Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On Asking for What You Want When You Don’t Know What That Is


This week, I signed a contract for Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, volume two, which is a huge honor. My story is called “On Some Maps, But Not on Others,” and it’s full of a bunch of stuff I find hot and interesting and difficult.


More than anything else, it’s an attempt to articulate what it feels like to be inarticulate about something to do with sex and gender, to want things you can’t put words to, to want things when you don’t understand why you want them, to play a game of hot and cold with yourself, trying to figure out who you even are.

I’m going to show you what I mean with a couple of tiny excerpts:

"Let's keep this nice and hard for me," my girlfriend whispered. She pulled out a thinner rope this time, but if anything this one looked crueler than the first. Working deftly, she wound it around the base of Alex's cock, the flesh reddening as she did. By the time she finished, the head of his cock was purple. Alex's eyes were closed, and his lips moved as if he was praying.

Something pulsed inside me, somewhere very deep. I wasn't sure what the feeling was, but I knew I was dripping wet. I tried asking myself what I wanted or what I wished I could do. Did I want to hurt like that? Did I want to do the hurting? Did I want exactly what I had—to be able to watch? I was somewhere in this scene, but I couldn't figure out exactly how.
And here:

Gender still scares me, but now I think about it all the time. I don't know what to call myself, don't know what I am. The boundaries of my body shift and change. My cock is an island charted by sailors before Google Earth came along, appearing on some maps but not on others. My cunt is sometimes a depth, but sometimes a height. My breasts rise and fall. They curve into hills, then flatten into plains. I don't understand what gender has to do with any of this anatomy. Sometimes my cunt feels tough and masculine, ready to take any sort of abuse. Sometimes I put on my softpack and watch it tremble, so delicate in shape and color, and it feels like nothing could be girlier. Other times it seems self-evident that if I put on my cock I am playing at being a boy. Mostly, it all feels queer, in a way I'd never have had the guts to explore when I was younger.

This narrator isn’t me, and the story isn’t autobiography. I go through stuff like both of the scenes above, though, and a part of me is still surprised I was brave enough about them to enter that territory in this story. I remember a time when I learned to gather my courage to ask for what I knew I wanted sexually, and I am still proud of learning to speak for myself that way. But I’ve been in a different place the last couple years, and it feels more uncomfortable to me. Lately, I’ve been an undiscovered country even to myself. I don’t understand how I work anymore. I don’t understand the things I want. A lot of the things I think about confuse me more the more I think about them.

What this story reminds me of, though, is that this is valuable, interesting territory. It’s dangerous, but it’s “live.” It’s hot. It’s full of revelations. Sex and gender aren’t at all what I used to think they were, but that’s as exciting as it is scary.

So I’m really happy that I’ll get a chance to share this story with you. I am here for all the readers and writers who want to live at the edge of the horizon. I am so here for all of us.

It’s early yet—I don’t think this book will be out for a while—but it’s not too early to preorder. You can do that here.

(The image above belongs to Normn B. Leventhal, and is used under a Creative Commons license.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Privacy of Fantasy


My story, “Jane’s Fantasy, Your Fantasy,” will be out in a few weeks in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Begging for It: Erotic Fantasies for Women.

I find the title a little ironic, because my intention with the story was for the protagonist’s gender to be open. I very consciously and carefully constructed the story in such a way that it would not have to conflict with any reader’s gender identity, though it will probably fit best with someone who feels a bit fluid or identifies as genderqueer.

Here's a short sample:

You feel intermingled with Jane, knowing that this could easily have been her standing where you are now, a curl of anxiety in the pit of her stomach, a chill from the air settling into her skin. Since the three of you got together, you have been entranced by the fluidity of the boundaries between you. Sometimes in bed it's as if Jane's cunt is your own, but the same goes for Rob's cock. Often you close your eyes and allow yourself to float between the two, as if your body is an ocean wrapping around their two definite and opposite forms.

I wrote it in second person, an unusual choice for me, because I wanted to use certain effects of that point of view.

First, second person allowed me to avoid gender when referring to the protagonist. I didn’t have to jar anyone with pronouns I didn’t want to use.

But why not use first person?

There’s a pitfall to second person where it can feel as if the author is accusing the reader of things (i.e. author writes: “You’ve never liked cookies,” and reader thinks, “What the fuck are you talking about? I love cookies.”) The flipside of that, though, is that, for me, second person can read as a variation on first person, and a more private one at that.

If I’m talking to someone else about myself, I’ll say I, as in, “I went to the store yesterday,” or, “I think that’s nonsense.”

If I’m talking to myself about myself, though, I’ll say you, as in, “What did you say you wanted to get from this room?” or, “All right, you can do this.”

Since I address myself as you, the second person can read as that very intimate voice of the self reflecting on the self. It has a half-whispered quality to me, a sense of privacy that goes beyond that of a diary entry.

That’s the feeling I wanted for this story.

“Jane’s Fantasy, Your Fantasy” is about an erotic healing experience, a ritual almost magical in nature. It’s about regaining control of the body, and that’s related to why I wanted the story to feel it could match any body, any gender identity, and why I wanted the narration to feel so intensely private.

I’m excited to share it with readers, and to read for myself the rest of what’s in the book.

Here’s the official blurb for the collection:

What would you give — or give up — to fulfill your most cherished sex fantasy? In this Cleis Press collection, erotica editor Rachel Kramer Bussel brings us femme fatales and shy women, women on a mission and women opening up to new worlds of discovery: women who know what they want and are not afraid to beg for it! Let yourself go with these 21 tantalizing tales of tortuous longing and release.

You can preorder it now, and it’s currently scheduled for release on July 12th.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Learn My Secrets


I'm at the Grip today, blogging about how I figure out what to write next on a sentence by sentence level.

I've explained five tricks I use, all of which could be done as writing exercises, or simply used to continue whatever story one is working on right now.

I called them the Sensual Solution, the Time Travel Solution, the Contemplative Solution, the Slow Solution, and the Superlative Solution.

Check them out!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Me and My Boi: Not Just Hair


I wrote “Not Just Hair” about two and a half years ago, and now that it’s finally coming out, in Sacchi Green’s Me and My Boi: Queer Erotic Stories, I get to read it afresh with the clear vision of hindsight.

I was going through some stuff when I wrote this story. I came out as bisexual when I was a teenager, but over the course of my life I’d wound up semi-closeted again. Though I told people I was queer if the subject came up, most people saw me as straight. After years of being told bisexuality was just a phase, I’d even started to believe it. When I thought about it, I sometimes wondered if saying I was bi was a way of trying to claim a place in a queer community I didn’t really belong to, of trying to portray myself as special when I was actually just run of the mill. Alert readers will probably recognize the internalized biphobia in those wonderings.

Then a series of things went down at the beginning of my thirties that forced me to start taking my queer orientation seriously again.

For one thing, I fell madly in love with my best friend, in that deep, undeniable way that wreaks havoc through a whole swath of relationships. Nothing looked the same in my life after that happened, even when I was still trying to claim things like I loved her but I didn’t love her that way.

A publisher asked me to submit a proposal for a possible novel, something I really wanted to write deep down. I came up with a story I cared about it and sent it in—then heard back that the publisher was worried that the book would be “too queer” for the intended heterosexual audience. That was news to me. After being told so often that bisexuality was a phase and I must actually be straight, I’d eventually started to assume that I must… actually be straight. My thoughts and feelings about women must be normal and common, things any straight person would think. This was the beginning of a wakeup call that, no, straight women don’t seem to think the way I do.

Another publisher had a call for butch/femme novellas. At the time, I wrote stuff for as many calls as I could. I just wanted to write fast and well and make a living at this career. I didn’t think I had any particular interest in butch/femme novellas (I had never thought of myself as butch, and none of my girlfriends had presented in a particularly masculine way), but I decided to give it a shot… Only to find myself melting my own panties off as I typed. There was an undeniable fire for me in the butch/femme dynamic, something I didn’t normally feel when I wrote erotica. The editor who accepted my book wrote to me about how authentic it felt, how my butch character came out so masculine and so thoroughly a woman at the same time, and how different and refreshing that was compared to a common “pretend a male character is female” theme she’d seen in submissions. While praise is always nice, I was bemused by this. I hadn’t experienced any difficulty in writing a butch character.

By now, this was adding up to a serious crisis of identity. I had forgotten how to take my own sexual orientation seriously. My life had built up around me in a way that made that hard to do, but now things were boiling out of me that I couldn’t hold back anymore.

I remember the weekend I wrote “Not Just Hair.” My male partner was away. I thought I would bang out the story in a couple of hours and spend the rest of the time relaxing. Instead, I found myself writing and crying and putting together the pieces I wrote about here and then some.

A while ago on Twitter, I talked about how I’ve realized that anger fuels much of my writing. Reading “Not Just Hair” now, I think it’s a really hot story. At the same time, I see the core of anger inside it, the desperate feeling you get to escape the roles that start to trap you, the need to reinvent yourself, the fucking unbelievable exhilaration and freedom you get when you take the steps you need to take. The story was out ahead of me, as my writing usually is, but I did follow it.

At the time, I was feeling my own queerness bubbling up, forcing its way into an active role in my life. But when I read “Not Just Hair” now, I see more than that. I see questions about gender presentation and masculinity and femininity that are still active sources of confusion for me. I see a desire to break out of kink roles and try new ones.

Here’s what I wrote in the story:

Years ago, Darla had naively believed that coming out as a lesbian would put an end to agonizing conversations about her sexual identity, but in fact those moments had marked a beginning. Ever since, it seemed she'd been struggling to figure out and articulate more about what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it, and to negotiate with partners about whether what she wanted was okay.

I haven’t gone into what’s behind the title of the story yet, but that’s important, too. I’ve been talking about big stuff, things that go to the core of a person’s identity. In the throes of that sort of change, it can feel overwhelming and impossible. But it’s amazing how something that might seem small and trivial can take you a very long way. Something like a haircut.

I didn’t get the courage to take a razor to my head until last fall, but it’s amazing what changed when I got the undercut I’d been dreaming of. I feel more confident, more able to talk about my various identities, less apologetic to everyone. So as deep as the questions can get, sometimes a haircut can be the tipping point. Because it’s not just hair.

You can order the book here or at your favorite local bookstore.

I wrote this as part of the blog tour for Me and My Boi. You should check out the rest of the posts at the links below, and comment for a chance to win.

June 12—Sacchi Green— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 13—Annabeth Leong-- http://annabethleong.blogspot.com/2016/06/me-and-my-boi-not-just-hair.html

June 14—Anna Watson— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 15—Sinclair Sexsmith-- www.sugarbutch.net

June 16—Jove Belle-- https://jovebelle.com/

June 17—Tamsin Flowers-- www.tamsinflowers.com

June 18—Victoria Villasenor— https://breywillows.com

June 19—J, Caladine—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 20—Victoria Janssen-- http://victoriajanssen.com

June 21—Dena Hankins--  http://denahankins.net/my-summer-of-boi/

June 22—D. Orchid—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 23—Pavini Moray-- https://emancipatingsexuality.com/

June 24—Melissa Mayhew—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 25—Jen Cross— http://writingourselveswhole.org

June 26—Kyle Jones-- www.butchtastic.net

June 27—Gigi Frost--www.facebook.com/gigifrostwww.facebook.com/gigifrost

June 28—Aimee Hermann— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 29—Sommer Marsden—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 30—Axa Lee—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

July 1— Kathleen Bradean— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

BOOK GIVEAWAY

Anyone who comments on any of the posts will be entered in a drawing for one free copy of the anthology. You can comment on more than one post and be entered more than once. The winner will be announced and notified by July 5th, if not sooner.

(EDITED 7:30 pm 6/13 to update blog tour links)

Monday, May 30, 2016

I Like to Be Tied Up


It’s not that I thought the transition from fantasy kink to real life kink would be easy, it’s that I didn’t think about it at all. After years of hoovering novels about kink and thinking about it all the time, it was a big deal for me to show up in person to real events. That seemed like the big hurdle.

At the time, I identified as a submissive. I didn’t really know the difference between submissive and bottom. I didn’t know a lot of other words. I knew I was into bondage and pain. I didn’t know that it was possible to be into only one of those, or both, or neither, or other things altogether.

I think part of the problem was the novels I’d read. In those books, the narrative focus was often on making a woman admit she was submissive. That seemed to mean gets-wet-when-ordered-around. I don’t recall coming across novels that told a story about a submissive woman painstakingly defining the nuances of her identity, though perhaps they exist. In most of what I read, tops defined the identities of submissives for them.

I could write a long, long essay, and probably also a novel, about my relationship to the word submissive alone.

The Many Note Challenge got me thinking about something that seems much simpler than that on the surface: trying to tell people you’re into rope.

For the challenge, I showed a variety of moods, a lot of different ways rope might feel to two people who are playing with it. That points to a problem I experienced when trying to move from fantasy kink to real life kink. At first, I thought all I needed to tell people was, “I want to be tied up.”

It felt that way at first, especially when I was bursting with enthusiasm and it seemed like any way of being tied up would be great with me. I just had a bottomless (haha) urge to have someone put rope on me.

Over time, though, I started to notice dissonances when I talked to other people who liked to be tied up.

***

Here are some examples of questions that point to possible distinctions:

Do you like to be tied up to look pretty?

Do you like to be tied up to feel athletic?

Do you like to be tied up in a way that’s uncomfortable?

Do you like for sexual things to happen after you’re tied up?

Do you like for painful things to happen after you’re tied up?

Are painful things sexual to you?

Does being tied up put you into a particular mood? (Do you feel helpless, silly, excited, sleepy, etc?)

Do you like to be tied up in a way that challenges you?

Do you like to be tied up in a way that comforts you?

Are there shapes/ties that feel particularly good to your body? That feel particularly bad to your body?

***

I could go on and on.

Of course, the questions I just wrote are from a bottom’s perspective. I have much less experience topping, but I do have a little. Here are some top-perspective questions I can think of, even with that limited background, that reveal similar shades in what’s interesting to different people:

Do you like to tie people up as an end in itself?

Do you like to tie people up as a means to some other end?

Do you like to tie up someone who is very obedient about it?

Do you enjoy a battle of wills with the person you’re tying up?

Do you focus on creating particular designs with your rope?

Do you enjoy when the person you’re tying up reacts in particular ways?

Do you like to institute protocol around tying someone up?

Does tying someone up put you in a particular mood? (Do you feel powerful, nervous, serious, giggly, etc?)

***

I’m sure people could add to either set of questions.

The point I’m making is that even if people’s interests sound similar on the surface (i.e. “We both like to be tied up!”), there can be a lot of difference in what that means to them, or what they like about those activities.

In the kink community, it took me years before I could articulate that, and before I learned to ask questions like what I listed above and have discussions around them. (Otherwise, it’s possible to end up in situations when you’re wondering when the hell the sexy part is going to start as a top painstakingly ties decorative rope all over your body, while for them the experience is about giving you a gift and crafting a lovely piece for you to wear… Or thousands of other mismatched situations.)

As a writer, I think this incredible multiplicity is really good news. One of the main things I took away from the Many Note Challenge was that I could probably have kept going for weeks, writing dozens of vastly different vignettes around the same simple box tie. Even of the six I wrote, two grabbed me enough that they made me want to expand them into larger stories.

If I introduced just a shade more variation—say, putting three characters there instead of two—I could write dozens more. There’s so much to explore.

And every time we, as writers, get into subtleties about who the people we’re writing about are and why they’re engaging in these particular acts, we’re creating more ways that people can possibly identify with our work. One of my favorite things as an erotica reader is finding a description of a mood I’ve felt but never quite articulated, or of a mood I’d like to try to feel.

So, here’s to many notes!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Many Note Challenge, Part Three

On Friday, I made up an exercise for myself: writing the same basic scene with a variety of moods. These are the last two entries in that short series, and I’ve gotten a lot out of the experience—I hope you enjoyed reading them.

Remember, If you think it would be interesting to do this, too, I invite you to participate. I kept the dialogue and specific actions very similar in mine—you could imitate that, or go your own way. Feel free to tag me on Twitter @AnnabethLeong with what you come up with. I would be so excited to see how others might present the same simple action.

And you can find out about the back story and read the other vignettes here and here.

(Image by Beverly Yuen Thompson, licensed under Creative Commons)

Five:

She pulls my arms behind my back, and instantly my mind goes blank. From the moment I saw the rope out of the corner of my eye, my worries began to drain away. I don’t need to be anything special now. I don’t even really need a name. I’m just hers. Meditation’s got nothing on this.

“You ready?” She knows how fast I drop into that wordless place. I smile, because I know the question is a bit of a tease.

To tease her back, I don’t use words to answer. I just nod.

My body knows this position. Arms behind, chest pushed forward, wrists lined up with elbows. At first, I couldn’t get into the classic, traditional shape of this, but this is my peace, my personal version of yoga. I’ve practiced a lot, so now I slide into place easily as she guides me with her hands. She pulls my head back, emphasizing the arch of my neck and spine. I feel so beautiful this way.

She begins to loop rope around my wrists. I can feel the coarseness of the fibers, but I remind myself that I don’t have to react to it. I don’t have to squirm or move at all. My breathing is slow, and I focus on making it even slower.

“Hold still,” she teases, kissing the back of my head. “I won’t get this on right if you can’t hold still.” I can hear in her voice that her eyebrow is arched and one side of her mouth quirked up.

I don’t vary my breathing or position in the slightest. I’m already a statue. It’s amazing how powerfully I can tease back without doing anything at all.

Six:

I pull her arms behind her back with a jerk, fast and sharp to force her breath from her chest. Today I feel like playing rough.

“You ready?” I growl into her ear.

She nods.

The next few seconds are about me showing her she isn’t ready. Chest forward—farther than she wants it. Arms back—higher than she instinctively goes, and then an inch higher still. I know she can take this, and today I need to make it hurt. I pull until I hear her breath catch, then freeze there, watching her realize I’m going to tie her just like this, all the way at the limit of the position her body can hold. Her eyes widen. I pinch the inside of her wrist to see if I can make her gasp, and she flings her head back. She whimpers and looks helpless, and that’s what I need. Today I want to be the predator. I want to feel big and frightening and strong.

I begin looping the rope around her wrists. I want the coarse fibers to burn, and I zip them over her skin fast enough to leave marks. She squirms in discomfort, and that makes me smile. My head rushes with the force of the power she’s giving me.

“Hold still,” I tell her, my voice heavy with ironic sweetness. The rope and I are holding her tightly enough that there’s already not much room for her to move. I kiss the back of her head. I always like that sort of gesture while I’m being vicious—it emphasizes everything about the situation. “I won’t get this on right if you can’t hold still.”

Really, I hope she moves. If she gives me an excuse to punish her right now, god knows I’ll take it. I’m not sure how hard she wants to play. I’m hoping she wants to go all the way today, like me.

***

Obviously, one could keep going basically forever. It would be interesting to do this with different gendered partners, different numbers of partners, and on and on. I hope you've enjoyed this series!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Many Note Challenge, Part Two


I got inspired yesterday to show the same BDSM situation in a variety of moods. These are my next two vignettes, both from the perspective of the top.

Remember, If you think it would be interesting to do this, too, I invite you to participate. I’m keeping the dialogue and specific actions very similar for fun—you could imitate that, or go your own way. Feel free to tag me on Twitter @AnnabethLeong with what you come up with. I would be so excited to see how others might present the same simple action.

And you can find out about the back story and read the first two vignettes here.

(Image by Beverly Yuen Thompson, licensed under Creative Commons)

Three:

When I pull her arms behind her back, I have a moment of panic. I definitely don’t know what I’m doing. I mean, technically I do—I’ve gone through books carefully, taken classes, even practiced on her—but nothing could have prepared me for actually trying to top her. I started feeling shy the moment I picked up my rope, and when her eyes widened when she noticed it, I wanted to just drop it and run away.

“You ready?” I say into her ear, trying to imitate the toppy growl I’ve heard instructors use.

She nods.

She lets me guide her into position. It’s incredible how pliable her body is under my hands. She’s smooth as a dancer, and I get distracted worrying that I won’t lead as well as people who’ve tied her in the past. Still, she ends up mostly in the right attitude—arms behind her, chest pushed forward. She flings her head back and presses a random kiss to the side of my forehead—the spot she happens to be able to reach.

I try not to let that distract me, and begin looping rope around her wrists. She squirms, and I realize the coarse fibers are tickling her as they drag across her skin. I’m not putting rope on the back of a chair—I’m putting it on a person, my lover, someone I’m supposed to be connected to.

I pull her closer and take a deep breath. “Hold still.” I kiss the back of her head, slow this down for a moment so I can gather my thoughts. I remember that she knows me, and she knows about my experience—or lack thereof. I don’t have to pretend to be Miss Toppy Top. “I won’t get this on right if you can’t hold still,” I confess, and she doesn’t have to say anything back to make me feel her gentle, unwavering support as I go on with the tie.

Four:

I pull her arms behind her back, careful of her range of motion. I know what an act of trust it was for her to ask for this. Every takate-kote is individual, and I push down a flash of anger at the top who hurt her, the one who tried to force her unique body into position as if the rope was a cookie-cutter and she was a raw piece of rolled dough.

“You ready?” I murmur. I’m watching her carefully for signs of discomfort, my fingers light on her left shoulder joint, the one where she said she had the problem last time.

She gives me a nervous smile and nods.

I feel so protective of her. I guide her toward position, but not into position—I told her when we negotiated this that she would be the one to decide how far she wanted to stretch, but I show that, too, with the gentleness of my hands, the looseness of my grip. She pushes her chest forward, and puts her right arm all the way behind her, though I’m glad to see she doesn’t strain the elbow, letting her forearm fall into an obtuse angle. Her left arm nudges back, but not far.

She flings her head back, fixing me with a rueful stare. “It won’t be a real takate-kote,” she moans, looking ashamed.

I begin looping rope around her wrists. I let her feel the coarseness of the fibers, knowing that sometimes sensations like that can help people get out of their heads and into their bodies. “Who says it won’t be real?” I ask her. “It’s real to me. It can be to you, too, if you let it.”

She squirms.

“You feeling okay?” I ask. “You still want to do this?”

She nods again.

“Then hold still.” I kiss the back of her head to make the command as gentle as possible. “I want to be precise here, and that’ll work best if you hold still.”

***

Check back tomorrow for my last two vignettes!