Thursday, October 19, 2017

Circlet Press on YouTube tonight!

Hi everyone!

Circlet Press, purveyors of "erotica for geeks," is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and you're invited!



That should be a link to the YouTube livestream going on right now.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Circlet is running a Kickstarter to fund next year's publishing projects. It's got less than 24 hours left, and it would be real swell if you'd consider donating to it. (I have a story in Beastly Affair, one of the books that will come out if the Kickstarter gets funded well enough!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Release: Singapore Fling by Lisabet Sarai

Hi, friends! I wanted to let you know about a new short released by Lisabet Sarai, who I admire as both an author as a person. Lisabet has kindly sent me information on the book, as well as a hot excerpt. I'm not sure why this trope gets me so much, but I'm really into scenes where a man hesitates and holds back his desires. There's something very hot to me about contained desire, I think. Anyway, Lisabet supplies that in spades.

Singapore Fling:
Asian Adventures Book 1
By Lisabet Sarai


In the cleanest city in Asia, things can still get messy.

Thai entrepreneur Ploy Kaewkornwattanasakul has come to Singapore to close a deal. Ploy needs to convince tech whiz Jason Chow to license his ground-breaking innovation to her company on favorable terms. The future of her startup depends on her negotiating skill. When she meets Jason, though, she realizes she wants not just the invention, but the inventor, too.

Jason Chow is a brilliant engineer, a successful businessman and a bit of a rebel. He’s attracted to Ploy from the moment he sets eyes on her. However, he doesn’t dare respond to her advances, for fear she’ll discover his secret vice.

Ploy doesn’t understand why the sexy CEO has rejected her. She figures she’ll have to content herself with the cold comfort of a signed contract—unless the strength of Jason’s desire overwhelms his shame.

Excerpt:

Up close, he smelled even more delicious, clean and masculine. His mouth was firm, muscular, molding to hers as she deepened the kiss. It opened to her probing tongue; she tasted coffee and breath mints. He let her take the lead, sitting passive while she devoured him. That was okay. Ploy wasn’t the shy type.

His muscles shifted under his shirt as he turned to face her, their lips still locked. She mashed her breasts against his chest, stimulating her swollen nipples. Shameless, she climbed onto his lap, straddling his lean legs. Her straight skirt rode up, baring her thighs. The hardness prodding her sodden undergarments told her that he was aware of her after all.

“Oh, Jason!” she moaned, finally breaking the kiss. Releasing her grip on his neck, she brought her hand down to cup the promising bulk of his erection. “Looks like you’re hungry, too,” she murmured. “But I can help you with that...” She fumbled with his zipper, stretched tight by his bulging cock.

“No!” The Chinese entrepreneur jerked, as if she’d given him an electric shock. “Don’t!” The chair rolled backward, slamming into the wall as he pushed Ploy off his lap. She barely escaped tumbling to the floor.

“What?” She clutched the table to steady herself and tried to slow her breathing. “What’s wrong?”

“We can’t. Someone might come in and find us.”

“Everyone’s gone.” Indeed the outer offices were empty and dim.

“Sometimes the engineers come back to work after dinner,” he protested. His sudden panic puzzled her. His eyes were wild with something that looked like fear, but the tenting in his trousers remained prominent.

“Let’s go to your place, then,” she urged. “Or my hotel. It’s an easy walk.”

“No, no—I’m sorry—I should never have allowed...” He wrung his hands, looking worried and lost. What had happened to the calm, self-confident genius she’d admired all afternoon? Jason suddenly seemed a decade younger than his thirty years.

You can buy the story here:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Smashwords

Barnes and Noble

Read reviews or add it on Goodreads

About Lisabet:

Lisabet Sarai has been addicted to words all her life. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – nearly one hundred titles, and counting, in nearly every sub-genre—paranormal, scifi, ménage, BDSM, GLBT, and more. Regardless of the genre, every one of her stories illustrates her motto: Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com/books.html), along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com), she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads and finally, on Twitter. Sign up for her VIP email list here: https://btn.ymlp.com/xgjjhmhugmgh

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hello Again World

It's been a few months since I last posted regularly, and this is me trying to get back on the carousel.

Communication has been very hard for me lately, especially the last few months, especially online, and I'm trying to edge my way out of that corner. There are a lot of things I want to post—about my own work, about the work of my friends, about the world. As I ease into this, I'm not sure yet how it will go. But I'm guessing it'll be a bit before I'm able to write deep explorations of things. Those are some of my favorite posts to write, and based on my stats, they're posts that you enjoy more, too. They require, however, a sort of resilience that's in short supply for me of late.

So expect news items at first. Expect fits and starts as I dip my toes back into the water and gather my courage to swim.

To the friends whose work I'll post about, I wish I could do better for you. I wish I could post on a highly trafficked, active blog. But it takes time to build that sort of thing up, and I don't think it serves you better for me to wait, possibly indefinitely. To the friends whose work I planned to post about months ago, I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. I haven't forgotten you. I tend not to forget, especially not when I'm too anxious to move. And I'm coming back to you as soon as I can.

To anyone who's ever struggled with communication, being kind to yourself is the only thing I know that works, though it certainly doesn't work as quickly as I'd like. I went to look up my post about getting back on the carousel for the beginning of this piece, and I can't tell you how lovely it was to read a kind letter from my past self.

Patience, persistence, kindness. That's my wish for me, and it's also my wish for you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

An Excerpt from Simultaneous

Hey, friends! I wanted to take an opportunity to remind you about D.L. King's anthology Unspeakably Erotic: 20 Stories of Lesbian Kink, which is scheduled to come out later this year. I thought this time I'd give you a taste of my story, "Simultaneous," which will appear in the anthology.

It's a story about a dominant woman who wants to get nipple piercings at the same moment she's getting fisted. Minnie, her girlfriend, is handling the piercing, and an acquaintance, Alice, is doing the fisting. (Can I pause here to acknowledge, as a person with a bit of a fantasy about stranger sex, how hot it is for me to think about getting fisted by an "acquaintance," though I know there are some issues there with practicality).

Anyway, here goes:
“Almost ready," Minnie says. "Everything is sterilized. I’m just getting organized.”

I feel her moving just beyond my field of vision. For a second, I wish I could have two Minnies. She knows how to fuck me just right. She knows how to make me feel split open in the best way, how to fill me more than I thought possible, how to push just past the point where I think I can’t take it anymore, and how to tell the difference between a desperate scream of pleasure and an incoherent cry for a break.

On the other hand, if I’m going to get nipple rings in a situation like this, and I’m planning to make them permanent, it has to be Minnie who gives them to me. She’s got the sense of timing required to make this work just the way I fantasized, she learned to pierce for me, and I want her to mark my body for life the way she has my heart and mind.

Besides, I’ve got no complaints about Alice’s technique. She’s spearing me enthusiastically with four fingers, and Minnie must have done a good job with the rope, because I’m shocked I’m not sliding all over the place under the force of her assault. Braced this way, I can’t do anything but absorb each of Alice’s thrusts, and I indulge a long whimper before forcing myself back to saying words.

“All right. Alice, ease off just a little so Minnie can set up.”

She gives it to me hard a couple more times, a challenging expression on her face, and then does as I’ve requested.

“Just stroke the G-spot lightly. Tickle it, almost.”

“Tickle, tickle.” Alice smirks.

It doesn’t tickle.

I take a deep breath, letting the pleasure surround me and press at the edges of me, without surrendering to it.

“Minnie, if you’re ready, come here.”

The stand’s wheels roll closer. Minnie puts a hand on my head. Her cool touch makes me realize how hot and sweaty Alice has gotten me.

“Make your marks now.”

“Yes, Miss.”

I’m so sensitive that I gasp when Minnie’s pen touches down on one side of my left nipple, marking a spot to guide how she inserts the needle. My cunt clutches around Alice’s fingers.

“Down, girl,” Alice teases. “I’ll get back to the good stuff in a minute.”

There'll be a lot more good stuff in the actual book. I posted the table of contents a few months ago here. If you'd like to preorder this, that would be awesome! There's a paperback edition and a kindle edition.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

For the Love of a Solider Out Today!

Hey friends! According to what I've heard, For the Love of a Soldier should be out today!

It contains my story, "True North." I wrote it not long after the death of my father, who was a veteran, inspired by the young soldiers who attended his funeral ceremony. I couldn't afford much, and so I opted to go with what the U.S. government would provide. I was afraid the ceremony would feel rushed or perfunctory, but that wasn't the way it felt at all. Though I didn't know the young soldiers who helped put my dad to rest, I could feel their sincerity.

When I thought about it more, it made a lot of sense to me that these young men would take this duty seriously, and that they would be aware of the depth of its meaning.

The story grew from that moment, and I tried to write it in a way that includes my own ambivalence about military service in this country, as well as my father's. My father wouldn't have been the same person if not for his military service, and that's both for better and for worse.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book at long last!

You can order it at these links!

Apple:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/for-the-love-of-a-soldier/id1243788105?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/for-the-love-of-a-soldier-5

Barnes and Noble:   https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/for-the-love-of-a-soldier-annabeth-leong/1126495728?ean=2940154686140

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Soldier-Military-Erotic-Romance-ebook/dp/B0721RQZJV/

***

Also, consider joining the Circlet Press Patreon... You can get seriously ridiculous numbers of books through the offers there, for very low monthly pledges.

Thanks so much for checking this out!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sneak Peek: Journey to the Disappearing Sea

I promised a look at my story from Journey to the Center of Desire, which is coming soon from Circlet Press. So here it is, as promised! This is the beginning of a journal that features prominently in the story. Gräuben is a fairly passive, idealized love interest in Verne's original, Journey to the Center of the Earth. It's her lover Axel who has the adventure.

In my version, I decided to have Gräuben grow concerned and follow Axel on her own. The entry below is from shortly after she's taken this step, and it represents only the very beginning of this character's awakening and freedom.

From Gräuben's journal:

June 22, 1863—This book will likely do no good. Who will read it? If Axel is lost, I am not sure there is any person on this earth I still care for, or who truly cares for me. If he is not lost, I will find him and tell him all my adventures myself, between kisses.

Yet I write anyway, for I have always been such a very good girl. "It is expected that a proper young lady shall keep a journal." I still remember my guardian instructing me that way. Now here I sit with paper and pen. How many things I do because a person once suggested that I should!

All independent thought is not lost to me, however. I may sit with paper and pen, but I am nonetheless changed. Men's clothing, a pouch full of the professor's money at my waist, a man's power to commandeer ships and sign contracts and give orders. What a heady thing Axel has been hiding from me! Had I possessed these gifts from the start, I should have done thrice what he has. I would have traveled ceaselessly, asked every question, demanded every drop of knowledge the world had to give me.

I certainly would not have offered cowardly resistance to this great journey of the professor's.

But I should not slander my love. I am, after all, going on that great journey myself. There is no need for resentment now. And were it not for my dear Axel, for the fear in his eyes and my worry for him, I might still be at home, handling the minerals that are the scientific scraps of the professor's great intellect, offering smiles to all, and painting watercolors.

Perhaps the reason women are not invited on journeys such as this is that they awaken the passions. I know not whether it is the rocking of the boat that currently conveys me or the new freedom of motion bestowed upon me by trousers or the image of encountering my love in a place he would never expect to find me, but I am inflamed at all times. I want to sweep things out of the way, throw myself onto the narrow bed where I sleep, and… I am not sure what comes then. So much has been hidden from me!

Perhaps the knowledge will come to me as I become accustomed to my new way of being in the world. As it is, I have begun some scientific investigations. By starting with what is forbidden, I am slowly unlocking secrets of my own body that have previously been denied.

In distant memories, I recall my poor mother bathing me, slapping my hand aside and telling me never to touch there. Another command I have mindlessly obeyed. Now I have begun to transgress. There is much to overcome. I huddle against the wall of the cabin, moving as silently as possible, slipping a hand inside my trousers as if afraid of what I might find in there. When I do, I can feel the slap from across the years—if only other touches could remain so vivid! But there is something else I find. A wetness, a budding pleasure. Sometimes, I feel as if I am striving for a solution to a question I have yet to properly ask. I think of Axel, my body tenses, and it seems as if, could I but work a little harder, some vision might burst upon me.

If only I could be with him again! Together, we could unlock these mysteries.

***

I'll let you know as soon as this book is available in its entirety! I had so much fun writing a pastiche of Verne's style.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sneak Peek: True North

I mentioned that Kristina Wright's For the Love of a Soldier will be out at the end of the month from Circlet Press, and it includes my story, "True North." I thought I'd give you a taste of the story now.

Callie's father, who was a veteran, recently passed away. She relied on government services to bury him, and in the process met Rudy Andrada, a young serviceman who offers to help her. This scene is from the first time she sees Rudy off base.

***

When he showed up at my father's house, I was wound up tighter than the pair of pants I'd put on. I knew better than to dress like that for a day of hard work, but when I was getting ready in the morning, I couldn't stop thinking about Rudy's eyes, his strong jaw, his long, straight body. No matter how many times I tried to remind myself that he was too young for me, that he wanted to help me not date me, I couldn't convince myself to tie my hair into a ponytail and be done with it. Instead, I slaved over my eye makeup, and foolishly put on that pair of too-small pants.

Rudy unloaded a six pack and a two-liter of cola from the bed of his truck. "I didn't know whether you drink," he explained. I imagined how he would look tipping his head back to take a long swig from the bottle, its sweat dripping down the glass and onto the side of his hand, and my reaction informed me that I still didn't have myself under control. A man Rudy's age wouldn't want a woman like me, already weighed down by the grief of living. He'd come because he was a good person, trying to address a need he perceived. I convinced myself to hold back, thanked him for the drinks, and suggested we open the cola.

For the next few hours, he plunged into my father's world with me, moving boxes and furniture, cleaning the dust from corners, climbing onto a step ladder to wipe the blades of ceiling fans, and never complaining. I would have helped more physically, but the pants wouldn't really allow it. Instead, I wound up going through my father's files, looking for financial information or other papers that I would need to deal with. That job had been too overwhelming for me to start until then, but with Rudy in the house, I could take a deep breath and focus on one paper at a time. I didn't know what it was about him that steadied me, only that I couldn't have gotten through the task without his presence.

The newly cleaned fans did their best to cool the house, but the heat from outside pressed in, and my father had never bought an AC unit. Rudy pulled off his shirt at some point in the afternoon, the gesture casual, natural. It took my breath away. I came to a full stop, gawping. It wasn't just the perfect muscle definition running up his brown back. I was entranced by how close that warm, hard flesh was to the palms of my hands. With a few steps, a gesture, and a little boldness, I could touch it. It took a long time to unclench my fists, to swallow my desire, to go back to rustling through old papers.

Rudy accomplished more in one day than I could have in several. I asked him to stay for dinner, and did my best to show my gratitude, frying up steak and vegetables from my father's freezer, trying not to think about the other ways I wanted to demonstrate how I felt.

He was gracious, helping out however I allowed him, convincing me to share a little of the beer with him. Deftly opening one, he poured exactly half into a glass for me, then took a sip in just the way I had fantasized about.

I couldn't stand it anymore. When he came up for air and put the bottle down, I set aside my spatula and kissed him. He gave a surprised grunt, but when I pressed in tight against him, he responded, taking my shoulder blades in his big, strong hands and gathering me close. His lips were softer than I expected, his cock quicker to get hard. He tasted salty from the beer, and smelled of work and the remnants of the ocean-tinged cologne he'd put on that morning.

For a little while, he held onto me and let me kiss him, his mouth opening to my tongue, and his breath speeding up along with mine. Behind me, the pan hissed ominously, and Rudy was the one to break away and suggest I ought to pay attention to it.

I stirred haphazardly, my heart sinking when I turned back and saw his frown. "I don't want to take advantage of you," he said seriously.

I couldn't help laughing. "It seems a lot more like I'm the one taking advantage."

He bit his lip, the gesture reminding me again that I had a good eight years on him. "I don't want you to think you owe me."

I gestured toward the pan on the stove. "That's because I owe you." Feeling bold, I reached up and ran my thumb along his bottom lip. Now that I'd thrown my cards onto the table, the lust I'd been trying to hold back came forward in full force. There were plenty of things I ought to have been thinking about, plenty of reasons why that wasn't a good time to come onto him. None of that mattered since I'd kissed him."With this, you'd be doing me a favor."

He grinned at that. "I'm pretty sure I'd be getting something in return, Callie."

I began to ache between my legs. For weeks, I'd been in a gray fog of sadness and endless to-do lists. Now that I'd raised the question with Rudy, the world seemed vivid again, full of color that started with his eyes and spread everywhere else. "Do you want to?"

Practical man that he was, he glanced toward the stove, which I turned off before he could raise a full objection on account of it. Then he glanced toward the master bedroom. "What about your father?"

"You're talking as if he's about to come out and threaten you with a shotgun if you don't have me back by ten. I'm a grown woman, Rudy."

"You know what I mean."

I couldn't sidestep what he was trying to bring up. I sighed, pressing against his chest again in an instinctive gesture that felt like it could all too easily become habit. "I don't think I'd be able to do this in the bedroom, but I do want you. We can do it right here on the floor, maybe." I punctuated the statement with a little downward tug, but he resisted. "The timing's a little weird," I admitted. "I didn't plan this."

He pulled at one of the belt loops of my tight pants, showing he'd noticed how I'd dressed. I couldn't help smiling at that. "Maybe I had some hopes."

"Sometimes, when people are sad, they act a little strange. Maybe do things that they regret later." His eyes seemed unusually far away, and I realized we still hadn't done much talking. For all that I had a sense for who Rudy was as a person, I knew almost none of the details of his life.

I stepped back and gave him a serious expression. "That sounds like the voice of experience."

He shrugged. "Guys I knew from basic training, that sort of thing." He cleared his throat and shrugged, the gesture dismissing entire worlds—the same things my father had been reliving with his war movies and his nightmares. "Sometimes, I didn't take it well."

"You're worried I kissed you because I'm not taking it well?"

He pulled me in, leaning his forehead against mine. His finger curled through the belt loop again. "I just don't want to ruin anything."

I blinked. "I didn't know we had anything to ruin."

"Maybe I had some hopes." He touched my cheek, his fingertips rough against my skin. I must have looked startled, or even scared. Much as I wanted him, I hadn't thought about what it would be like to really be with him, to make love with the lights on and introduce him to my friends, to have to risk the possibility that someday war might become too much for him the way it had for my father. "We can take it as slow as you want," he murmured.

I wanted to tell him that was all wrong. I didn't want to take it slow. I wanted to take it fast, to sleep with him right there and then try my best to forget about it all. I didn't realize my face was wet with tears until he brushed one away.

"Think about it," he said. "I can get an overnight pass next week."
***

For the Love of a Soldier comes out on June 29th.

You can preorder it at these links!

Apple:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/for-the-love-of-a-soldier/id1243788105?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/for-the-love-of-a-soldier-5

Barnes and Noble:   https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/for-the-love-of-a-soldier-annabeth-leong/1126495728?ean=2940154686140

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Soldier-Military-Erotic-Romance-ebook/dp/B0721RQZJV/

***

Also, consider joining the Circlet Press Patreon... You can get seriously ridiculous numbers of books through the offers there, for very low monthly pledges.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Mark and the Caul: Origin Story

Hi!

I'm participating in the blog tour for Sacchi Green's Witches, Princess, and Women at Arms, which includes my story, "The Mark and the Caul."

The idea of the book was to tell lesbian fairy tales, either original or adapted from classic stories. I sometimes enjoy going through my volume of Grimm classics and coming up with something fascinating and obscure, and that's what I did here.

"The Mark and the Caul" is loosely based on "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs." If you read the synopsis, you'll see some of the themes I picked up: a child born with a caul, and an associated prophecy; and a king determined to thwart that prophecy. My character, Sam, overlaps with this character. She's good at being in the right place at the right time, just like the character in the original.

My other main character, Lucinda, emerged as the flip side to this process. I mostly invented her in response to the questions the story seemed to ask.

I think that's a wild thing when it happens. For one thing, "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs" is extremely dense. I covered only the beginning of the story in my rather long entry to Sacchi Green's book. On the other hand, it leaves so much mysterious and unexplained.

The character of the princess, who appears in the original, is barely fleshed out, and that left me plenty of room to find Lucinda, and to make her a perfect match for Sam.

I really enjoy the process of filling in gaps, and writing stories based on fairy tales is one of my favorite ways to do it. I find that those unexplained mysteries leave plenty of room for eroticism, queerness, and other elements of human nature.

If you'd like to see an excerpt, I posted one here.

And if you'd like to buy the book, you can find it here!

THE GIVEAWAY and LINKS

Anyone who comments on any of these blog posts will be entered in a drawing for a paperback copy (in North America) or an ebook (elsewhere) of Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms. Each blog you comment on gives you one more entry.

Here’s the lineup of blog posts—the links may be adjusted as we go along, so check back here every now and then.

June 14th: Sacchi Green-“Trollwise” (plus the Introduction)
www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 15th: Cara Patterson-“Steel”
www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 16th: Michael M. Jones-“The Miller’s Daughter”
michaelmjones.com

June 19th: H.N. Janzen-“The Prize of the Willow”
www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 20th: Annabeth Leong-“The Mark and the Caul”
annabethleong.blogspot.com

June 21st: Brey Willows-“Penthouse 31”
breywillows.com

June 22nd: Salome Wilde-“The Princess’s Princess”
sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 23nd: Emily L. Byrne-“Toads, Diamonds and the Occasional Pearl”
writeremilylbyrne.blogspot.com

June 26th: A.D.R. Forte-“Warrior’s Choice”
sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 27th: M. Birds-“Woodwitch”
mbirds.tumblr.com

June 28th: Madeleine Shade-“Robber Girl”
https://www.facebook.com/carina.bissett.5

June 29th: Lea Daley-“The Sorceress of Solisterre”
sacchi-green.blogspot.com

June 30th: Allison Wonderland-“SWF Seeks FGM”
aisforallison.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sneak Peek: Bête Noire

A bit ago, I told you about "Bête Noire," the story I have coming out in Jen Blackmore's Beastly Affair anthology from Circlet Press.

You can read some background on how I came up with the story in the post I linked above. Today, I thought I'd share a quick taste of the story. So here, for your reading enjoyment, are the opening paragraphs!

I. Beautiful, Beastly Revenge

Before we shoot out a window and start killing all the guards in sight, Beauty leans in to kiss me.

I stop her. “You’re making me feel pretty, darling.” I hold up one matted, woolly hand, protract the obsidian claws still dripping blood from what we had to do to get this close to Orlagh’s fancy house. “We can’t risk breaking the curse here.”

“I just thought… This might be our last chance, Bête. If she kills us…”

“She won’t.”

Neither of us is sure of that, but there’s no choice besides pretending. True love and its urges aside, Beauty knows there couldn’t be a worse time for me to return to my former, softer self. She pulls back her face and reaches for my hand instead. Even the brush of her fingers—oily from her gun—makes my heart shiver with sweet visions of who I could become for her. I take my hand away and shove it into my pocket, ignoring her quiet, hurt sigh. We’ll have time to talk this over after we deal with Orlagh.

I force myself to stop contemplating the subtle scent of roses that manages to linger around Beauty even after three saddlesore days of bloodshed, dust, and magic so cut-rate and ragged it could give a person tetanus.

The sound of a footstep makes me press myself flat against the stucco wall in front of us, though we’re well hidden for the moment. Orlagh is the sort of rich asshole who grows a lush formal garden around her desert mansion—whether she has the water shipped or conjured, it’s disgustingly ostentatious—but I do admit some gratitude for the thick blue-and-pink endless-summer hydrangeas currently concealing our position. Still, assuming we got an accurate map of the grounds from the former servant we bribed back in town, we’re kneeling right outside Orlagh’s bedroom window. Her habit of tossing around curses when she’s drunk and horny have made her a lot of enemies, and by all accounts she compensates by hiring vigilant guards.

Beauty and I exchange a glance. Her chest doesn’t move until the footsteps fade away. Then she offers a tentative smile. “I guess we should…” She nods upward.

“No point killing time when we could be killing the enemy,” I agree.

I don't have a release date yet, but I'll give you more information when I've got it!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Random Cool Thing: LGBT+ StoryBundle

Here's a cool thing I found: an LGBT+ StoryBundle. You get 5 books for whatever you want to pay, and if you pay at least $15, you get 12 books. Looks like a pretty sweet deal.

I'll confess, my Kindle is loaded with books I've picked up in similar deals, but it doesn't seem like a terrible thing to pay a low price for a bunch of interesting books. Sometimes I find myself revisiting these bundles years later, and winding up pleasantly surprised.

Oooh, and I should mention that there's an opportunity to donate 10% of what you pay to Rainbow Railroad, an organization that's trying to help LGBT people in Chechnya. I've blogged a few times about Dale Cameron Lowry's efforts to raise money for this organization, and I figure, the more the better!

You can see the full list of books here.

As far as how they were selected, Melissa Scott, the curator, writes:

First, no novels in which being queer means you're evil, nor any in which it's a doomed and tragic fate. There are places for the latter, but this is June and Pride Month, and I want to share books that celebrate queerness. I've also decided to focus on small press offerings, as they are more likely to be overlooked than books from the mainstream houses. I've tried to pick newer novels, and to reintroduce some older writers, and in general to include books and writers who you might not have seen yet. Unfortunately, this didn't narrow things down very much at all.

So this looks like fun, especially because I've been having a lot of sleepless nights lately, and I've found that I like to pass that time reading books that don't end tragically.

Also, shout-out to Catherine Lundoff, a Twitter friend, who has two books in this collection! This seems like a great opportunity to get to know her work more (I know I like the work she publishes under her erotica-writing persona, Emily Byrne).

The books I pulled out pictures of are the ones I'd probably be buying this bundle for. Others may surprise me! But I'm really drawn to these interesting covers.

***

I do have questions about how fully this bundle earns the designation LGBT+. I can tell from looking that it's not G masquerading as LGBT+ (which is all too common with collections of books, and disappointing to me). There are things here that definitely look like L, that I'd definitely read.

What I can't tell, without a much deeper look, is how well B and T and + are represented. So please be aware of that if this is something you're interested in. (Someday, I'd like to feel confident that when LGBT+ is used, it really does mean a full spectrum of inclusivity. That may be true of this bundle, but I'm just not sure!).

Still, I'll be picking this up. I already own a few of these titles, but they're good, so that suggests the others are, too. Also, the price is low enough that even if I only read a few of these, it'll be worth the bundle.

If you pick this up, let me know what you think! Also, if anyone reading this does know how well the bundle represents B, T, and +, please feel free to let us know in the comments! :D

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Getting Back on the Carousel

I used to think that the way to do things was to "learn discipline," to figure out how to do them every day and never stop. I'm actually great at discipline and habits, it turns out, but that's never been the real answer for me.

So much more important than learning how to do things daily, and so much more important than learning how to make a rigid schedule and stick to it, is learning what to do when that's not what happens.

I call this "getting back on the carousel."

How do I pick up a notebook I haven't touched in a while? How do I go back to the library when I owe them fines for overdue books? I used to go to events that group put on—but how do I face them if I haven't been there for a while?

The reason I call this getting back on the carousel is because the sensation sometimes reminds me of trying to jump onto an object that's already spinning and moving. People have carried on while I was away, or sick, or busy with other things. Nothing is in the place I remembered it being. This is true even if the thing in question only has to do with me. A story I was writing never seems to be quite in the condition I left it in.

For me, it takes a lot of bravery to jump onto that spinning carousel. There's a part of me that wants to go away and never ride a carousel again.

I think this is the source of the admonishments to establish rigid habits and never break them. It's true in my experience that there's an easy flow to following a habit that's solidly in place.

I think, however, that those admonishments are short-sighted. They're so harsh, and they offer little help when it comes to the inevitability of reality: at some point, all of us get off the carousel, for all sorts of reasons, sometimes for a really long time. Sometimes it's a long enough time that when you get back you find out the carousel's been repainted and moved to an entirely different location. Or maybe it just doesn't run anymore.

One of the biggest ways the admonishments don't help me is that they make me feel guilty and afraid—even more than I already am. I learned to write by writing 500 words every day, so you might think I'd like that writing advice. I don't, though, because I know what sort of guilt I lived with when I couldn't maintain that habit.

Instead, I'd say: Write when you can. Write when you want to. Figure out when is a good time for you to write and how you want to do it. Trust yourself. Sometimes rest is necessary. Forgive yourself. Sometimes it's sunny outside or you're sick or there's a book you really want to read or someone else needs your attention. However you do it, though, learn how to get back on the carousel. Setbacks will happen. Give yourself the chance to deal with them. Get the rest you need. Then begin again, gently.

Honestly, I wish I didn't have to say "forgive yourself," because I wish there was a way to not feel guilty at all about setbacks or periods of rest. I wish I could take them in stride and see that they don't actually call for forgiveness. Forgive yourself is a nice idea, but it contains the suggestion that a sin has been committed. And it's not a sin to get sick. It's not a sin to be exhausted.

When I was younger, I read too many stories about writers who woke up at 3 a.m. to write, because that's "what you do when you're really committed." I disagree. It's a way of showing commitment, yes, but over a lifetime what I think means the most is getting back on the carousel, over and over again, whatever that looks like. Seriously. Playfully. Joyfully. Because you hope it will cheer you up. Because your friends are there. Because you hope you'll make friends there. Because you want to. Because you need to. Because you don't know what else to do. Because it's fun.

Commitment, to me, is finding ways to fit what matters to me into my life, however it's possible to fit it there. Maybe I can't write right now, for whatever reason. There are times when I've maintained my commitment by touching the spines of books at the library, just to remind myself that I care about the words that go inside books.

I think things very often get compared to the workplace—and a harsh view of it at that. But what if I compare writing to love? I don't rigidly sit down to breakfast with my partners like clockwork. We live our lives and intertwine them as best we can. And I trust that it's not all going to fall apart just because I don't see one partner for one day—or longer. I trust love to pull us back to each other. These things don't always have to be forced.

Sometimes, I've been uncertain of whether I'll ever manage to get back on the carousel, and then I find myself there, on a cool night, surrounded by the smell of green, and suddenly it feels easy. It's okay to wait for that, if you need to.

I've wanted to say these things for a while. I recently went through a six month period where I couldn't do much beyond basic survival. Not only did I have to forgive myself for not doing more, I had to realize that there was nothing to be forgiven. But it was hard on my sense of self because there's a lot of me that's still wrapped up in that discipline nonsense. The point, though, is that I had to learn to trust my ability to get back on the carousel when I was ready. The things I love don't disappear just because I can't see them. The person I am doesn't disappear if I can't get up at 3 a.m. to do something hard.

This seemed like a good occasion because, after a little over a month of posting daily on this blog, it's now been a week. And I liked the discipline. I was proud of the streak. But I think people put too much stock in the streak, because here I am again, see? Getting back on the carousel. Returning. And if I look at the history of this blog, it's the returning that matters. I've returned so many times, for so many years now. These days, that's something I trust more than discipline.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Heterosexual Erotica

Circlet Press will soon release a new anthology, Like a Spell, edited by Jennifer Levine. It looks like a cool book in general, but I wanted to highlight one particular decision that Circlet made, which I think is an important and overlooked part of creating a truly diverse landscape.

Like a Spell is going to come out as an omnibus of four smaller anthologies, divided by sexuality. So, for example, there's Earth, an anthology of lesbian fantasy erotica. But there's also Air, "magically heterosexual fantasy erotica."

Publisher Cecilia Tan wrote this on Patreon about the decision:

Volume 3 presented a sort of new challenge. We realized it's the "norm" to label gay, lesbian, kinky, trans, et cetera erotica as such, but heterosexual erotica gets to be the "default." If a book just says "erotica" it's assumed to be het. With a Circlet Press book, though, you really can't make that assumption, and it felt unbalanced to label three of the four books and then have one that just said "erotica." Usually in Circlet-land something unlabeled means "everything mixed together" or pansexual. So we decide to give Vol 3 the subtitle "Magically Heterosexual Fantasy Erotica". 

I think this was a good decision on Circlet's part, and it also points to a way to push against the default. I think this applies in other realms, too. For example, one thing that I think can help push against the idea of whiteness as default in fiction is to specify that white characters are white. All too often, I read stories where brown characters are specified and white characters are left unspecified. While this is an improvement over having no brown characters at all, it still centers the story firmly in a white perspective.

Similarly, I think it's a good idea to label heterosexual erotica as heterosexual, because that's the way to stop seeing heterosexuality as the default.

I have mixed feelings about coming out scenes. On the one hand, I eat them up. I really like to read them. On the other, I'm bothered by the idea that they're necessary. While I think it might be easy to conclude that we shouldn't have them, I think that goes the wrong way. It's similar to the way the idea of "colorblindness" turns out to be largely counterproductive outside of a few specific scenarios where it's useful (such as resume review systems that aim to create a colorblind situation for recruiters).

If we wind up in a future that's truly accepting of all sexual orientations, I don't think coming out will end. I think, though, that it won't be only some people who have to come out—it'll be everyone. If no one's sexual orientation is assumed, we'll all need a label. We'll all go through the process of figuring out what our orientation is, and I think that's a beautiful thing.

So I'm all for the heterosexual erotica label. And I'm excited to read Like A Spell.

If you want to stay up to date about goings on at Circlet (and be among the first to read new releases), you should consider joining Circlet's Patreon.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

For the Love of a Soldier - Revived!


Years ago, I posted about a story, "True North," that would come out in a book called, For the Love of a Solider, edited by Kristina Wright. I even posted a cover for it!

It's been a long time, and that book's been through a twisty journey, but I just got word that it'll be out June 29th from Circlet Press! This is the cover, and I'll share more info with you when I've got it!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Out Now: Deranged

Please allow me to introduce my newest release. My poem, "Lead," appears in Deranged, a new collection from Picaroon Press, edited by Kate Garrett and Rachel Nix.

"Lead" is a poem about the disorientation I experienced the first time I stepped outside the bounds of a heteronormative relationship. It wasn't until then that I'd realized there was a whole code of behavior I'd internalized. When I dated a woman for the first time, I felt the absence of that code constantly. I felt like we were inventing everything anew, and that was both thrilling and disconcerting.

I'm really excited to read the other poems in the book!

Here's the general description:

Deranged was originally a response to the claim by one critic that women writers calling out sexism were ‘deranged poetesses’. It grew into something much more than that.

These are poems about rule-breaking, gender nonconformity, and women in the arts by Roxanna Bennett, Sarah Pritchard, Orooj-e-Zafar, Catherine Ayres, Angela Readman, QWD, Rebecca Audra Smith, Abigail Carl-Klassen, Jane Burn, Laurie Kolp, Susan Yount, Lizzie Holden, Annabeth Leong, Amy Kinsman, Justin C. Burkart, J.P. Grimm, Courtney LeBlanc, Mary Meriam, Anna Percy, Finola Scott, Angela Readman, Gail DiMaggio, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Sez Thomasin, Betty Stanton, Rishika Aggarwal, Catherine Edmunds, Claire T. Feild, Janet Philo, Christine Rhein, Noel Sloboda, Carol Eades, Sade Andria Zabala, Robert Beveridge, Rona Fitzgerald, Rebecca Gethin, Claire Booker, Carole Bromley, Sumayyah Malik, and Joanne Key.

For now, the book is only available through Lulu, but it will propagate to Amazon soon. If you'd like to check its current status, its main page is here.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

On Being Too Dirty

I think sometimes erotica writers talk like we're all trying to be the dirtiest, but that's not what really happens. At Oh Get a Grip this time, we're discussing the topic, "dirtiest story."

Over the two weeks we've been writing about this, we've found that it's hard to define what a "dirtiest story" might be.

I decided to write about the story that wound up feeling "too dirty" once I published it, in that most of the reaction I saw to it was about how it went too far.

It's an odd feeling, to write something that seems hot and poetic to me—dirty, yes, but in a way that thrills—and then feel like most people (who said something online) thought it was "too much" or "gross." Maybe another writer would take that in stride, but for me it maps too closely to the times I've felt too much or gross in real life.

Erotica writing can feel very vulnerable.

I talked about this a bit, and I posted an excerpt of the story, specifically from the part that I think pushed some readers too far. (It's about obsession with someone else's body, to the point of fetishizing their discarded objects).

If you'd like to read the whole post, you can find it here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sneak Peek: The Taste of a Soul

I promised hints to come of my story, "The Taste of a Soul," which Mofo Press is publishing in an anthology of religion-related erotica. So here is a good hint—the first few paragraphs:

He was your typical pride demon: leather-gloved fingers caressing the polished wheel of his Chevy Malibu as he drove, designer sunglasses, a weathered-faced smirk. His showpiece mortal posed for us in the passenger seat, giggling her life away as she sucked down one cigarette after another and tried not to drop ashes on her red silk party dress. Her loose, giddy laugh told a story of a soulless body, the high that comes in the wake of lost innocence and a distant conscience.

"Desiree?" he sneered. "That's what you're going by now?"

I took the bait and defended myself, sitting up straighter in the back seat so I could glare into his rear view mirror. "Most of them don't pick up the irony until far too late, if ever. Besides, you're not being very subtle yourself, Lord."

He clearly believed his answering expression to be boyish and charming, not insufferably smug. "I enjoy hearing them call me that. Especially her."

He dropped a hand onto the mortal's thigh, bunching the fabric of her skirt into his fist. "Lord," she breathed, her voice girlish to the point of obscenity. "My Lord."

I rolled my eyes, but the clichés of the scene didn't stop me from watching him work his hand altogether under the dress. She spread her legs to let him. Her lust smelled like sugared mandrake. I lifted an eyebrow and leaned to an angle that gave me a better look at her face.

Watch for more, and in the meantime, you can take a look at what Mofo's put out for you so far.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sneak Peek: To Rescue a Princess

I've mentioned the novella I have coming out from Less Than Three Press, "To Rescue a Princess." I turned in edits a few weeks back, and I thought I'd give you a look at the story.

Sir Elizabeth is the only female knight in the kingdom, and she's had to fight for the right to participate in the competition to win the princess's hand, alongside the other knights. The problem is that Princess Cordelia isn't interested in being "won" by anyone. The scene below comes from their first conversation, after Sir Elizabeth nearly defeated the dragon and "won" the princess—only to be sabotaged by Cordelia.

"Princess. Do I have permission to approach? Another knight is coming. We don't have a lot of time."

"Another knight?" Cordelia's dark skin turned ashy. She leaned out the window and glanced toward the road. The dust cloud had gotten closer. She looked down at the dragon, and then shifted her attention to Beth. "Yes," she said. "Please come up to the windowsill."

If Beth had been less exhausted, she would have taken comfort in discovering that at least Cordelia wasn't cheering for the new arrival. However, the only relief she could feel at this point was in her shoulders, when she finally freed them of the weight of her entire body and suit of armor.

She found a relatively stable position in the window and let her arms fall bonelessly to her sides. It didn't feel as if she could lift them so much as an inch, not even if her life depended on it. That made this conversation all the more important.

"You don't want me to defeat the dragon," Beth said bluntly. The other knight's imminent arrival gave her little time to mince words.

Cordelia had the grace to blush. "You would have," she offered.

Beth returned a weary gaze. "Yes."

"I'm sorry." Cordelia sounded genuine. Now that Beth sat close to her, she couldn't help imagining what it would be like for them to live as spouses. Beth could envision them dividing the labors of ruling, but she wasn't sure what it would be like to share a bed with the woman in front of her. Would she be expected to, given that the traditional means of producing an heir wouldn't be available to her? On the other hand, maybe it would be seen as weakness or a sign of division if she never visited Cordelia's room at night.

She looked at Cordelia's face and imagined herself caressing it. When Lady Jeanne had gotten married, some people had talked about it being unnatural for two women to be together that way. Beth had used Lady Jeanne to make a point with the guard, but she hadn't spent much time picturing the realities. Beth had kissed and been kissed a few times in her life, with and without passion. She wondered how it would feel with Cordelia, wondered if the contact would strike the spark in her body that would fuel her for deeper, more intimate exploration.

She was getting way ahead of herself.

Beth took a deep breath. "Is it personal?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Is it because you don't want to marry a woman? Or you're in love with someone else? Or you think my nose looks weird?"

Cordelia gave Beth an odd, unreadable look. "Is it personal for you?" she asked, her tone sharper than anything she'd used so far.

Beth swallowed. She didn't love Cordelia, and the woman deserved better than to be lied and pretended to. At the same time, she truly was trying to remember that the princess was a person and not a prize, that a spouse was a partner and not a political convenience. "I'd hoped maybe it could be," Beth said honestly.

Cordelia's expression softened, taking on a touch of the affection she'd shown toward the dragon. "Good answer," she said. Her fingers twitched, and for a moment Beth thought Cordelia might reach out to her. Then she turned away abruptly, leaving Beth with little to interpret beyond the smooth, apparently untroubled line of her shoulders and the carefully embroidered filigree that ran down the back of her gown. "It's just what a knight ought to say when sitting on a princess's windowsill."

Surprise coursed through Beth, and the sting of accusation. "You think I'm lying?"

"I think you'd make a good politician. A good ruler. I see why my father recognized you with the title he did." Her voice took on a bitter cast. "I see why he didn't stop you from trying to win my hand."

"Princess—"

"It isn't personal." Cordelia's body was tight and controlled, but her tone made it clear that there were thoughts and feelings she couldn't contain. "Of course, it isn't. I can't really afford personal in my position, can I? You understand the world enough to see that."

***

I'll get you cover and release date information when it's available!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Music Mondays: "Know Your Name" by Mary Lambert

Know Your Name (Official Video) by Mary Lambert on VEVO.


OK, first, I want to find out where they are in this video and go hang out there.

Second, how do I get in on this Street Fighter tournament?

Third, why is everyone in this video so cool? How does Mary Lambert find such awesome friends? (Probably by being super awesome herself...)

Fourth, I like the song, too!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Five Years on Kiva!

I got an email notification this week telling me that I've been on Kiva for five years!

Kiva is a nonprofit organization that aims to help people around the world get small, low-interest loans that help them start businesses, attend school, make needed renovations, etc. You can see explanations on Kiva's website.

I first joined Kiva in conjunction with the publication of my novella, The Six Swans, through Coming Together. All books that Coming Together publishes go toward some sort of charity project. In this case, proceeds from novellas that come out through the Coming Together: Neat line go into Kiva accounts.

You can see my Kiva lender profile here. Over the years I've used royalties from The Six Swans, along with other money I've added to it at times to make 61 loans!

If you'd like to get involved, it's easy to make your own account on Kiva. Or you can pick up The Six Swans, Giselle Renarde's Tangled Roots, or any other book in the Coming Together: Neat line.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Trouble With Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 a couple weeks ago, and since then I've been rolling stuff over in my mind about the Mantis character. My reaction during the movie was discomfort—I felt I was watching a portrayal that played to certain racial stereotypes. As often happens, though, I hesitated and questioned myself a lot, worrying I was being "oversensitive" or reading something into her that wasn't there.

The feeling persisted, though. I thought other people might write about this for me, but I haven't seen a lot along those lines, so I'm going to write about what stood out for me.

To properly discuss this, I'm going to use spoilers whenever necessary, and generally I'm going to talk like you've seen the movie. Be warned.

Here are the ways I felt weird about this character:

1) She "helps Ego sleep."


Let's talk about Ego. If you think about what he does, he is literally an exploitative sex tourist (he travels to one planet after another impregnating people). I can't tell you how many of those types I've met in real life who are obsessed with/fetishize the idea of obtaining (possession word used intentionally to describe this mindset) an Asian wife or mistress, usually because he thinks this woman would be some combination of submissive and exotic.

When I saw Mantis with him, I immediately read her as a woman filling that role, either in a sex worker way or in a mail order bride way. There's a clear power imbalance between them, and she seems cowed by him. The references to how she helps him sleep fit into a sexually suggestive framework, to my mind.

Okay, but isn't Ego the villain?

I wondered if that somehow mitigates this portrayal of Mantis. Can the movie be read as a story of her escaping Ego's clutches and finding her own voice in some way? But I don't think so, and that has everything to do with how Drax treats her.

2) Drax mocks and belittle Mantis and she seems to love it

The interactions between Drax and Mantis are coded as a romantic B-plot (her attractiveness is discussed, she seems to be a part of his moving on from the loss of his wife, and toward the end of the movie he both princess-carries her and compliments her). I found this relationship sinister, though, because it reinforces the image of Mantis as exotic and submissive, playing into the same qualities that Ego the sex tourist seems to see in her.

Mantis does take action to go with the Guardians—specifically, she gives them key information about Ego's true motives and actions. She also delays Ego for a key amount of time during the climactic battle. This does earn her appreciation with the Guardians.

I don't think it earns her enough or the right sort of appreciation, though. The main kudos I recall her getting come from Drax, who grudgingly tells her that she is beautiful after all—on the inside (implication being that she is actually physically ugly). At the theater where I saw the movie, this line drew laughs, but it's an ugly, backhanded compliment. Mantis's "obvious" beauty and Drax's personality quirks are supposed to mitigate how this lands, I think, but in context... they don't.

Pro tip: Insults that say something "obviously" false about someone else... are still insults. (See all the times terrible insults have been justified as humorous for this reason. For example, the debacle around The Onion's disgusting and crude tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis).

Mantis seems to take Drax's insults as deserved and complimentary, and that's not sweet, especially when I'm already seeing her as a possibly traumatized victim of sexual violence from Ego.

3) The way she is cast

Mantis is an empath. I think her casting illustrates the way artistic projects can work with stereotypes or against them.

There's nothing wrong with having a character who's an empath. But when I see the way Mantis is portrayed, I think OF COURSE they chose to make her a woman. OF COURSE they chose to make her an Asian-coded woman. (Actress Pom Klementieff is French, and her mother is Korean). The idea of the empath works entirely with the stereotype of the Asian woman as receptacle for the hopes, dreams, and penises of straight white men. I'm disappointed to see it played that way.

To cast an Asian woman as an empath without falling into this trap, the character, frankly, has to be written better and with more depth. For more automatic stereotype resistance, cast someone else who doesn't "fit" the idea—and don't play that for laughs. Imagine if the Mantis character was played by someone like Idris Elba (again, not for laughs about the "contrast"). The whole thing would feel very different.

(A brilliant example of casting that pushes against stereotypes is Andre Braugher as Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Captain Holt. The show brilliantly toys with stereotypes to force viewers to see Captain Holt as an individual. In particular, it accomplishes this by forcing tension between the stereotypes of a tough, no-nonsense black man and the stereotypes of a gay man. Because the character is both, no stereotype can settle.)

4) Her use of language and the jokes about it

Mantis speaks, to my ear, with an accent that seems to mock the typical sound of English as spoken by Asian people who've learned it as immigrants. She also, inexplicably, seems not to know certain words. I feel she's coded as an immigrant and non-native speaker, which plays into the way her character embraces Asian stereotypes.

For example, listen to the way she responds when Drax tells her she's disgusting. She proudly announces, "I'm disgusting," to Gamora, and the way she says it reminds me of the way Asian people sound when they don't speak English well.

In other words, Drax's abuse feels even meaner because it takes advantage of a character who doesn't seem to speak the language—and the movie plays this for laughs.

***

Given these things, the movie left a bad taste in my mouth (though I will laugh forever about looking desperately for tape, even in the future).

Here are a couple of links I've found that discuss issues with Mantis, though not quite from the same angle.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Turned Mantis Into the Butt of a Joke
by Charles Paul Hoffman
"Intentional or not, Mantis’ portrayal feels very much like the trope of the wife a soldier brought back to the United States after the Vietnam War."

A Good Chunk of Guardians of the Galaxy Is Devoted to Calling This Character Ugly by Morgan Baila
"Why, in a film promoting a misfits gang full of a diverse range of characters, with varying levels of skill, intelligence, and attractiveness, is this female character being singled out for her looks? It's a cheap and lazy plot line, and it almost ruined the movie for me."

Friday, May 26, 2017

#ChechenRainbow Update

Dale Cameron Lowry sent out an update about the Readers and Writers for LGBT Chechens Auction, which I posted about several weeks ago. The online auction raised $2,709! If you're interested in a breakdown of where the money went and how organizations are using it, you can see that information here.

But even if you missed the auction, there's still a chance to help. Some authors and publishers are still donating book proceeds to the Russian LGBT Network and Rainbow Railroad (most of these offers end by May 31st, so now's a good time to make your purchases if you're interested!) Follow this link to see a list.

I'm going to particularly call your attention to Ultimate Wired Hard, published by Circlet Press. This book is huge! Forty-three stories for less than $6. It's an amazing deal even before you consider that all the proceeds are going to charity. If you're interested in making sure the largest possible donation gets made, buy the book from Circlet's website—the charities will get a bigger cut.

I'm amazed and inspired by the work going into this effort, and I invite you to support this project, if you're able.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cover Reveal: Journey to the Center of Desire

Begging, my friends: It pays.

Behold the cover to Journey to the Center of Desire, edited by Jen Blackmore, coming soon from Circlet Press. After spotting SUBTLE CLUES (translation: a background on the editor's blog) suggesting this cover is a thing that exists in this world, I excitedly begged to get copies of those pictures, too, and the Aetherist herself kindly obliged.

It's cool, yeah?

My story is called "Journey to the Disappearing Sea." It's about a dude who doesn't realize how irrelevant he is. No, wait, that's not quite right. It's narrated by Axel, the hero (and whiny center) of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. In the original, Axel loves to talk about "his little Gräuben," so I decided to talk about her a whole lot more. In short, I decided to make her the much cooler star of her own adventure.

Was I fantasizing? Well... yes. But hopefully I'll make you fantasize, too.

I'll share more details (like a release date!) when I can get them. And I might also post a few paragraphs to whet your appetite...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Coming Soon: A Beastly Affair

Hey friends! I don't think I remembered to tell you that I signed a contract for a story in Jen Blackmore's Beastly Affair, a Beauty and the Beast-themed erotic anthology coming soon from Circlet Press.

I had a really great time writing my story, "Bête Noire." It's set in the Weird West, with a beast who's a former debutante, and a gun-toting, revenge-seeking Beauty.

When I finished the story and looked it over, I saw it had... drifted quite a bit from the fairy tale as told by Disney. That's what you want when writing, of course, because you need to make a story your own. I'm always fascinated by the process, though. To me, each step feels clear and logical, as if I'm just making minor adjustments. Then I hear myself describing the story to someone, and I realize it's radically different, and radical.

Like, why the Weird West? I'm not sure, but it made perfect sense to me at the time. I think I was looking for a time and place in which I thought a curse-giver could be passing through, and I didn't want to do the vague medieval England setting that one falls into so easily.

The key to my version of the story, though, came from research I did into the origins of the fairy tale. One old version of the story holds that the witch curses the Beast in a fit of rage after being sexually denied. It seemed to me like a person who would do that wouldn't only do it once, so I immediately envisioned a wandering sexual harasser, leaving behind a trail of Beast-cursed people. From there, it wasn't hard to imagine Beauty and a Beast teaming up to pursue the curse-giver.

I wanted the story to address the trauma the Beast has gone through. I put into it a lot of the feelings I've had myself in the wake of harassment—in particular, an urge to embrace the idea of ugliness because sometimes I see that as an antidote to vulnerability. I've also often observed that in the wake of trauma, my friends want revenge, and the things I want are much murkier and more complex.

Along with all that psychological and mythological stuff, though, Beauty and the Beast are into blood play, and the scenes I wrote for that are HOT—if I judge by my own reaction to them, anyway. ;)

I'm really looking forward to this book. I love Jen Blackmore's anthologies, both because her concepts are awesome and because she attracts great writers (I'm always honored to be in their company).

If you want to be in her next book, she has a call out right now for Golden Age Erotica (there's a link from here).

And if you want to see what I'm talking about, may I recommend Whispers in Darkness, her excellent anthology of Lovecraftian erotica?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Karate Kid Holds Up Surprisingly Well

Sometimes I get drunk and watch old action movies for fun, and I recently decided to do that with The Karate Kid. Usually, it's a hilarious exercise because the movies don't hold up all that well (ahem, Top Gun).

Karate Kid, though, was real AF, and in many ways felt more progressive than movies I see today.

For one thing, the feminism is real. Elisabeth Shue's character, Ali, is not your typical airhead love interest (it so depresses me that I have to write this). For one thing, she's always out doing stuff with her friends. She clearly has an interior life and a social life, and isn't just waiting around for Daniel. She also isn't shy about telling him that she likes him and telling him what she wants and expects. When a guy grabs her in a way she doesn't like, she punches him. Daniel doesn't see that and assumes she was cheating on him, and one of her friends sets him straight, telling him that she shouldn't have to explain something like that to him—he ought to trust that she's a good person.

When Daniel gets a new car, he rushes to show it to Ali—and wants her to drive it. I noticed myself cringing because I was so sure she would crash it and become the butt of a joke about women not being able to drive. (And what does that say about how I've been socialized?) Instead, he helps her figure out the controls (just as he had to do a few minutes before), and they drive off happily.

Also, let's talk about Daniel's mom. Lucille LaRusso is a single mother figuring it out under difficult circumstances. What's striking here, though, is that you never see her lamenting that she's alone or doesn't have a partner. You see a woman who's excited to make her own way and discover a new career. She's frustrated and struggling in some ways, but she's also forming herself in a way that you can tell is thrilling for her. She wants to be in California, and she wants to explore her job opportunities. Daniel's unhappy about it, in a teenage way, and she expresses sympathy but is also clear that she's a person and she deserves this. She's awesome, and different from the way I often see single mothers portrayed now. (She does have one of the most unintentionally funny scenes in the movie, though, when she declares to Daniel, "I could never make this much money in computers!" That, too, is telling, though—it's an artifact of the time when computers were considered women's work and were consequently devalued. Hmmm...)

I often feel like there's this idea that society gets more progressive over time, but it's all too rare now to see a love interest character who's as much her own person as Ali is. This really gives the lie to the idea that feminism has been accomplished. I feel like U.S. society has gone backwards since this movie was made, in many ways.

What I really want to talk about, though, is the drunk Mr. Miyagi scene. I remembered it from childhood, and I remembered that his wife had died and he was wrecked over it.


It was a memorable scene, and there are a lot of clips on YouTube of him singing the Japanese Blues. What I didn't remember, however, is exactly how cruel and damning his story is. If you look carefully at the newspaper clips that Daniel is reading, you'll see that Mr. Miyagi fought for the U.S. during World War II and was decorated for his bravery. At the very same time, his pregnant wife was in an internment camp, where she died while giving birth—probably unnecessarily because it seems like she doesn't get proper medical treatment. (I couldn't find a clip of this whole part, but the movie can be rented and streamed on Amazon).

A lot of people on YouTube seem amused by his drunken antics, but I sobbed through this scene. It seems like the truth about the imprisonment of Japanese people in the U.S. has only been coming out recently, but here's a very popular movie from the early 80s facing it head on.

I'm not going to say this is a perfect movie, but it's a very good movie and it held up way better than I thought it would.

I thought I would be annoyed at Mr. Miyagi's mysterious oriental-ness, but he's a real character, with a past and an arc. You see him in the movie learning to face down racism and get out and make his own life despite his grief. He and Daniel adopt each other, and that helps them both. I'm a sucker for a powerful father figure relationship, and for chosen family stories, and that's what this movie is.

Oh, and that crane scene that's often mocked these days? Watch it again in its full context. I dare you not to cry.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Music Mondays: "Needed Me" by Rihanna

Warning: This video contains graphic scenes of violence and exploitation


This song is so beautiful, and the video for it is so ugly, but I think these things match and go together. The beauty of the song very much exists in the context of ugliness, and that's what the video is showing. To me, this expresses the power and soothing beauty that can come in the aftermath of horror, and it's something that's felt healing to me lately.

Rihanna is very sexy in this, but she's sexy in that way that isn't for anyone but herself, in my opinion. She feels turned very inward here, and I appreciate that, and I like it when I feel that way, too.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Deadline for Coming Together: Positively Sexy Is Tomorrow!

Hi friends! A quick reminder that the deadline for Coming Together: Positively Sexy is tomorrow! More details are here.

As I've been saying, please don't hesitate to email me if you're just finding out about this and need more time. I want all the submissions I can get! You can reach me at annabeth dot leong at gmail dot com.

I'm looking forward to reading your story, and to sharing more news about the book as we go forward!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

When Talking About Street Harassment Leaves Me Feeling Bruised

I went to a discussion this week on street harassment. While the event was well run, it turned out to be pretty difficult for me, and I wanted to write a little about why.

I showed up expecting a group that was well versed in the issue of street harassment. I thought many people there would have a lot of experience on the receiving end. Instead, I found that I was initially the only person who experienced frequent street harassment (later, one other person showed up who had similar experiences). Despite having a careful and thoughtful facilitator, this placed me and that other person in a weird position. It felt like I needed to frequently step in to explain what my experiences of street harassment are really like. It also felt like many of the people present had a lot of trouble having empathy for me and that other person. Instead, they seemed to center their own difficulties (i.e. "But how do I approach people on the street if people might think I'm a harasser?").

There are a few things that I wish were taken for granted in discussions of street harassment:

1) Strangers don't have a right to my attention.
Saying that someone is just flirting or just wants to get to know me doesn't explain why they feel free to force me to participate in that. I don't want to flirt. I don't want to get to know you on the street. I'm very bothered that other people's desire to have my attention is placed above my need to make choices about how I use my own limited resources.

2) Obscene comments and threatening gestures are really not a way to "get to know" someone.

The "he was just trying to get to know you" idea seems very weak when I think about the actual stories involved. Despite the fact that this idea comes up very persistently, I can't believe that someone who follows me down the street in his car is "just trying to get to know me." I can't believe that anyone thinks that screaming, "Oooh, titties!" at the sight of me is a good opening to "getting to know" me. I am flabbergasted that this defense is brought up frequently (including in this week's discussion).

3) Interactions that may not seem threatening to a member of a privileged group can be very threatening to a member of a minority group.
A man may not mind having a woman scream that she likes his ass (or maybe he would, that's fine, too). But that screaming woman is unlikely to present the type of threat to his safety that a man screaming the same thing could present to a woman's. A white person may feel perfectly safe while interacting with police. That doesn't mean a black person will feel the same way in that interaction. A straight person might find questions about his girlfriend innocuous. A queer person might find the same questions threatening. A cis person might not feel anything in particular about being misgendered (though often cis people seem to have a lot of feelings about this!). That doesn't mean it's okay to do that to a trans or nonbinary person. This is a really important principle that people need to understand in order to have effective conversations with people from groups they don't belong to.

So with that in mind, I'll tell a story of the interaction that disturbed me most in the discussion. I was explaining why I've grown wary of people on the street, no matter how they approach me. I described the way that many interactions start out seeming innocent and escalate into harassment. I gave an example:

A guy came up to me once and asked for directions to the nearest department store. We were close to one, so this didn't seem strange and I told him how to get there.

Him: Do they sell women's clothing there?

Me: Yes.

Him: Do they sell bras?

Me: (getting uneasy) Yes.

Him: What size bra do you wear?

(I hurry away.)

I didn't get into this at the discussion, but this really had a lingering effect on me. There was something about the look on the guy's face when he asked me what size bra I wear that shook me deep down. He had this gross and victorious smile. It made me feel like the whole point of the interaction was that he wanted to ask me a question about my breasts. I felt like he'd gotten what he wanted from me and there was nothing I could do to stop him. I felt stupid for letting him talk to me in the first place. I felt afraid that he would follow me.

Someone at the discussion later brought up the idea that this guy was "just trying to flirt" with me. Maybe not well ("well" defined as, in a way I liked). The clear implication, to my mind, was that there was no real harm in this behavior. It's hard for me to remember the precise moment of this interaction, because my face went hot and I sort of froze up. This person was looking at me, and I found I couldn't look them in the eye anymore. I remember the person saying something like, "He was just flirting, don't you think?" And I couldn't return the gaze, and this person pursued me. "No? You don't think so?"

I felt stuck because I didn't want to lash out in a way that would get me further dismissed. I said something like, "If you think asking someone's bra size within four seconds of meeting them is flirting, then I don't..." And I trailed off because I don't know how to help you if you think that.

More importantly, being questioned like that hurts me. I didn't know how to defend myself for a long time because I was very caught up in worrying about the other person's intentions. I'd sit frozen through an entire horrible interaction because I just wasn't sure when I was allowed to call it. It's very important for my own well being to reject that sort of questioning. No. You don't have a right to my attention, strange man. No, there is no excuse for asking my bra size on the street. There just isn't.

I also hadn't described the man when I told the story. At the time this happened, I was in my mid-20s. The man who approached me was easily several decades older than me. That situation is predatory. It's not innocent or fun. But the age doesn't matter that much, because the point is that when I'm walking down the street, I want to be left alone.

I said as much to the group. There are places where you can talk to me, where I go because I'm open to social interaction. For example, discussion groups, or mixer type events. I want people to come up to me if and only if there's a social setting inviting such a thing. I don't feel a lot of sympathy for you if you complain that this makes it hard for you to get a date on the street. I'm not on the street looking for dates. I'm there to go to the store or to meet a friend or to go to work or get exercise or whatever.

I'm interested (and disturbed) by how ready people are to assume good faith on the part of the harasser, and, in combination with that, to assume that I'm just confused when I report my feelings of hurt and fear.

Over and over, I kept hearing people talk about the situation of the harasser who's maybe socially inept but really just wants to form connections. The thing that bothered me when I woke up the next day is that this narrative persisted despite the fact that me and the other frequently harassed person told no stories of this nature. We talked about being followed, cursed at, having dirty words whispered to us. How do you hear that and then lament how people are "just trying to connect"?

I'm chilled by this. Really chilled. And sort of in despair about it.

Why is it so easy for people to empathize with harassers and so difficult for them to empathize with those who are harassed? Why does no one seem to know any harassers personally, but on the other hand they seem so quick to defend them?



Things I wish I'd done better in retrospect:

1) Asked for ground rules about cross talk
The discussion facilitator was very careful about trying to create a safe space. I wished I'd asked for ground rules in the opening about having my experiences questioned in certain ways. I wasn't sure how to frame that, and I kept silent when I shouldn't have.

2) Discussed race
My experiences of harassment are closely tied to race. I hinted around this, but I was much too delicate about it. In particular, I should have mentioned that I was harassed very frequently while out with a dark-skinned Colombian girlfriend, and almost never while dating a tall white woman. My skin tone can change a lot due to all sorts of factors, but I definitely get harassed more when I am browner.

Conversely, I have been harassed by men of all ethnicities. However, at one point someone suggested a street harassment law. I said that idea worried me because it might be applied unfairly. I should have come out and said that I was worried it would be applied only to dark-skinned men.

3) Challenged hurtful narratives more directly and pointed out contradictions more clearly

I wish I'd been able to describe more clearly some of the things I've said in this post. I wish I'd asked people why they were so invested in defending harassers and minimizing my experience. I wish I'd been a bit sharper with what I said.

One of the things that's still bothering me about this, though, is how much work this winds up being for me. I woke up early this morning, on edge, going over everything I'd said, processing my experiences all over again, critiquing the ways I'd expressed myself or hadn't. I might feel better if I knew a lot of people stayed in the discussion that way, but I have a sinking suspicion that this labor was loaded more onto me and the other person who'd experienced a lot of harassment.

I'm upset when I think about all the work that can come with receiving a certain sort of hurt. Not only do I have to deal with the hurt, I have to deal with all these repercussions of it, other people's feelings about it, and on and on forever. I'm angry about other people's ability to walk away from it, and the casual way they can knock me over (metaphorically) and then put it behind them while I'm still trying to get back up.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Mark and the Caul: A Sexy Part

There's a cool thing that happens when it takes a story a very long time to get published. By the time it's out, I get to read it fresh, as surprised as the reader might be. So I checked out my story "The Mark and the Caul," which recently came out in Sacchi Green's Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms: Erotic Lesbian Fairy Tales, and I got to remember some of the things I enjoyed about writing this story.


The princess, Lucinda, has been told all her life that she's disfigured, and it takes her a while to trust her lover, Sam, with her body. I always find tentative explorations hot, and I also really enjoyed writing about how Lucinda and Sam navigate Lucinda's insecurities. Here's one of their early sex scenes:

"May I touch you?" Lucinda asked.

"You may do with me as you please."

Lucinda stepped close. At first, despite her question, she touched only with eyes, her fingers too timid to bridge the gap between them. When she lifted a hand at last, she flitted it around Sam's body like a butterfly too skittish to alight. Feeling ridiculous, she brought a fingertip to rest on the blunt tip of Sam's broad nose.

They both froze, and then Sam laughed, and the sound freed Lucinda to gather her wife into her arms more boldly. She learned the shapes of Sam's shoulder blades, the curve of her spine, and the solidity of her hips. She tucked Sam's muscular buttocks into the palms of her hands, but the powerful response in her body alarmed her and she retreated to Sam's elbows. Lucinda, however, could not resist stroking upward from there, outlining her wife's upper arms, which were strong and thick from helping the miller.

This supposedly less intimate territory still made Lucinda's stomach flutter. She rested the side of her face between Sam's breasts, barely trusting her legs to hold her up. Wrapping one arm around Sam's back, Lucinda allowed her other hand to wander to the hollow of Sam's throat, over the point of one taut breast, along the side of her rib cage, and finally, between her legs.

"Moon above and river below," Sam cursed.

Lucinda smiled at the reaction and petted the damp hair that grew over Sam's pubis. She knew the pleasure her own body yielded when she explored this place. "There is a river below indeed. I feel the signs of its presence, though I have not found it yet."

Sam widened her stance. "You seem clever enough to track it."

"You will not be able to remain standing under the force of its waters once I make them flow," Lucinda said. She led her wife to her bed and helped her in. Then she rubbed the top of one of Sam's thighs, as if she were a great mill horse in need of steadying. Slowly, Lucinda parted her wife's lower lips, revealing the extent of her wetness.

"Ah," Sam sighed. "You've found it."

"I've found the path that leads there." Lucinda began a thorough examination of the territory, at first simply stroking and discovering, then later responding to the hiss of Sam's breath and the catches in her throat. She trapped sensitive flesh between her first two fingers, squeezing lightly, tugging, and rolling.

Sam gave a full-throated cry, and her firm body became rigid and hard beneath Lucinda's touch. Pleasure shattered off her and pounded through the room, rolling from Sam's body in waves that Lucinda could feel at her temples. Sam gasped, and finally caught her breath. "My mother told me the pleasures of the marriage bed were not for women," she said at last. "I've never known her to be wrong before, and yet I can imagine nothing sweeter than what you have done to me."

Lucinda stretched out beside Sam, still in her clothes. She slipped her hand beneath her veil so she could inhale Sam's scent, and shivered all over at the spice of it. "It heartens me to hear this from you. I was always told that it would hurt."

Sam clutched Lucinda fiercely. "I swear I'll never hurt you."

"I know you won't."

"Will you let me please you, too?"

Lucinda drew a deep breath. "Soon," she promised. "But not yet."

Sam nodded and held her, and the two women whispered secrets to each other.

If you'd like to read the rest, you can pick up the book here.