old saw about the young meditation student who bursts out that he has just seen the Buddha in a vision and received a stunning revelation from him.  His meditation teacher pats him on the shoulder and says “Don’t worry, just bring your attention back to the breathing and it will all go away.”  More stodgy forms of mysticism such as Buddhism are about leading you away from yourself, into a deeper awareness of the world you live in and a spiritual connection with that world and the people around you.  There is a promise, taken at first on faith, that the more intensely you experience the naked moment in its and the connection with people and their suffering the greater the happiness you will find. 

The old Indian gurus in the ‘60s had an expression “siddhi”, which means “quick attainment”, a kind of contemptuous term for junk spirituality.  It referred to our natural attraction to spiritual phenomena, visions and intense spiritual experiences which could lead to actual or imagined psychic powers.  The ability to do special things more often strengthens the grip of the ego and leads to spiritual pride, which is the cause of so much hatred and violence in the name of God.  It leads you away from the world and more deeply into your delusions.  

Lucid dreaming or especially astral projection is potentially a kind of siddhi.  It can be an insightful tool in your tool box or distracting fireworks.  If you become good at it there is a great fascination that can lead to vanity and distract you from the drabber spiritual work of simply trying not to be so full of yourself.  But there is also a potential for spiritual insight in what is essentially a life “simulator”, a self created virtual reality.  In his book, LaBerge discusses lucid dreaming as a form of therapy.  It’s a powerful thing to be in an environment where all things are possible and there is nothing that can leave any blood behind.  If you awaken inside of a nightmare you can master your fear and confront your demons – literally.  Like the kid in the book “Where the Wild Things Are” the demons may become friends and explain a few things you didn’t even know were bugging you.  When you ask your demons who they really are they’ll answer they’re the guardians of your treasures.

And it’s a interesting question to ask yourself – if you were in an environment that responded to your wildest wishes, in which there were no consequences to what you choose, what would you do with yourself?  Is this Heaven or Hell?  Is this a rehearsal for the afterlife?  What comes leaping out of you in an environment of absolute freedom?

So this mountain top is not a dream and my son is calling to me to join them and have my picture taken.  I put my notebook and its calculated question away and creak to my feet.  The muscular blonde with the terrific ass is safe for now, and I’ll be sore as hell in the morning.  I won’t be spreading my arms and flying down off the mountain top this time.  It’s a slippery climb all the way down to the parking lot and if you goof it hurts.

And as I said, I have a goal.

If this mountain were a dream I might offer the athletic blonde a kiss on the lips and a friendly pinch, but then I’d raise my arms and fly alone to a quiet spot.  There I would close my eyes and meditate on the movement of breath until I reach that interior silence.  I’m very curious to know what consciousness feels like there down in the deepest depths of the Demi Monde beyond consciousness, beyond the waking mind’s normal reach.  What does the mind feel like when you go down in those colder, dark waters where the sunlight never reaches, but whose current  moves us constantly up above?  To be the fingers instead of the glove?  What strange long toothed devil fishes live there?  I wonder if they will sing to me, like Prufrock’s mermaids.  I don’t know what God is anymore, but I think it’s going to be found in that direction.  Somewhere that away.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Shelf...J.P. Bowie

This topic got me thinking about not only books I'm currently reading but some I've read and enjoyed in the past. But first what have I read recently? I read so many books that often times the memory of them becomes a blur, but some do stand out and get re-read later.

I'm not crazy about collections, but coming back from GRL a couple of weeks ago I lost my Nook and was forced to buy something to read from the airport bookstore. After perusing the shelves and muttering in my Scottish way about the exorbitant prices of paperbacks these day - $10 for  a mass market book? - when did that happen? - I settled on Love is Murder a collection edited by Sandra Brown and boasting such famous authors as Lee Child, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Heather Graham etc.

The theme, romantic suspense, include PI's slogging it out on the streets of LA,  FBI agents blessed, or cursed with paranormal abilities, serial killers etc., some stories with clever conclusions, some with a wry twist at the end, all of them entertaining enough to make my flight back to San Diego go by in a flash.
Thirty stories, over seven hundred pages all for ten bucks - value for money indeed!

I like a good ghost story, and after reading the blurb for Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe I was hooked - and hooked all the way through to the end of this really original take on life after death and what must happen to help a lost soul move on. Briefly a guy, Dean, stops to help a woman change a tire on a busy highway, is confronted by the woman's crazy husband who shoots them both and abducts his children.
So happens that Dean's lover Andrei, has Romany roots, a little sister who happens to be a ghost  and a grandmother who can speak to the dead. Dean returns in corporeal form to help Andrei track down his killer, but a clever twist gets in the way...Dean's anger at being killed and taken from his lover summons monsters known as jackal wraiths who feed on rage and threaten to consume Dean's soul.

So the pretty horrific climax has Dean and Andrei in a race against time, battling a hurricane, Dean's killer and the jackals. Honestly, I was on the edge of my seat and wondering how it all could end. Would the author cop out and gave us the HEA I wanted for the two guys which would have been nice, but still a cop out. Well, she didn't and kudos to her for creating an ending that was both beautiful and bittersweet.
This is one I'll reread.

I've always been a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, his John Carter novels I read as a kid and still reread on occasion. The recent movie which apparently was seen by no one but me, brought me back to the original books and considering they were written eons ago, they stand up pretty well against modern takes on the same theme. PS I loved the movie! I know, I know, my own partner shakes his head at that one, but guess what, I have it on DVR and get to watch it when the rest of the world is fast asleep and I can fly off again to Barsoom! (Mars, for the uninitiated)!

Monday, October 28, 2013

A World with Two Moons

By Lisabet Sarai

For the past three weeks I've been immersed in a single book: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Lest you think that I'm a terribly slow reader, let me inform you that this novel, Murakami's most recent, is approximately 1150 pages long. Furthermore, this is not a tale to be rushed, but rather, to be savored. I'm currently on page 743, at the start of Book 3 – “October-December” - and I'm buzzing with pleasant anticipation as I contemplate the next week or two.

Murakami has been one of my favorite authors since I encountered him back in the eighties. I believe I've read all of his novels prior to 1Q84. His stories highlight the isolation and anomie of modern urban life, yet are spiked with a distinctively Japanese magical realism that I find addictive. Practically every character he creates is passive, alone, drifting aimlessly through his or her drab life, oppressed by a vague sense that something is missing. Then the impossible, or at least the unlikely, intrudes and impels the characters to action. In acting, they change. They may connect with other equally lost and lonely souls, though often in a transient fashion that begs any conventional happy ending.

The last Murakami book I read before this one was the slim and elegant After Dark. If you've got the time, you can check out my review on Goodreads: In that review, I commented that After Dark really has no plot, that it's like a curl of smoke or a riff of jazz, beautiful and haunting but without the constraints of novelistic structure.

If After Dark is jazz improvisation, the meticulously plotted 1Q84 is more like a symphony. Every movement, I believe, is carefully planned. Separate themes emerge as solo voices, then converge in choruses of the synchronicity that distinguishes Murakami's fiction. The scenario becomes increasingly fantastic and compelling as the book continues.

I don't want to give away too much of the story, because discovering the twists and turns as the author gradually reveals them is part of the joy of reading. However, I can sketch out the initial events that set the tale into motion.

In the first two thirds of the book, alternating chapters present the perspectives of two seemingly disconnected characters. Aomame is a determined, disciplined woman with a secret profession. Desperate to escape a traffic jam on the freeway that will prevent her from making a critical appointment, Aomame exits from her taxi and climbs down an emergency ladder to street level. Only later does she come to understand that this radical departure from the norm has left her stranded in a subtly different world, a world with a different history and two moons in the sky.

Thirty year old mathematics prodigy Tengo teaches at a cram school and aspires to write fiction. A manipulative editor colleague pressures Tengo into revising a fascinating but disturbing novel by a seventeen year old girl, in order to enter the book into a literary contest. Once he has read young Fuka-Eri's strange tale, he cannot resist temptation. He polishes it into a fictional gem; it becomes a best seller. Gradually he discovers that his creative act has set dangerous forces in motion, that he too has been drawn into a new and disorienting universe that challenges his familiar assumptions.

That's all I'm going to say about the events that propel IQ84 forward. I'll just reiterate that reading it is pure pleasure. The book is written in simple but evocative prose, with a certain distance from its characters that does not prevent you from empathizing with them. Like most of Murakami's books, this one concerns itself with the nature of reality and the malleability of human perception. It's a mystery, a love story, a fantasy, a horror tale, a voyage of self-discovery for its characters. I have no idea how it will end. I consider that high praise.

Here's a bit from one of my favorite sections, describing Tengo's experience as he works on the revisions to Fuka-Eri's manuscript.

He printed a draft, saved the document, turned off the word processor, and shifted the machine to the side of his desk. Now, with a pencil in his hand, he did another careful read-through of the text, this time on paper. Again he deleted parts that seemed superfluous, fleshed out passages that felt underwritten, and revised sections until they fit more smoothly into the rest of the story. He selected his words with all the care of a craftsman choosing the perfect piece of tile to fill a narrow gap in a bathroom floor, inspecting the fit from every angle. Where the fit was less than perfect, he adjusted the shape. The slightest difference in nuance could bring the passage to life or kill it.

The exact same text was subtly different to read when viewed on the printed pages rather than on the word processor's screen. The feel of the words he chose would change depending on whether he was writing them on paper in pencil or typing them on the keyboard. It was imperative to do both. He turned the machine on again and typed each penciled correction back into the word-processed document. The he reread the revised text on the screen. Not bad, he told himself. Each sentence possessed the proper weight, which gave the whole thing a natural rhythm.

When you analyze any particular paragraph, Murakami writing is quiet, without rhetorical flourishes or excessive emotion. Yet somehow he manages to evoke an intense sense of loss, of desperation or of wonder, depending on his intention. I'm certain the author is describing his own writing process in the passage above. The final resulting prose shows exactly that sort of obsessive attention to detail. As a reader, though, you're not really conscious of the craft, because of the way it pulls you into the story.

I'll stop here. I've got to go exercise, and then make dinner. Later, I'll settle into bed for what may be the best part of the day – a few more chapters from this compelling novel.

Friday, October 25, 2013


by Jean Roberta

I’ve read many erotic anthologies and somewhat fewer erotic novels since the late 1990s. There was a time, of course, when I might have read one sexually-explicit book in a year, and it haunted my dreams.

The magic of early discovery clings to one of the earliest lesbian sex books I ever saw. A Woman’s Touch is still in my personal library, and it was published in 1979 in Grants Pass, Oregon, not far from where several of my relatives lived at the time. Amazing! The editors had first names only (Cedar and Nelly), which I soon learned was standard etiquette in lesbian gathering-places, as in Alcoholics Anonymous.

The late artist and writer Tee Corinne is credited with designing the book. As I learned when I met her at an International Feminist Book Fair in 1988, rural Oregon in the 1970s and ‘80s actually seemed like a suitable environment for a community of nature-loving dykes, including her. My childhood summers in a small Oregon town, redolent with the sickly-sweet smell of the local sawmill, had not prepared me to imagine modern-day Amazons camping out there. The possibility that they danced naked under the trees was intriguing but hardly credible.

Looking at A Woman’s Touch, now falling apart in my hands, is a trip down memory lane. It includes essays and stories that describe activities which seemed almost unthinkable to me at the time, complete with Tee Corinne’s artsy photos and drawings of the curves and planes of women’s bodies. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the artist’s focus on specific body parts, some of which were hard to identify, might have been a concession to a cultural climate in which lesbian sex really seemed like the ultimate frontier, even to lesbians. The subtitle of the book sternly specifies that it is “For Women Only,” as though that could be policed.

I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to seek out a book like this in any other bookstore than the basement room where I worked shifts as a member of the store collective. Someone had ordered the book on spec, and I snapped it up.
The eclectic tradition of including visual art with fantasy fiction, “true” stories, philosophical/political essays on sex, and helpful how-to articles continued in Coming to Power, the controversial collectively-edited book on lesbian S/M, published by Alyson Publications in Boston, Massachusetts in 1982. Words can hardly describe the flaming arguments this book inspired whenever it appeared in a milieu intended For Women Only. Despite the political correctness of an editing collective (as distinct from a single editor, wielding a pen like a sceptre), the concept of lesbian-feminist sadomasochism seemed like the furthest extreme from the currently-reigning ideal of lesbian farmers, dancing under the trees in egalitarian bliss.

This book was too hot to be carried by the local basement bookstore. I bought a copy in Vancouver, a large, anonymous city where I was visiting a long-time heterosexual woman friend who probably never knew I had it, but who probably wouldn’t have been horrified. My friend was so far removed from collective activity of any kind that the Feminist Sex Wars of the time just mystified her. Visiting her was strangely refreshing.

When I attended that fateful book fair in 1988, I also discovered Lace Publications, a producer of red-hot lesbian erotica. It was run in Denver, Colorado, by “Lady Winston” (which seemed to be a reference to her smoking habit) a.k.a. Artemis Oakgrove. The Leading Edge: An Anthology of Lesbian Sexual Fiction was featured at the Lace Publications booth which was shared by two other small publishers (For Women Only), including Lilith, publisher of my own collection of relatively tame lesbian stories.

The Leading Edge, as its title proudly claims, was intended as a first of its kind. It was published in 1987, long before the annual Best Lesbian Erotica series was launched by Cleis Press in 1995. It seemed clearly related to Coming to Power, and included work by a few of the same contributors. It also included drawings which had a distinctly amateur quality, but as the word “amateur” implies, the book seemed like a labour of love and courage.

Many years later, in 1996, Alyson Publications launched The Second Coming, a sequel to Coming to Power. Alyson was located in Los Angeles by then, and the book was subtitled “A Leatherdyke Reader.” “Leatherdykes” apparently had not yet emerged from the head of the Goddess in 1982. Unfortunately, my copy of this paperback has half its contents printed upside-down to the other half. When I first discovered this, I couldn’t help wondering if sabotage was involved. (And the very word “sabotage” seems linguistically related to the concept of sensible shoes, as worn by a certain type of anti-leather, vegetarian lesbian-feminist).

Erotica in general is still controversial, of course. It can be made to disappear from public view by governments and corporations, regardless of literary quality. However, I’ve rarely read anything in recent years that seems as personal and heart-felt (or cunt-felt) as the erotica written by women (womyn-loving or man-loving) in the 1970s and 1980s.

Here is the tail-end of a story from The Leading Edge, a fantasy of sexual abundance( “Travels with Diana Hunter” by Regine Sands):

“Diana opened her eyes and found the hotel housekeeper, a blond girl of no more than twenty, leaning against the closed bathroom door, watching her. The girl had been watching Diana masturbate. This was a delightful surprise. Sometime during her semi-conscious state of fantasizing, the girl apparently entered the bathroom, shut and locked the door behind her, leaned back against it, and not more than seven feet away from Diana masturbating, watched. Oh, most definitely, yes!

‘What is your name, little one?’ Diana asked.

‘Whatever you’d like to call me’ from the girl, told Diana everything she needed to know for now.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Little Birds, Dark Men and Cigars

by Amanda Earl

Here are a few taboo tales that have tickled my fancy, my imagination and my neurons, and at the same time, have made me think about the world, our desires, and our fears. What these stories have in common is that they represent unspoken fantasies: being Daddy's little girl, the desire to be dominated and used, the fantasy of being taken without permission in a public place. 

I have to begin with Anaïs Nin's "Little Birds," the first story in the collection of the same name (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London, 1979). Today a lot of what Nin wrote would be taboo and her books would be banned for writing about sex with underage characters, bestiality,  non consensual sex, incest etc. Of course she had a lot of trouble getting her work published in her day and had to start her own publishing firm in order to ensure that the work was read.  Will there ever be a time when people understand that fiction is not reality and that the exploration of the forbidden and the unspoken is a reason why art in any form exists? If so, I'd like to time travel there.

The first story in this collection, "Little Birds," is about a man who owns parrots. He uses these parrots as a way to entice young girls into his apartment. He is a timid man. He exposes himself.  They run away. It is a careful story, told in a very restrained way. There is a subtle eroticism in the indirectness of the tale. There is no use of graphic language. He exposes himself at urinals. He is very tentative. He is not a character we can admire. This isn't a perfect world and the situation is not ideal.

In this story and much of her erotic fiction, Nin reminds me of the power of subtlety in a story. Just a few details, descriptions of the birds, the blonde hair of the young girl, his kimono, make this story fascinating, exotic, disturbing. In her work Nin portrays a world where sexual dysfunction is common. The characters are not exemplary, but their acts and desires represent the spectrum of human sexuality, whether we want to admit it or not. There are many other stories I return to in this collection, a first edition given to me by a friend I have long since lost touch with. I wonder if it would please him that his gift continues to provoke and intrigue me.

Next is Anne Tourney's "Come for Me, Dark Man" in the anthology "Sacred Exchange" edited by Lisabet Sarai and S.F. Mayfair (Blue Moon Books, New York, 2003). This opening story concerns a widow, a woman living alone near the railroad tracks. She is seduced by degrees…first by the sound of the tracks, then the music of the blues and then the dark stranger who enters her home. Her subsequent fantasies drive her mad with desire. She allows this stranger, a freight hopper, into her home, is mastered by him and then haunted by him and his music. It undoes her and changes her. 

This is such a sensual and arousing story. It is intricately woven. I am left with the image of the woman clad only in a dress, no underwear, sitting on the ground above her clothes line where the stranger first encounters her, another image of him in her kitchen, undoing his belt, pushing her down to suck his cock, the woman on the train on the floor, his boot moving over her body, almost crushing her hand, then slipping between her legs. And ultimately the music of the blues which undoes her.

"Flannel Nightgowns and White Cotton Panties" by Patrick Califia has been anthologized a few times, one of which is in the Master/Slave anthology edited by N.T. Morely, where stories appear either in "Master: 30 Spanking Tales from the Top" or "Slave: 30 Stinging Tales from the Bottom" (The Berkley Publishing Group, New York, 2004). This story is the quintessential Daddy/little girl tale about a submissive's journey and what her master figures out she needs in order to let go control.

In this story Califia leads us slowly and carefully into the scenario. He ensures we know that the submissive is a grown woman not related in any way to her master, and that this is a scene her master is playing out for her. But what a scene it is: a young girl's bedroom, a "simple flannel nightgown, red hearts on a white background," fuzzy slippers, daddy on the couch watching porn in his robe, a cigarette smoldering in the ash tray. This is a hot, hot, hot story.

It is a story that has taught me a lot about pacing and the slow seduction of the reader into a taboo scenario. I have a tendency to jump in very quickly when I write. This story reminds me to slow down, to tantalize and to lure the reader. A reader needs to be seduced like a lover, led gently into the exploration and fulfilment of unspoken fantasies.

Pat Califia is the editor of an anthology entitled "Doing It For Daddy" (Alyson Books, Los Angeles, New York, 1994). In the introduction, Califia talks about the importance of writing about adult sexuality in all its baffling diversity. He makes a point of explaining that the book is not advocating incest, but rather is an exploration of why such stories arouse. I have two favourites in this collection: "Family Man" by Jay Shaffer about a gay son who seduces his father, a farmer on the farm. And "Our Father" by Derek Adams about a young man with a hard on for the local priest. These are both well-told and arousing stories. In "Family Man" what sticks in my mind is the scene where father and son hug, the father pissing: "Hot spurts shot onto my meat. He grunted with each one. I rubbed his back. I grabbed his ass." The way their hard cocks hang as they walk to the barn where they will fuck. It's a very masculine story. The way the son comes upon his father out by the fence. Their cigars, their beards. It's a phallic, vivid scene.

In "Our Father," there are striking and beautiful descriptions of the priest as seen through the eyes of the adoring young man, the communion scene: the boy kneeling down and taking the blood and body of Christ from the priest, into his mouth from the priest's hand. Shivers. The boy's pent up desire and frustration throughout the story and finally the scene in the shower: soap and sex. Such a sexy story and so well told.

In "Best Bondage Erotica," edited by Alison Tyler (Cleis Press, 2003), there is a story with an image that recurs in my mind often: pieces of fruit splayed out on a bare and vulnerable back. The story is Helena Settimana's story "Six Persimmons." In this well-written and beautifully sensuous tale, a girl is taken back to a man's apartment in Tokyo. He is described as ferocious. He bites her nipples, his teeth tear her lips. He is direct. He cuts her clothes off with a large hunting knife. He ties her down and tells her about the fruit in the bowl, six persimmons, all of different varieties.

He tells her that "Like a woman, they are not good enough to eat unless prepared and ripened properly." He describes each one, its spice, its flavour. It's exotic and dripping with sensuality. He uses the hunting knife to cut pieces, eats them from her body and takes the final piece and inserts it inside  her. The way the author describes the fruit, its texture, its scent and her body. Just so incredibly beautiful. The whole story is very lyrical in its descriptions, full of memorable imagery. There's this interesting juxtaposition of brutality and sensuality that works so well in this story.

In the same anthology is a story by renowned and prolific writer and editor, Mitzi Szereto entitled "Melinda." It echoes Georges Bataille's "The Story of the Eye" in its theme of corruption of innocence. The main character, Melinda, is bored at a Christmas party in London. She encounters two beautiful strangers, a man and a woman, ends up taking a cab back to their apartment with them and being used for their pleasure, which involves nipple clamps, bondage, a dildo up the ass, her first time performing oral sex on a woman. There's a delightful twist at the end. She is persuaded and lured and tied down and not really forced, but not able to say no to their abuse of her. For me, the most compelling D/s stories include incremental surrender and adamant or categorical persuasion.

I would be remiss when talking about my favourite erotic short fiction if I didn't mention Remittance Girl. Her body of work is chock full of memorable imagery, voices, and fine writing. One of the early stories I loved by Remittance Girl was "Penny Red," a sensuous story of the beginning of a sexual relationship of two young women who are best friends and have their first experience of same sex encounters with each other. The main character and narrator has this matter-of-fact way of speaking that I find very refreshing. 

The image of their first kiss and the drowsy-drunk appearance of the friend after…so sexy and perfectly described. The scene at the beach where the act takes place was sexy and lyrical. The description of how the main character looks at her friend with fresh eyes, the eyes of a lover, when she realizes her feelings is dead on. I like it that the main character is surprised by her friend's sudden forthrightness and initiative. They go into the water. Such beautiful and sensuous descriptions of their bodies and the sea. The ending is bittersweet. The story also appears in "Coming Together Presents Remittance Girl," an excellent collection with proceeds going to free speech through the ACLU.

I think once again of "Little Birds," the short fiction collection by Anaïs Nin. There's a story called "The Woman on the Dunes" about a man who finds a woman on the beach. She tells him the story of going to see a man being hanged. She is wearing a skirt which buttons up at the side. There is a crowd waiting to see the man die. A man comes up behind her and gropes her. He ends up turning her skirt to the back, opening the buttons enough so that his penis can enter her. He fucks her while the man is being hanged. It is an extremely erotic scene that fucks up the mind for all kinds of reasons. And isn't that what erotica does best, after all, fuck up the mind?

I could go on and on discussing my favourite erotic short stories. The part that lingers for me, that arouses me more than once is usually always an image: a dark man coming for a woman on a train, the sound of the blues in the background, six glistening open pieces  of fruit on a woman's body, a man pissing against a fence post with his cock hanging out while his son looks on with lust, a boy kneeling in desire for a priest and taking communion from his hand. I remember again and I shiver. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

That Filthy Book

By Daddy X

Oh Jesus- And we just did “Confessions”.


Okay. Let’s roll…

The first sex books I ever encountered were likely the way many kids of my generation were introduced to sexual stimulation. Our dads brought home cheap little fold-and-staple cartoon books from France, Japan or maybe the Philippines, printed for soldiers during the war. They often featured such newspaper comic characters as Popeye and Olive Oil (bet she was tight). And I know Maggie used to make Jiggs nuts with her terrible singing. Who knew her throat also drove him crazy in such other marvelous ways? Nancy was a slut who made Sluggo go down on her. Did anybody know the Katzenjammer Kids gave it to each other up the ass? Oh my, that Daisy Mae. She made boys hard even when Al Capp drew her on Sundays.

Boys will be boys. And when the boys are all that young and all that horny and all that full of hormonal fire, with the slightest stimulation at all, we will jerk off! We will be involved in circle jerks. We will talk like we know what we’re up to, even if all we know is the occasional glance at our mother’s bush. We talk about how our fathers look undressed. We sort things out. We speculate on what is, what it is all about. All in respect to nothing. Without benefit of information.

In the school district where I graduated high school, seniors of my generation were among the first to have sex education taught in the classroom. So before we had that information, it was all street talk and hearsay. Bravado worked for the guys who were ‘gettin’ some’. I remember going ‘parking’ at the local lovers lane, making out with a girl in front, my buddy and his date in back.  We hear the girl behind us say, “Get your finger out of my belly button!” And so it went.

I must have been about thirteen. After all, it was a big year sexually for me. I had made myself come! For a month or more of pre-sleep manipulations, I thought the pre-come issuing forth was the whole deal. I thought I’d jizzed. That fortunately didn’t last long. How the fuck could it? Christ, the longer you rubbed it the better it felt, so why not keep going? Gahaaahhh!

But the closer I got to that first orgasm, the more frightening it became. Losing equilibrium. Feeling too good. O my god getting whirly. At that age, I hadn’t yet been introduced to altered states of consciousness, so the loopiness was scary for a kid. I do remember the first time I went ‘all the way’ with myself. All the scariness disappeared. I confessed the act to a priest. Fuckhead gave me five rosaries for a penance. I began to question religion. How could a benevolent god not condone such a harmless act done with oneself in the privacy of one’s own bed? Not any god I was interested in.

So here I am, thirteen or so, and another kid in the neighborhood loans me a “fuck book”.  This was real porno shit, like women sucking champagne bottles dry with their hoohas for one thing, then guys getting drunk on the draining thereof. Hot stuff for a kid, no matter how lame or outlandish; after all, what did we have to base anything on?

No cartoons in this book. There were, however, photos. Photos of unfortunate-looking individuals, not anywhere a pretty face or a cleft-jawed man. Rather dark circles under the eyes on the desperate women; missing teeth, military tats or bald heads for the men. Nothing in the few grainy shots interspersed throughout the pages had a damn thing in common with the text, except the fact that both male and female sexes were represented.

And boy, was that book horny. And boy did reading that make us horny. And boy, didn’t that kid and I jerk off by the creek that day, taking turns reading the filthy thing out loud. Considering one hand was kept pretty busy, we handed it back and forth to each other when it came time to turn the page. It was wonderful, the way it made you feel.

And boy, didn’t that kid just loan me this today. Boy, I’d better get the most out of this sexy ass thing before he wants it back. Probably ‘borrowed’ it from his father. He’ll have to get it back to its hiding place. …

Huh! … I’d better jerk off, then. Right here, right now. All by myself in the den.  I’ll just pull it out and start wanking myself to a fairytale delight on the sofa. With that book.

My mother barges through the door. She’s home early. “Eeeeeek!” she cries.

I high-ass it to my room. Has she seen the book? I’ll just throw it here in my closet before she gets up the stairs. She’ll never know.

Of course, Mom goes straight for the closet, finds the awful thing her son is reading, accuses me of indulging in some sex ring with imaginary adults and perverts of all persuasions. (Mom had a vivid imagination, let’s say) Some adult pervert has given this filth to her baby. Probably at that PUBLIC school her sick son wanted to go to so bad. Mom has the perfect solution. She gives the book to our parish priest and sends me back to Catholic school. No perverts there, not in a Catholic school, for the love of Christ! Talk about into the fire.

I hated that school and my parents for sending me there. In a year and a half, after being punched unconscious by a priest, I was brought home in an ambulance, then sent back to a genuine school where you were expected to learn, not simply submit.

I don’t remember what ever happened to my friend who gleeped that book, or if he ever got in trouble, but I’m pretty sure the priest never did give it back.

Huh… Looking back at this post, I wonder why, with such an early traumatic experience with a sexy book why I’d ever want to write filth myself. Hehe.

Thanks, Mom.

Monday, October 21, 2013

You Can’t Go Home Again

Sacchi Green

With books, you can come close, but you’re never the same reader when you return. All you’ve read and done and been comes between you and that first-time (and second time, and third time) reader of a book you remember fondly.

I’m exaggerating, as usual—there are some books so vivid, so absorbing, so beautifully written, that they grip you just as intensely on each reading as they did the first time. Sometimes you get even more from them because you bring more to them.

When it comes to erotic books, though, I wish I could remember more of them worth revisiting. In my teens I used to get erotic vibes from books like old pulp westerns and romances, more from what my imagination inserted between the lines than from what was explicitly there. On a more literary level, I recently re-read Colette’s Claudine at School (in translation, I have to admit,) a book I read several times in my youth. This time I enjoyed the voice and ambiance and clever prose at least as much as before, but it was hard to remember why I’d found it sexy. By college I was reading Tropic of Cancer and Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Fanny Hill, which were interesting enough, but didn’t really, shall we say, hit the spot.

Then came the era of bodice-rippers, first and foremost The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss in 1972. I just checked on Amazon and was pleased to see that her books are still (or possibly again, since they seem to have been recently re-issued) best sellers, but I don’t have any particular wish to revisit them. I do wish now that I hadn’t given away my historical romances by Roberta Gellis in a fit of austerity, especially her medieval books, well-researched and intensely erotic at the same time.

Then more books and magazines actually labeled erotica came along. I sampled what I could easily find, and felt, as I think most of us have, that I could write erotica that would appeal to me more than much of what I was reading. Lesbian stories were especially disappointing. A writer of my acquaintance described them as “mutual hair-brushing by moonlight,” which was not totally fair, but true enough to be more than just amusing.

Fortunately, by the time I started seriously trying to publish erotic short stories and had sold a few heterosexual ones with science fiction/fantasy/horror themes, anthologies like the Best Lesbian Erotica series from Cleis Press came along, and I was off and running. While I can’t just now think of novels that I’d return to again and again, there are individual stories from these anthologies that stick with me, and serve not only as touchstones of erotic writing, but of short-story writing in general.

I remember one particularly tough period of my life, after I’d just been diagnosed with a herniated disc along with a more serious spinal problem, when I found the most comfort in reading three stories from Best Lesbian Erotica 2002 over and over again. One was my own, "Of Light and Dark," which of course appealed to me at the time, but the other two were by Toni Amato and Allison Smith, both so beautifully written in very different ways that I was in awe of their skill as well as swept up in their stories. Toni’s took a leap into surreal, lush imagery that very few could have carried off so well, while Allison managed to tell a whole story, complete with layered characterization and hints of backstory and poignant evocation of setting, in just six hundred words or so. I can’t find my old copy of the book—somewhere in this house a whole carton of my contributor’s copies of anthologies is hiding, although two more are safely in my closet—and I can’t remember the name of Toni’s story, but I know Allison’s is “Sometimes She Lets Me,” which was reprinted in (and provided the title for) a recent anthology collecting previously published stories of butch-femme erotica.

Speaking of literary touchstones, I can’t resist a brief off-topic story. When I was a college senior taking the English Department’s core course on Literary Criticism, one assignment was to list and describe our own touchstones of literary excellence. Several of us got together to make up an extra paper to turn in under a made-up name, as a prank of sorts. We searched for really bad writing by famous authors, not an easy task in those far pre-Google days, but we managed. It turns out that Henry David Thoreau, for example, was a dismal failure at poetry, and so was James Joyce. I don’t remember what else we came up with, but they were all instances of people who wrote well in one area of literature, but stumbled in another one. This also happens sometimes when short story writers try to write novels, and possibly vice versa. I guess I should rethink having a go at the upcoming November write-a-novel-in-one-month movement. Just as well. I can use the time to go back and re-read erotic books I wish I remembered better.    



Friday, October 18, 2013

The Good Ol' Days

By Lily Harlem

When many couples first meet there is a first spark of lust. Eye's connect across a crowded room, flirty little lines might lead to a dance, a date, and then at some point there will be a passionate (passion can be slow, it doesn't have to involve a ripped bodice and buttons pinging across the room) meeting in bed, or in a car, or a hot-tub or in the restroom on a plane - you get my drift.

But what about after a year, two years, ten years? How does the erotic element of a couple's relationship change? I've been with my hot hunk of love muscle for a few of decades now, much the same as my co-author Natalie Dae. It was discussing all things sexy with Natalie one night over wine that we got to thinking about a plot where a married couple decides to spice things up again - big time.

This conversation gave birth to That Filthy Book, which, although yes it is filthy, uses a long forgotten book to remind the heroine of what she used to enjoy before the trappings of children and housework and shopping. It also gives her new ideas which her husband, Jacob, is more than happy to go along with. The pair of them revisit the sexual relationship they had when they first met and them move it forward into a whole new territory that works as the people they have grown into and that fits the loving, committed relationship they have. I'm really proud of this story and it's had excellent reviews, including "every woman should read this book."

So if a book could help a relationship hit those first highs again, and possibly go even further and reach for the stars, could a spice jar? You'll think I'm mad and I am, but I'm also shamelessly plugging, because today I have a new book out called Joy Ride.

Joy Ride is part of the Spice Rack series at Ellora's Cave and it's all about long-term couple's spicing up their sex life. Revisiting a steamy, hot and naked place they used to exist in. The Spice Rack is of course fictitious (though I don't see why it wouldn't be possible to make your own) and the idea is there are a range of bottles either Sweet, Savory or Hot that have to be picked off the rack (novelty toy bought at wine-infused girly parties or online) and inside is a saucy suggestion. It can be anything from tie your partner up, treat them to a massage or get your kink on!

My story is about the task 'express your love on the move' and it is a lot of fun and very naughty. Like in real life though the characters have children to farm out to sitters, work is in the back of their minds and finding that moment to just 'be' again, as a sexual couple, takes a bit of hunting out.

It's like that in life though. The move from constantly wanting to be naked together and in the final throes has to progress onto cooking and cleaning together, watching TV and filling in tax forms.

But as an author, it is these long-term couples that I particularly enjoy writing about. The characters are established, comfortable together and so when boundaries are pushed and they step out of their comfort zone it adds many more layers to the experience and a whole host of different emotions and dialogue to play with. I'll keep writing about married couples, living together couples because I find it so very real, and I also think that there are many readers who can relate to this type of hero and heroine.

You can find out more about the Spice Rack on my website. Have a wonderful day.

Lily x