Tuesday, February 28, 2012

REVIEW: A Cowboy's Heart by J.M. Snyder

Oh my, but what an intoxicating take J.M. Snyder has woven with A Cowboy's Heart. This is a tale that's equal parts sweet and sexy, full of lust and longing, and culminating in one of my favourite happily-ever-afters in a very long time.

Tommy is a shy young cowboy, helplessly infatuated with his boss, and hopelessly inexperienced when it comes to love. As much as he craves Hal's attention, and fantasizes about his touch at the most inopportune times, he's also very much aware that he must preserve the secret of his sexuality from the other men. When they pressure him to hit the saloon and hook up with one of the working women, he reluctantly agrees to go, if only to have a few drinks and keep up the charade.

Lila is one of the working girls, but one with a dangerous secret. She's really a young man named Stephen, born and raised in a brothel, and addicted to his femininity - both as an expression of his true self, and as a means of getting close to men without risking rejection. He spies something in young Tommy, convinces him to provide an escort upstairs, and then shocks himself by revealing his secret.

What follows is an honest, touching, and (at times) troubled tale of separating lust from love, infatuation from intimacy. Tommy comes across as a really sweet young man, a virgin who is as eager to please as he is to learn. He has a hard time dealing with Lila's gender, and nearly exposes her on more than once occasion, but he respects her choices and ultimately comes to love her for who she is. Lila is definitely more street-smart, and has long since lost the innocence that makes Tommy so endearing, but she's also genuine about her feelings. You can't help but want the two of them to end up together, and to cheer every development that brings them closer.

I've already said this is a happily-ever-after tale, but it's truly the story behind the ending that's so delicious. To say more would be to spoil the magic, so I'll just leave you with this, my favourite line from the story:

I love you . . . Male, female, whichever you want to be is fine with me. It isn't the way you dress or the body you were born with. It's you. It will always be you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

GUEST POST: Allison Moon

Writing Sex as a Revolutionary Act
By Allison Moon

When I was first seeking an agent for my debut novel Lunatic Fringe, I ran into the usual snags.  My book is a love story, but it isn’t a straight-forward formula romance. It’s about werewolves, which makes it paranormal but it isn’t YA or urban fantasy.  There’s graphic sex, but it’s also not what the book is “about” so it’s not erotica either. And of course, the story is a lesbian one, which meant any hope of mainstream appeal was pretty stark.

The refrain I got from agents and publishers was the oft-cited “Your story just isn’t marketable.”  In other words, they didn’t know how to sell it to mainstream America. That didn’t bother me, because I didn’t write Lunatic Fringe for mainstream America. I wrote Lunatic Fringe to tell a story that felt true, particularly for queer women. While I’m thrilled when non-queers or non-women read it, my intent was really to serve what I consider to be a wildly under-served community of readers.

Once my book was out in the world, I faced another form of discrimination, this time far less subtle than simple market trends. I began pitching my book for book blogger reviews.  On a couple of websites, in no uncertain terms, I read that MM (Male/Male), MF (Male/Female), MFM, and BDSM were all great and encouraged.  However, they refused any lesbian stories, full stop.  On one site, in huge red letters, it said NO FF STORIES! WE WILL NOT READ THEM.  Bondage, shapeshifters, and rape were all fine though, just no girls in love.  Another said that they wouldn’t review FF stories unless the “sex part was short and could be skipped.”

As a writer who worked for years to craft my book, the idea that someone would review my book only if they could “skip” the less-savory aspects infuriated me. While I live my life quite transparently, and am safe to do so for the most part, because I’m privileged to live among a strong queer community in the Bay Area, notes like that remind me of how revolutionary it can be to write true love stories that defy the heteronormative script.

If the difference between pornography and art is intent, the same metric can apply to literature. Erotica is designed to titillate, and all the racy combinations of genders and bodies and scenarios are supposed to be hot hot hot, or at least sexy sweet. Good erotica can convey other emotions through sex (fear, jealousy, hatred, sadness, etc) but the intent remains to make the reader juicy.  This tends to make even closed-minded readers somewhat accepting of non-normative expressions of sexuality, as long as the primary directive of titillation is achieved.   Look, for instance, at Laurel K. Hamilton’s books. Her readership is huge, and much of the books are about the main character sleeping her way through every demon and paranormal creature in hell, in all sorts of configurations.  This sex is the point of the books, and the protagonist “has” to have this kind of sex to “save the world.” Thus the protagonist is either coerced or doing her duty to the planet.  This can be great fun, no doubt. But if you’d ask many of these same readers to support actual LGBT rights in the real world, it would be a non-starter.

Why is it that a creepy crawly ménage-a-demon is alright but a lesbian or gender non-normative love story isn’t?  Two men having sex in a book for the titillation of the straight female reader is exotification and objectification. Erotica is, as they say, porn for straight women. But two men having sex because they love one another and are committed to their shared life behind closed doors- well that’s just gross. Right?

In Lunatic Fringe, the sex is strongly informed by the characters and their journeys.  It is a representation not only of their love, but their arcs, their fears, and their excitements at the beginning of new things.  The sex deepens the characterization and propels the plot.  It is not incidental or “skippable” by any means.  Just like with me, as a proud queer, my family, friends and neighbors can’t ignore the fact I take people of different genders to my bed, often more than one at a time.  They can’t tell me that I should be perfectly happy with a civil union and I should just find a nice boss so I won’t have to worry about getting fired.  In the real world, people don’t get to “skip” the parts of me they find distasteful.  They don’t get to say “as long you’re not in my face about your gender or queerness, then fine.” That’s not how my world works. Our gender and sexual identities are inextricably linked to our complete identities. You don’t get to cherry pick what you can handle and what you can’t.

Sex is not incidental.  You don’t get to ignore it, because sex is what makes us who we are.  It’s how we interface with the world, it’s how we build communities. It’s how we decide who we are and what we can be.

Thus, non-normative sex scenes with an emotional core are essential.  People read to open their minds to other ways of living.  Part of that is to share the emotional core of sexuality of both the characters and the readers.  When an author uses euphemisms or “cuts away” when things start getting sweaty, they are implicitly telling the readers that the sex is less than, “too much”, or inessential.   Of course I’m not suggesting that all books have lesbian orgies in them (if only. . .), but as writers we should always strive to reach the core truths. Part of this is treating sexuality not like a sideshow or merely something to make our undies bunch, but as vital and inextricably linked to our personhood.  In my world, this means being honest about what the sex looks like, why your characters are doing it, and how it makes them feel.  If we want to change the way people perceive non-normative sexuality and gender identity, it’s up to writers to be honest about it, not hide it or skirt it. I believe that artists have the power to shape the world as we tell the stories that become part of our culture. Our sexuality must be part of those stories if we wish for the respect and equality we deserve.


A huge thanks to Allison for stopping by today! I'll be giving Lunatic Fringe a review next month but, in the meantime, here's a sneak peek at what the book's all about:

Lunatic Fringe by Allison Moon:

New author Allison Moon indulges the feminine wild by giving the classic werewolf myth a feminist lesbian twist. Lexie Clarion is nervous about college. She's plagued with beastly visions, local werewolf attacks are on the rise, and she really wants to kiss a girl. And classes haven't even started yet.

Things start looking up when she meets the Pack, a group of radical women who have their own methods for handling the werewolf menace. Fascinated by their politics, intimacy, and general bad-assery, Lexie's sure she wants to join them, until an accident brings a captivating stranger into her life: Archer, a rugged woman with heterochromatic eyes and a dark secret.

The Pack will go to brutal lengths to win Lexie's favor, but they underestimate Archer's love. As Archer and the Pack battle for Lexie's allegiance, the waxing moon illuminates old hatreds, new enemies, and a secret from Lexie's childhood that will change her life forever.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Brown Eyed Girls by Chris Burrows

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine.)

Brown Eyed Girls by Chris Burrows

A set of eight short, erotic stories about some of the ‘Brown Eyed Girls’ Chris Burrows has met along the journey…, along the way of his eventful life. Chris has lived in various Asian countries for longer than he cares to remember and, in this set of stories, takes a break from his exploits in ‘Transgenderland’, to faithfully recount the true (really!) stories of some of his other escapades, or those of his close friends.

Whether the stories begin with some form of physical exercise such hiking, walking or cycling, when Brown Eyed Girls are around, another form of physical exercise always seems to eventuate, and most stories have a fitting climax! In some stories names have been changed to protect the guilty…[Available Now]
I always love Chris' work, and I'm intensely curious to see how he develops a story outside the transgender realm. Plus, call me perverse, but after a long winter I love any excuse for exercise!

How about you? What are you waiting on this week?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

GUEST POST: J. Yinka Thomas

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Becoming a Published Author
by J. Yinka Thomas

1. That it could take 10 years and 25 drafts to complete How Not to Save the World before I even got to the publishing stage. I wove the things that I love into the novel, my travel experiences, my passion for technological innovation and my personal vision for creating large scale social change. That kept me going for a decade.

2. That it could take another 4 years after completing the novel before it was finally published. My publishing adventure included self-publishing, twice, being published by a small press that went out of business and receiving a stack of very positive rejection letters from publishers while working with an outstanding literary agent.

3. How much fun it would be to work with an excellent designer on the book cover. I even got my family, friends and fans involved in providing feedback and voting on the cover over Facebook. The cover perfectly represents the adventure, intrigue and excitement within the pages.

4. How much self-promotion is required to market a novel. As a very shy author, I’ve engaged a range of supporters from friends to professional to help promote the book. My friend Mavis has even become my hype-woman, opening book events and kicking off the Q&A like Oprah.

5. The importance of ebooks in the publishing market. When I finished How Not to Save the World 4 years ago, I dreamed about seeing stacks and stacks of the novel in print. Now, with the exponential growth in the Ebook market, I dream about the book in bytes of bits transmitted over the Internet.

6. Not everyone who loves your novel wants to be your best friend. Reading you book and your bio might be just about as much as they want to know about you. And that’s fine.

7. Market, market, market! Half of publishing a novel is writing the book and the other half is marketing. And marketing can be a full time job and a particularly challenging one for someone who is used to sitting alone, writing.

8. People who have never written a word may feel that they have license to tear your work to shreds, in front of you. Luckily, the ratio of adoring compliments to ass-kicking shreds has been 1000:1 so far. But it still hurts.

9. Interviewers act like your life is an open book and ask questions like “tell us something that you have never told anyone else.” Either it’s incredibly private, which is why I have never told anyone else, or it is trivial and you don’t really care.

10. Publishing a first novel means it’s time to get started on the next one. In the midst of marketing, it also makes working on the next one that much more challenging. Well, back to writing the next novel.


About Jessica Yinka Thomas: Jessica Yinka Thomas is a novelist with a background in toy design and social entrepreneurship. As managing director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, she has authored several award-winning academic articles. Jessica has worked as a designer of interactive educational toys, as the director of a social enterprise business plan competition and as a program manager for a community development nonprofit. How Not to Save the World is her first novel. Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures.

Growing up in West Africa and traveling around the world has provided her with a rich background from which to draw in her writing. She lives in Arlington, VA with her husband, Jeff Forbes and their son Xavier. Jessica enjoys knitting in the winter and competing in triathlons during the summer. She holds a BS in Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Transgender 101 by Nicholas M Teich

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine.)

Transgender 101 by Nicholas M Teich:

Written by a social worker, popular educator, and member of the transgender community, this well-rounded resource combines an accessible portrait of transgenderism with a rich history of transgender life and its unique experiences of discrimination. Chapters introduce transgenderism and its psychological, physical, and social processes. They describe the coming out process and its effect on family and friends, the relationship between sexual orientation, and gender and the differences between transsexualism and lesser-known types of transgenderism. The volume covers the characteristics of Gender Identity Disorder/Gender Dysphoria and the development of the transgender movement. Each chapter explains how transgender individuals handle their gender identity, how others view it within the context of non-transgender society, and how the transitioning of genders is made possible. Featuring men who become women, women who become men, and those who live in between and beyond traditional classifications, this book is written for students, professionals, friends, and family members. [March 6, 2012]

I like the idea of an insider`s view of the history, terminology, types, politics, medical and social realities of the transgender community. File this as another "hope I can get my hands on an advance copy"`read for my Transcending Gender Reading Challenge.

How about you? What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

GUEST POST: Jeanette Baker

Witch Woman by Jeanette Baker

WITCH WOMAN is my first Indie novel. After 15 books published by giant houses, Kensington, Pocket and Mira Books, I decided to branch out and test this brand new world of self-publishing with a book that is similar in tone to the Celtic paranormals I’d written previously and yet, completely different. Witch Woman is not a romance and it isn’t set in Scotland or Ireland, where I live during the summer months. Instead, I flew off to Salem, Massachusetts to investigate the city’s charm as well as its dark history. What came about was a paranormal with a contemporary heroine completely different from any I’d attempted to create before.

Readers of WITCH WOMAN often ask why I explored the possibilities of DNA memory and time travel or why I created a left-handed heroine with an interesting mutation, a clairvoyant who dabbles in white witchcraft.  The answer is, The unusual fascinates me. It has since that September 17, 1964 evening when beautiful, blonde Samantha Stephens, the star of the television series, Bewitched, twitched her turned-up nose, hooking me forever. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, to have the power to sway the mortal universe to my way of thinking? I remember rolling my pre-teen eyes at the doddering predictability of Samantha’s husband, Darrin who, with typical mortal myopia, wanted an ordinary wife. I empathized with Endora, her mother, over the stupidity of mortals and cheered when Aunt Clara’s magic actually worked.

Years later, during post midnight feedings, I introduced my infant children to the magic of Samantha’s spirit world, occasionally twitching my own nose in credible imitation, hoping that my colicky, wide-awake infants would magically fall asleep. Sadly, the gift of magic continued to elude me until I first put pen to paper and realized I could create my own bewitching heroines, endowing them with all the characteristics I longed to claim as my own.

The results of course, are my paranormal novels, LEGACY, CATRIONA, and my newest endeavor, WITCH WOMAN the story of a child sent 4 centuries forward into the 20th century to escape the horrors of Salem’s witch trials, and her mother, aware of the dark forces that followed her, who frantically searches for the shrinking time portal to bring her child, now a woman, home.

Witch Woman: The lives of Abigail March and her daughter, Maggie, play out along parallel lines, both women blessed and cursed with a selective birthright and marked by a startling mutation. In 1692, Abigail and three-year-old Maggie are accused of witchcraft. Most women facing the hangman’s noose during this shameful time are innocent. Abigail is not. Summoning her powers she sends her child through a time portal into 20th century Salem. Maggie grows to maturity knowing nothing of her past until her foster mother’s deathbed confession. Using her own clairvoyant abilities and medium of an ancient spinning wheel, she resurrects her past through a series of troubling dreams. Meanwhile, Abigail locates the time portal and slips through, changing her identity hoping to find her child. Unknown to both women are the dangers of the old world’s dark forces, a swiftly narrowing time portal and a missing child who desperately needs Maggie’s “sight” a sight that continues to blur as her ties to old Salem strengthen.

Slain abhaile,
Facebook – Jeanette Baker, Jeanette Baker - author


About Jeanette Baker: Jeanette Baker is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, published by Pocket, Kensington and Mira Books, many of them set in the lush countryside of historical and contemporary Ireland where she lives and writes during the summer months. Her ancestors, the O’Flahertys, hail from Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands located off the coast of Galway. She takes great pride in the prayer posted by the English over the ancient city gates, ‘From the wrath of the O’Flahertys, may the good Lord deliver us.’

Lauded as an author who has created a niche in the world of the time-travel paranormal, Jeanette’s previous stories have all taken place in Scotland and Ireland. Convinced that America has its own mystical elements, she set WITCH WOMAN in Salem, Massachusetts.

Jeanette graduated from the University of California at Irvine and holds a Masters Degree in Education. For the remainder of the year, she teaches in Southern California, reads constantly, attempts to navigate the confusing world of Facebook and, more recently e-publishing, concocts creations from interesting cook books and enjoys the company of friends and her grown children. She is the RITA award-winning author of the paranormal NELL.

You can visit Jeanette’s website at jeanettebaker.com

Monday, February 13, 2012

In My Mailbox & It's Monday, What are you Reading

In My Mailbox and It's Monday, What are you Reading are weekly memes hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and Sheila at Book Journey. Both are great ways to share the books you're either reading, or shifting to the top of your TBR pile (because, let's face it, sometimes a little shifting is the best we can manage!).


The Mailbox has been pretty empty lately (by design - I've simply been too busy), but I'm delighted to have an early copy of Darcy Abriel's Haevyn (Humanotica, Book 2) and I jumped at the chance to give J.M. Snyder's A Cowboy's Heart a review:

Ranch hand Tommy Prout thinks he's in love ... with his boss, Hal Bolstrum. Problem is, Hal's engaged to be married to the ranch owner's daughter and, though he knows of Tommy's crush, he sees it as nothing more than harmless affection. When payday rolls around and the other cowboys want to ride into town to check out the girls at the Wildhorse saloon, Tommy tags along to throw off any suspicion anyone might have about his feelings for his boss. He sure as hell doesn't want to spend his money on any of the soiled doves the town has to offer.

At the bar he meets Lila, an enterprising young working girl who takes a liking to him. When Tommy says he wants to be left alone, Lila suggests he rest in her room -- with the promise they don't have to actually do anything. But Lila isn't like the others, and when she discovers Tommy is more scared of her than attracted to her feminine charms, she lets him in on a little secret.

Lila's real name is Stephen Marsh. He lives as a woman, moving from saloon to saloon, pleasing men for money. He loves men and enjoys his work, and what others don't know about what's under his skirt doesn't bother him. In all his years on the prairie, he's never met someone quite like Tommy. When he discovers Tommy is sweet on Hal, he suggests teaching the cowboy just how to please a man.

He doesn't mean to lose his heart to Tommy in the process.

With "Lila" in his life, Tommy begins to dream of someone softer than Hal, someone pretty when dolled up but still man enough where it counts. Someone like Lila. As his feelings deepen, can he use Lila's own teachings to win the heart he really loves?

As for what I'm reading, I'm hopping between books as the mood grabs me (as ususal), but teasing me for time and seducing my attentions this week are:

The Empress Sword by Paulette Jaxton
Static by L.A. Witt
Pearls of Asia by Lee Geiger
Secrets & Lies by Tracy James Jones

Well, that's it for now . . . what are you reading?

GUEST REVIEW: The Dashing Mister R by M. Daniel Nickle

Something a little different this morning. If you've been reading Bibrary Book Lust over the last two years, then you know I've been fortunate enough to review and chat with Red Haircrow on a number of occassions. So, when he asked me to help spread the word about a fellow author who's had a hard time getting exposure, I was quick to jump at the chance.

The Dashing Mister R by M. Daniel Nickle:

What happens when someone realizes the story of his life isn’t the right story? What happens when he discovers the so-called point of no return is a fairytale? What if a person could find his way back and make things right?

The Dashing Mister R centers on award-winning journalist Sebastian Stephens who has fled his life and career in New York City and taken refuge in his boyhood home in the Garden District of New Orleans. He had had everything he ever wanted: a brilliant career, a nice Manhattan apartment, and he was in love, though not with the sort of person he expected. The stress of the forbidden affair along with a horrific murder case neither the police nor he could solve proved to be too much and he fled. Now, years later, he receives a mysterious stranger who portends life changes for Sebastian by means of a confession the stranger wants to make about the case. The information, however, comes at a price. Stephens is confronted with a choice. He can either reclaim his life, or lose it forever.


Red Haircrow (who knows a thing or two about storytelling) had this to say:

Honestly, at times the writing reminded me of my own in a way, and definitely reflected the kind of work I often enjoy. There is a literary quality to the writing, for it contains many vivid descriptions of people, places and things some might find superfluous but I liked the vivacity and vision. Similarly also to some of my stories, Sebastian, the main character, is gay but this is not the central focus of the story. It’s part of it, true, just like it is a part of the character’s individuality. There is a poignant gay love story throughout the whole, but it is not limited to romance, and I particularly like that distinction as well. (check out his full review here)


About M. Daniel Nickle:

M. Daniel Nickle is a Kansas City native. He graduated from Bishop Miege High. Afterwards, he attended Avila College on a Theatre Arts scholarship before earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from William Jewell College in Liberty Missouri.During his tenure at William Jewell, Daniel was given the opportunity to study at the Harlaxton Study Centre, an extension campus in Lincolnshire, England. There Daniel studied drama, literature and art. His two favorite areas of his literature studies were the English romantic poets and American writers in exile.

Daniel lived in Dallas, Texas before his move to New York in 1993. Business took him regularly to New Orleans. Here he fell in love with the Garden District, the French Quarter and the muffulettas from Central Grocery he honors in his book.
As an actor, Daniel has worked both on stage in his one-man shows of his own creation at the Duplex Cabaret Theater in New York as well as in television and films. His comedic timing as well as his sense of the dramatic make his storytelling personal and captivating.

His first novel, THE DASHING MISTER R, comes from a background seasoned with his Catholic upbringing, his interest in the occult, and the interesting friends and life experiences he has enjoyed and which have made his life anything but bland. For this, he is truly thankful.

Website: http://thedashingmisterr.com/

Friday, February 10, 2012

INTERVIEW: Debra Hyde (author of Story of L)

Good morning, all! I am very pleased to introduce you all to Debra Hyde, author of Story of L, a lesbian retelling of The Story of O that I reviewed a few months back. You can check out my rather glowing review here.

Well, I'm delighted to have Debra stop by today for an interview, as a follow-up to my review.

Before we get into the interview, let's take a quick look at Story of L:

Liv called her hunger The Void. She thought she knew it - and herself. Until a night with Cassandra silenced it. And brought out something in Liv she didn't think possible: submission. One taste of that, and Liv wanted more. But Cassandra isn't an easy dominant. She expects Liv to earn her way into her good graces. And her demands aren't simple. How many hurdles will Liv need to jump before she can kneel before Cassandra? Before Cassandra chooses to claim her? Just what will it take to become Cassandra's "L?" And will the outcome be all she hopes for - and needs? Find out in a timeless tale, retold. Find out in Story of L.

And now, without further ado, please welcome Debra!


♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

I began writing professionally right out of college when I was a much younger woman, starting in the IT field (way back when it was called data processing!), then corporate communications and eventually freelancing. Totally different worlds than fiction writing, but I really cut my teeth on those jobs, having to write all kinds of material under all kinds of deadlines. Invaluable!

I didn't pursue erotic fiction until I discovered women-written erotic in the mid-1990s. I had encountered a fair amount of erotic fiction growing up (shout out to all those girls who knew where their dads stashed their dirty books and porn!), but to see fiction written by women for women was energizing – and I had to be part of it.

I had enough of a tough skin, thanks to all those corporate years, that I started sending short erotic fiction to every print publisher out there. Surprisingly, almost everything I wrote got published and I've had the good fortune to work with Cleis Press, Alyson Books, Thunder's Mouth Book, Blue Moon Books, and countless other book publishers.

When the Sony Reader came out, I slowly left print publishers for e-books. Today, I've four novels in e-book, working mostly with Ravenous Romance. And I've become one of their acquiring editors. My current novel with them, Story of L, is a lesbian retelling of the Story of O and it's up for a Lambda Literary Award!

♥ Did you deliberately choose a genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

My favorite erotic genre is BDSM because, personally, it's my favorite and most constant form of sexual expression and satisfaction. I prefer bondage, sensation play, and other deliciously wicked thrill rides – have for many, many years. So I most often gravitate in that direction.

However, I'm also dedicated to the sex-positive notion that sex is good for the soul, heart, and body. I've written many erotic short stories that have nothing to do with BDSM – but everything to do with the rewards of sexual pleasure and intimacy. My recent anthology, Back Door Lover: Erotic Tales of Anal Sex, is one such example. While it contains a couple of BDSM stories, its stories run the gamut of practices and it's pretty pansexual. I wanted to reach as many people with a sex-positive message as possible!

♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

Human experience – mine and other's – clear informs my writing but not always in the ways you might imagine. Story of L's key secondary characters, Cassandra, is a woman much like me: older and assessing what it means to be an aging individual, moving through the BDSM world. She deals with issues of invisibility, relevance, and the kind of aging life decisions one must make about love and longevity.

However, let's not make this sound all doom and gloom! Liv, our eventual L, steps into Cassandra's life and both women wind through a choreography of shared experiences to creat something meaningful and lasting. Which made for a n exciting literary journey in its writing!

♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?

Story of L's received a number of amazing reviews and one reviewer was particularly moved by my authorial claim, in L's voice that "...without personage, submission is nothing more than obliteration." Because that resonated with that individual, that'll have to stand as my favorite quote!

♥ Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?

Early in my BDSM leather experiences, I was drawn to radical sex authors like Pat Califia and BDSM authors like Laura Antoniou. They still inform me and I'm happy to say that Laura has become a good friend through the years. Her perseverance as an author is incredible, especially in striving to keep her venerable The Marketplace books in circulation.

But I'm also a devoted admirer of Mary Renault's work, not because of her classic Persian Boy and other historical works, but for her less-known, quietly queer domestic novels. Especially The Charioteer and The Friendly Young Ladies. And for a very special reason.

When stationed in England as a young married couple, my parents were adopted by a neighborly group of queer friends. Aunt May, Aunt Rosmund, and Uncle Norman were key loved ones in my extended family as I grew up, and they themselves had met during WWII in the ambulance corp – not an unusual place for gay people to meet and form lasting ties. Renault's early works captured the world that my aunts and uncle knew as young adults.

The same goes for Sarah Waters. I love all her books, but The Night Watch will always be my favorite for the very same reason.

♥ Just for fun, who would you single out as your number one celebrity crush, and what would you like most to do with/to them?

You know, I'd have to pick a dead celebrity: Mark Twain. I live near Hartford, Connecticut, where his Victorian crazy-ass house stands today, and you can't live in the Connecticut River Valley and not be Mark Twain aware!

As far as what to do with him? Well, I think I'd like to butch it up with him – drag king my way into his men-only billiards room, smoke a couple of cigars and play snookers, pet a cat or two, then find out if he's top or bottom!

Yeah, that would do it for me!

♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

Two things in life are worth striving for: enduring love and engaging, intimate sex.

18 & Over Book Blogger Follow

The 18 & Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend, hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines.

Q. Reviews; do you write them as soon as you finish a book or not?

A. No. Sometimes, especially when a book just didn't *wow* me, I find first impressions can be deceiving. I like to think about a book for a day or two, see how I feel about it with a little distance between us, and then tackle a review.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bewitching Valentine’s Blog Tour: Kiki Howell (with giveaway!)

Good morning, all! It's time for another first stop along the Bewitching Book Tours literary route, featuring the lovely and exciting Kiki Howell, who has stopped by in support of het steampunk Valentine’s Day tale, Love, Creativity & Magick, and her Valentine’s Day short story, Sacred Sex.

About  Kiki: Ever since she was young, Kiki Howell has loved to listen to a well-woven tale with real characters, inspired plots, and delightful resolutions. Kiki spend hours lost in books and soon knew creating lives, loves, and losses with just words had to be the greatest thing she could do.  She’s now had over twenty stories published and couldn’t be more thrilled or grateful to see her creations polished and out in the real world.

You can find her online at http://www.kikihowell.com/.


Love, Creativity & Magick: A Steampunk Valentine’s Day Tale –

A Novelette by Kiki Howell

All acts of magick take on shades of gray in the end.  Especially for Emma, one of four females witches who by birthright belong in the social circles of the privileged upper ten thousand in London. Yet, by rumor of the unknown and the misunderstood, she stands apart, cut by her peers along with her cousins, because they hold a secret—each is gifted with magick.

Their elders had taught them respect for their powers even when mixed with a spanking amount of fanciful mischief.  On the other hand, if a lesson was warranted, then white verses black magick could be hard to define. No where was the color of steam more evident than in the matters of justice, a slippery term to define. Yet, they’d made breaking the laws of society their mission. Most of their nights at parties and balls were spent creating a magickal comedy of errors, helping the uptight aristocracy side step their fastidious standards.

Only this year, days before Valentine’s Day, a damnable day for women without suitors, Emma is not quite sure what is happening to her. Something dark and seductive, something not of this world, is luring her, possessing her, and she has no comprehension of what or who the presence really is. But, when he does show his face finally, and she feels him to be a night walker, she must fear not only the threat he poses to her blood and to the energy or magick he can suck from her, but also the danger he poses to her heart. After all of these days feeling him, wanting him, she has to wonder if her feelings are just a matter of his compulsion, if she is under this vampires own type of magick.

To complicate matters further, the vampire’s propositions are as exciting as they are scandalous, to teach her how to power her magick with the overabundance of sexual energy she bears. But, how he knows such thinks he remains elusive about. And there is the added attraction that this vampire was a failed inventor in life, one with a basement full of contraptions she finds she can power through the use of her sexual energy. Valentine’s Day seems like it could be all kinds of fun this year now.

Yet, in these days of social unrest and out-of-control creativity, what is a witch to do with a vampire? When Valentine’s Day rolls around, and a secret is revealed, what will be left for her? 

Genres: Valentine's Day 2012 Theme, Paranormal (witches and vampires), Steampunk (Victorian England), Erotic Romance from Naughty Nights Press


Sacred Sex

A Valentine’s Day Short Story by Kiki Howell

Just a few days before Valentine’s Day, Margaret visits her aunt’s craft consignment shop hoping for a spell or oil, and any advice on how to re-connect with her husband, Michael, who has become distant since losing his job. Determined to save her marriage, she gets more than she bargained for from Aunt Minny, a practicing witch. Armed with recipes to enhance love,  a massage oil type love potion, a new Valentine’s Day candle and a book on Sacred Sex Rituals, Margaret prepares to seduce her husband.

But, his initial reaction is not what she planned for…

Follow Margaret and Michael on a holiday of love journey, a throwback to the kinky pagan sex rituals once practiced long ago on this day before it was named after a saint.  You may want to take notes to enhance your own Valentine's Day this year!

Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Wiccan/Pagan, Holiday -  Valentine’s Day from Rebel Ink Press


Bewitching Valentine’s Day Blog Tour Prizes – 5 Winners Total (Physical Prizes Open to US Shipping)

Prize #1 – Fashion Heart Necklace and Earrings
Prize #2 – Steampunk Necklace
Prize #3 – eBook Erotic Romance Short Story Bundle: Includes Love & Marriage Cures, The Healing Spell, Rituals and Working Out the Kinks
Prize #4 – Print Book Sweet Romance Bundle: The Sorcerer’s Songs Novella with Weathervanes CD
Prize #5 – Print Copy of Torn Asunder Erotic Romance Novel

Thanks so much to Kiki Howell for stopping by. If you'd like to follow her virtual journey, check out her schedule at Bewitching Book Tours.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

EXCERPT: Walking with Shadows by Julieanne Lynch

Good morning, all! It's time for another first stop along the Bewitching Book Tours literary route, featuring the lovely and exciting Julieanne Lynch, who has stopped by in support of her urban fantasy of vampires and the supernatural, Walking with Shadows.

About  Julieanne: Fiery Librian Julieanne Lynch is an author of urban fantasy books for both adults and teens. Originally from Northern Ireland, Julieanne now lives in Ireland, where she works on her Shadows Trilogy and other series full-time. Before becoming a writer, she considered a few different career paths, a rock star being one of them. She studied English Literature and Creative Writing at The Open University, and considered journalism as a career path. However, she decided writing was the way for her and believes all of her education and reading prepared her for it.

An avid reader, Julieanne has always had an encompassing fascination with folklore. When not writing, she enjoys crime series such as Criminal Minds, CSI, NCIS and Cold Case, and loves anything with Vampires, listening to metal, meeting new people, drinking lots of green tea, and sharing her dreams with her children. She is a self-professed goth wanna-be,and is happy when left to write into the early hours of the morning.

You can find her online at http://www.julieannelynch.co.uk/ or http://www.julieannelynch.blogspot.com/, and on Facebook!

Before we get into Julieanne's excerpt, let's take a quick look at Walking with Shadows:

“Walking with Shadows” is the second of The Shadows trilogy, an urban fantasy of vampires and the supernatural, and much, much more.

Giselle regains consciousness and is horrified to discover she has been asleep for nine weeks. She was already aware that she was carrying a very special baby who was to be the first of a new race of vampires, but she is shocked to find how her pregnancy is progressing. Around her, the underworld is in turmoil. 
Vampires battle with creatures of darkness and with other vampires, and few are entirely what they seem. More confusing still, those who appeared to be totally evil may have a streak of goodness in them, and those who appeared to be Giselle’s friends may have a darker purpose of their own. Almost anyone, it seems, can be changed and turned, except possibly Ysoriel the Archangel and the goddess Lilith, and Giselle cannot be sure that even they are interested only in her welfare.

The only certainty is that it will all become very much worse before it begins to get better – if anything ever gets better for Giselle.


Here’s a taste of Walking with Shadows

The smell was the first thing that triggered the memories of my time held in the cell. A damp, musty, hot scent that burned the back of my nose brought me back to reality and face to face with him. He watched me as I was led towards him. His eyes glared at me and inspected every inch of my body and swollen abdomen.
Smiling, he stood up and mocked me by bowing at my feet.
“The illustrious queen returns,” he shouted. “The shadow queen herself stands before us. We must rejoice.”
Inside, my heart thumped hard against my chest and my baby moved, brushing limbs against the inside of my womb. Silently, I prayed to Lilith, and to anyone who would save me. How I regretted leaving Ysoriel and walking into this trap.
“Giselle, I knew you would come to me. I could sense the darkness in you the very first time I saw you. You may be a picture of innocence on the outside, but inside you are dead and cold just like the rest of us. Welcome home.” He brushed his hand against the side of my face, smiling, as his eyes, yellow and feral, stared hard into mine. The same sinister eyes I had seen in my dream.
He took me by the hand and led me away from Mara and Bernael, taking me into a large oak lined room and closed the door behind us. I stood frozen, trying to control my breathing.
The urge to scream was almost uncontrollable, but something inside stopped me. Instead, I looked ahead, focusing my gaze on a bizarre portrait that hung over the wrought iron fireplace. It was unusually misplaced in a world that was anything but calm. A brown haired woman stood by a large chestnut tree, her limbs were pale and lithe, and her face was beautiful. Her dark blue eyes focused on the small child next to her, and the child looked up at her with total love.
I was so fixed on the image of the mother and child that I had not noticed the roar of the fire, until the screams caught my attention. I tried to shield my ears from the screams so piercing that I almost fell to my knees, but slowly they died, as did the flames.
Laughing, Xavier rubbed his hands together and sat down in a large, ornate chair. Running his nails along the arm, he let out a deep breath, and sighed.
“Another soul damned. I do enjoy these moments. It fills my,” he thumped his chest, “with so much joy.” Then his eyes turned cold and mean.
“Why have you brought me here?” I asked, controlling the tremble in my voice.
“Dearest Giselle, need I really point out the obvious factors to your return?”
“But I don’t belong here. I just want to return to my old life.”
“Your old life, my dear child, is a thing of the past. Look at it as being a decayed memory, something distorted, and, given time, you will soon forget the ways of the old and embrace the ways of the new.” He smiled at me.
From deep inside me, I could feel a surge of something creeping to the surface. A rush of adrenaline ran through me, and before I could think about what I was saying, it came out.
“I think you mistake me for the simpering little girl from before.” I walked over to him. “But you see, people change, and I have seen so much in the past few months that you no longer scare me.”
“Now this, this is the fighting talk of a queen,” he said exuberantly.
“I knew it from the first moment I set my eyes on you, that you were worthy of the crown.”
I stepped back from him and shook my head. “No, I will not be a goddamned queen. I refuse to take a part of this bloody freak show any longer. I demand you return me back to Antoine, now.”
He approached me and placed his hands on either side of my abdomen.
Breathing heavily into my face, he looked down at my swollen baby bump and smiled. “You will not be going anywhere for a long time my dear.”
From behind me I could hear movement, and as I turned round, two dark silhouettes took a firm hold of my arms and held me still. Xavier stepped in closer to me, and grabbed me by my chin.
“You would be a foolish girl to try anything stupid. There will be no rescues, no saviours, nothing. You are here for good, and once you give birth to the child, you will be reborn. The sooner you accept this, the easier it will be for both you and the child when the time comes to hand him over to the Nightwalkers,”
“What? No... No one is taking my child from me,” I spat at him.
“A deal is a deal, little dark one.”
“Oh my God, there is no way in hell you are taking my baby from me,” I screamed as I struggled to break free from the grip of the shadows.
“Ah, but you see, you are in hell, and it’s the way of hell,” he laughed. “Take her below,” he instructed the two shadows holding me.
I pulled against them and managed to free my arm. I went to hit him, but before my eyes he evaporated and then appeared again in front of me, smiling. “Silly little half-breed,” he snarled at me, and took hold of my neck and pushed me forward.
Remembering the time I had been kept here, I knew there was no point in resisting. I walked on through the dimly lit corridor, hearing the familiar sounds of faint screams and pleading. Gritting my teeth, I fought against the urge to shout an array of obscenities at my guards. Instead, I focused on the tunnel and the light at the end. Stepping down to avoid my head hitting the beam above me, I was led down a narrow spiral staircase.
I was surprised to be met by Mara. She smiled gleefully at me, unaware of how much I hated her at that precise moment, and if it had not been for my ‘delicate constitution’ I would have lunged at her and ripped her head off. So, dreaming of a time that I would carry out that thought had to be enough for me and enough to take me through the awful situation.
“Giselle, you seem flushed,” she commented. “Maybe you ought to rest. A woman in your condition must take all the rest she can get. Come, we have prepared refreshments in your chamber.”
Mara was tall, with the longest blonde curls I had ever seen, but she looked like a shadow of what she might have been in another life. Her pale skin and dark circles reminded me of how dreadful you become when you cross over to the darkness. She seemed to move as though she was floating on air. Her long flowing silk dress covered her feet, but it hung low on her back, revealing thick red scars around her shoulder blades, and continued down to the centre of her spine, only stopping where the dress covered her lower back.
We followed her until we came to a set of doors. She clapped her hands and one of the guards released his grip on me and moved to the door, opening it for us to enter.
“Come,” Mara instructed me.
Inside me, the familiar feelings of nerves and queasiness overcame me, and I felt my heart pound in my chest. I was astonished at what met me when I walked into the room.
The room was like something out of a period drama. The walls were covered in red flocked wallpaper, the hardwood floor covered by an oriental styled rug, and, to my surprise, two large windows were dressed with heavy swags and thick layers of suedette and lace. A large ornate fire surround had candelabra on both ends, and a clock sat on the mantle, chiming.
I stood in the centre of the room, trying to take it all in. This was nothing like the conditions I had been kept in before. This was opulent, and that confused me, but before I could say anything someone from behind me cleared his throat, and, turning around, I was met by an unfamiliar man.


Thanks so much to Julieanne Lynch for stopping by. If you'd like to follow her virtual journey in support of Walking with Shadows check out her schedule at Bewitching Book Tours.

Monday, February 6, 2012

REVIEW: Machine by Jennifer Pelland

Good science fiction makes you think. Pulp science fiction entertains you. Great science fiction, on the other hand, makes you think while entertaining you. Such is the case with Machine by Jennifer Pelland.

The concept at the heart of the story is an interesting one, and even though it's been done before, it's never been done quite like this. In the not-too-distant future, science has managed to create entirely human-looking android bodies into which human thoughts and emotions can be copied. It's a technology that was designed for the benefit of terminally ill patients with incurable diseases, allowing them a chance to live while they wait for a cure, although it's starting to become something of a cosmetic procedure as well, despite the overwhelming political and religious objections.

The novel follows the story of Celia, a young woman with a rare genetic disease that's a low priority on the medical research front. She wakes up from the copy-over process, acting, feeling, and thinking exactly as she did in her old body. For her, there is no change, and no awareness of being different from what she was before. Unfortunately, her wife doesn't see it the same way, and Celia awakes to find herself divorced . . . alone . . . shunned by the woman she loves, who refused to cheat on the woman she loves with a soul-less copy.

D.B. Story's Fembot Chronicles, which I've reviewed her many times of the past few years, are some of my favourite stories to deal with the concept of mechanical beings and self-awareness. There, the focus on the story was on robots acquiring sentience, and fighting for rights they never had. Here, with Machine, the focus is instead on humans becoming something less-than-human in the transition, and fighting for the right to distinguish themselves from what they have lost.

On the one hand, it's a rather dark and disturbing reality with which we're presented, with Celia and her new found friends illegally modifying themselves to look less than human since society's rejection has made them feel less than human. It begins with Celia slicing open her finger to see the ceramic 'bone' beneath, and quickly progresses from there. Polished chrome skin, featureless mannequin-like bodies, and glowing eyes are the physical aspect, with the ability to suppress emotions, voluntarily go into lockdown, and play with the sensitivity of their pain/pleasure receptors is another. Like I said, it's almost heartbreaking to see the lengths to which they feel forced to modify themselves, even as we share in the exhilaration of freedoms and feelings otherwise impossible for the rest of humanity. The voluntary fetishization of their condition is oddly confusing, coming across as erotic and exciting when they fetishize one another, but disgusting and inexcusable when they play to human kinks.

As part of her exploration of what it means to be human, Jennifer does an amazing job of dealing with questions of sexuality and gender (tying in nicely to my Transcending Gender 2012 Reading Challenge). Celia, as I mentioned previously, is a lesbian, although it's entirely inconsequential in the future presented. Other than one instance where another character reminds her that her marriage would once have been as controversial as her new body, her sexuality is a complete non-issue. Similarly, we get to explore some interesting ideas of gender through Celia's augmented friends, including one who can alter his gender at will to be male, female, or a combination of the two, and another who is entirely featureless and androgynous since, as it points out, robots do not have a gender.

If I were to voice one complaint, it would be over the ambiguity of the ending, but I realised that was intentional. Celia's fate is what we make of it, and that brings us right back to the concept of making you think while entertaining you. I realise I haven't done the story justice, but hopefully I've highlighted enough of the elements handled so masterfully by Celia that you'll want to give it a read.