Monday, January 28, 2013

The Wild West Vampire Wars by Billy Cruz (REVIEW)

“This is what the wild west was all about amigo; making money, fuckin' honey and killin' dummy. Yes siree!”

This pithy phrase completely encompasses the themes of this book, mostly focusing on the last two. Wild West Vampire Wars is a book of almost four hundred pages that nevertheless manages to say next-to-nothing for that entire span. There’s copious description, but in Billy Cruz's hurry to delve into the dirty-nasty-explicit-hardcoreness that is meant to come off as hilariously intense (and occasionally does), it completely loses the plot, as well as any hope of good editing.

I started this book expecting a western, or a paranormal, or some blend of the two. It’s both, but it’s also neither. Honestly, I should have started with the warnings on the book’s Amazon page. They read as such:

Contains vampires, ghouls, ghosts, Geronimo, General Pancho Villa, very special appearance by guest Jack The Ripper, and plenty of ABSURDLY WILD-WILD-WEST SEX. Open the double-doors and see for yourself, if your up-to-it that is. Did I mention the Vampire Whores? 




All the ACTION PACKED ADVENTURE you can handle plus SEX SEX and MORE SEX. 

Well, there certainly is a lot of sex. There is sex of every flavor and every type that one man can have with lots of women, including virgin sex, pregnancy sex, rape and incest, just to name a few. While the sex scenes are described with a certain tongue-in-cheek flair that’s meant to remind you that this is all deliberately absurd *nudge nudge-wink wink* that reminder isn’t enough to make them genuinely interesting most of the time. There are so many people having sex that it becomes boring after a while, the male protagonists either beset by ravening nymphomaniac whores (yes, note the reference to those lauded Vampire Whores above) or are seducing/capturing/coercing sex out of virginal little nymphs who, after their first taste of cock, transform into ravening nymphomaniac whores. Ostensibly we’re following Sky Claw, Eagle Clan Warrior on his vision quest, but mostly we’re watching a paper-thin archetype of masculinity fuck his way from drama to drama.

That’s not to say that this is entirely a throwaway book. The author offers up a unique type of absurdity, and there are some interesting bits of world-building and plenty of historical figures tossed into the mix for good measure. His powers of description are sometimes moving and always evocative, enough so that you can really hear his efforts with character’s voices and circumstances. Those moments of enjoyment weren’t enough for me to really engage with the novel, though, more than offset by the Dr. Suess-style synonyms for body parts, the casual ethnic slurs, and the unrelenting slutification of every single woman in the book.

If you want a read that whole-heartedly embraces the absurd with every crude gag and violent spectacle, then this might be the book for you. If you want romance, realistic dialogue, sex that doesn’t make you cringe or a coherent plot, then I suggest you stay away. Wild West Vampire Wars didn’t leave me better off for having read it, but it did stick in my mind.

[Reviewed by Cari]

Friday, January 25, 2013

Loki's Joke by Penny Blackwell (REVIEW)

Loki's Joke is a kind of a bittersweet journal that chronicles the life of a person who transitioned to a female gender role in later years. Subtitled "How I learned to stop fighting and be a woman," the book depicts Penny Blackwell's decades of angst in dealing with gender dysphoria, and her struggle to fit into the world as a "normal" man before it all became too much to bear.

The book is also the moving account of two loves that were savoured . . . and eventually lost.

More than a story about transgender transition, it is a tale of success, failure, relationships and eventual self-acceptance that will resonate with most of us. Interestingly punctuated by little doses of the author's sometimes artful, and often humorous, poetry, the book offers some fine changes of pace to savour. Perhaps the only thing detracting from this reader's fullest enjoyment was the string of emails and responses to and from a British government agency concerning the "official" change of gender that the author has interspersed near the end of her otherwise fine story.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Transtastic Adventures by j w (REVIEW)

For a book that does not even have a proper cover, coming from an author known only by two lowercase initials, Transtastic Adventures: T-Girl Fantasy and Science Fiction was actually quite an enjoyable read.

These interlinked stories introduce us to a world where STDs have become so virulent, so deadly, that sexual activity has been chemically prohibited. The only gratification available comes via fully-immersible virtual reality technology - which, to be honest, sounds like an interesting trade-off. When caught in a particularly strong 'blue storm' of radiation, Leopold recovers from the resulting explosion to find that his virtual shemale mistress has taken on flesh-and-blood . . . and it is time for her to seek her own pleasure from him, whether he likes it or not.

He does!

So far, so good, so sexy - but Mistress Danielle disappears just as mysteriously as she appeared, leaving Leopold in mourning for his well-hung lover. The next time he's caught in a blue storm, the transition is reversed, taking him from the real world and depositing him in the virtual reality environment that his Mistress calls home. It is here where the story really takes off, with Leopold finding himself at the mercy of several militant shemale regimes, where men are somewhere between pets and property. In between being orally violated an anally penetrated - much to his pleasure, of course - he becomes embroiled in a weird sexual-political rebellion that eventually brings him back to heel before his Mistress.

The other 2 stories in the collection are interesting, particularly the sci-fi breeding tale that ends the collection, but they're not nearly as satisfying as the first two interconnected tales of Leopold and Danielle.

[Reviewed by Bobbi]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Expanding a Short to a Novella by Salome Wilde (Guest Post)

When it comes to art and craft of the erotic short story, the past ten years of writing have left me feeling enthusiastically at-home. Whether I’m writing popular genre fiction or historical realism, I enjoy the challenge of writing short tales of diverse, quirky characters having wild, kinky, and sometimes even tame sex, across genders, orientations, races, and even species (demons, teapots, you name it). Each length, genre, and style has its own challenges, its own rhythms. And I love everything from 1000-word flash smut to 7000-word erotic folktales. But 5000 words is about where my comfort zone reaches its peak... or pique, even. Tempt me with a prompt and then tell me the minimum for a story is 20,000 words or use the expression “novel-length manuscripts only,” and you’ll find me hiding behind the bookcase, moaning in misery or gnashing my teeth in frustration. Nanowrimo? Don’t get me started.

Certainly, some of the reason for my preference for short fiction is that it takes less time. As Salome Wilde, all I do all day is write erotica, have sex, and drink absinthe. But Salome Wilde exists only in fits and starts, in those spaces between work and family and pets and housecleaning and all those other not-so-sexy life obligations. Commitment to lengthy writing—erotic or otherwise—just isn’t easy. And I’ve gotten so good at the short stuff, damn it!

Enter my writing partner, Talon Rihai. When we began together in fanfiction writing, we could drop ten thousand words in a single evening of instant messaging. The roleplay style of alternating perspectives, one paragraph or two each, back and forth, with a general goal in mind, always worked for us. I was writing short original erotica and getting it into print, and we were playing with “chapterfic,” the fanwriting equivalent to novel writing. Then we decided it was time to write original erotica together. Our love of writing expansive, popular fanfiction would blend perfectly with my experience in writing original short stories and Talon’s excellence with details. Soon, the short story “The Taste After the First Taste of Love” was born.

We submitted our beloved contemporary hurt/comfort romance tale of Nick and Angelo, mixed-race best friends who become lovers, to Storm Moon Press for an anthology call, proud as we could be. Writing with a partner, I’d charged through my 5000-word limit, and Talon had smoothly slid into the world of original erotica. Then we got our response from Storm Moon Press’s, editor S.L. Armstrong.

We had hoped for glowing praise and a contract. We were prepared for rejection. What we weren’t ready for was what we got: a combination of enthusiasm, encouragement, and a request to turn the story into a novella. Armstrong felt that we had only touched the tip of the iceberg, that readers would want more, that hurt/comfort demands full and careful development rather than the resolution (however hot) of hitting the sack and living happily ever after. We didn’t disagree... mostly. We had lots of backstory and details in our minds that we hadn’t included in the story. We could envision more. We could figure out how to handle point of view and secondary characters and new locations and exactly how the apartment was laid out and create a plot arc and get to the minimum requirement of 40,000 words, right? Right?

For different reasons, and in different ways, we were both intimidated and more than a little freaked out at the prospect. We were flattered that our characters were compelling enough to inspire Armstrong to encourage us to expand our story. We were thrilled at the possibility of a contract. And we were awed by the offer to work closely with us—from brainstorming ideas to chatting about perspective to answering every question asked, both large and small. With a publisher that aims for quality over quantity, that cares about authors as well as their writing, and that understands that writing is a process more than a product, we found ourselves suddenly crafting a novella with joy.

We turned in a draft at over 50,000 words and plans to turn the novella, now titled After the First Taste of Love, into a trilogy. And even as we worked through the exhausting but enlightening work of multiple edits and proofs, we began developing a second novella project, for which we have also received enthusiastic and helpful feedback.

The lesson for me in this wild ride of an experience into novel- (or at least novella-) writing, is that, with the right support, we can break through walls that were always only illusions. We can refine our dreams and accomplish them. And in my experience as a writer who grows increasingly confident in her ability to write novellas and perhaps even novels, Storm Moon Press and its staff understand that lesson and provide that support.

Salome Wilde is the heavy-handed pen name of a cynical idealist who does her best to live many lives at once, including writer, teacher, scholar, actor, singer, artist, mother, spouse, lover, friend, secular Jew, cancer survivor, activist, feminist, and kinky bisexual babe. Her tales range from vanilla to kinky, from het through the many colors of the LGBTQ rainbow, and from the distant past to the present in both realistic and fantasy scenarios. For more Sal news and tidbits, visit Her novella, After the First Taste of Love is available from Storm Moon Press.

Giveaway Opportunity!

This guest post is part of Storm Moon Press' 3rd Anniversary Blog Tour! Comment on this post or any other post on the blog tour with your e-mail address, and you'll be entered for a chance to win the Grand Prize of receiving 1 FREE e-book each month of 2013 from that month's new releases for a total of 12 free e-books! Runners up will receive a $25 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon or All Romance eBooks. For more details and to find out about our 3rd Anniversary, head over to Storm Moon Press' Official Blog. Thanks for joining us!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Get your FREE copy of Frock Magazine!

I am delighted to announce that Issue #19 of Frock Magazine is now available, once again featuring my "Frock Books" review column, along with my interview with Julie Newmar, the original Catwoman!

Completely free, and available digitally,  Frock Magazine is one of the finest transgender lifestyle magazines around, and one that prides itself on being coffee-table friendly (i.e. free of any erotic content, suggestive ads, etc.).

While you're at it, we're always looking for new and exciting stories and articles to share, so if you have a transgender related idea you'd like to see in Frock Magazine, or a 
story/article you'd like to share, please drop me a line (sally AT frockmagazine DOT com).

Don't just pick it up for my column, though - the magazine has a wonderful variety of articles and features, looks absolutely gorgeous, and is a wonderful read. Please hop on over to  Frock Magazine and give it a read today!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Writing Trans Men in M/M Romance by Blaine D. Arden (GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY)

Diversity as is has been a basic setting of any world I've created for my characters from the beginning. My characters' sexuality or gender is never the key element in my writing... All right, maybe that's not completely true, since I prefer writing men falling in love with men above any other pairing. Still, not one character blinked an eye when two princes danced together in The Fifth Son, just like no one turned their heads at triads in the Forester Universe, or Oren loving Veld or Noah loving Connor. Love is love.

That said, I never looked further than the most obvious letters in the QUILTBAG family. Lesbian, gay, bisexuality, those I knew, but I had no real grasp of what being transgender meant, aside from maybe cross-dressing, drag queens, and transvestites, but those were mostly stereotypes I'd seen in TV-shows, not real people. But, thanks to this genre, this community, I've learned a lot about trans* persons—and about myself—this past year, and it spurred me into exploring gender even more in my own fiction.

There are many notions of how men should behave or what men do or don't do, like 'men are strong', 'men don't cry', 'men don't wear dresses', and 'men don't talk about their feelings'. Honestly, living with four men in real life (my husband and sons), I go around complaining about "Men!" every single day, but my men are really not the same. As much as some traits and interests may overlap (e.g. sportiveness, quick minds), some couldn't be more different (e.g. arrogance, laziness). My men are unique individuals who approach similar situations in very different ways, some with less enthusiasm than the others. I think it's safe to say that what goes for my men, goes for all men. 'Cause men are men, right?

While researching transgendered males, I found many opinions on what makes a man a man. For every positive article I found, I found as many—if not more—articles filled with intolerance and negativity against those breaking our rigid gender perspectives so they can live as the person they are, instead of how we perceive them to be. Those articles brought me back to the mid-eighties when I was 16/17 and slowly getting angry at all the intolerance and negativity against gay people—specifically gay men and AIDS. Then, I wanted to show the world how beautiful love between men could be. Now, it was time to show the world that men were not defined by the sex they were born with.

I ended up writing my first trans-man during NaNoWriMo in November 2011. Though I was a little hesitant at first, scared to get it wrong and stepping into the trap of stereotypes, I soon realised that crawling into the skin of a trans-man is no different from crawling into my cis-gay characters. They're all men with their own complex personalities, their own insecurities, quirks, wants, talents... and their own body issues. 'Cause, let's face it, whether cis- or trans-man, no matter what body these men were born with, there'll be something about it they don't like—or hate the hell out of.

As with other issues, every man reacts differently to whatever body-issues they struggle with. Some will hide their issues, wallowing and complaining about them in private. Some will do just about anything to get rid of the problem—whether through exercise or surgery. And some embrace it and learn to live with what they've been given.

As an author, all these issues are worth digging into. I think the best part about writing characters is finding out what makes them tick, what makes them choose one and not the other. Finding out who they are. Writing a trans-man just adds another dimension to it. But... as much as writing trans-men fascinates me, my stories are not about coping with being transgendered. My stories are still about men loving men, even if one of them wasn't born in a male body.

As mentioned at the top of this article, I create worlds on a diversity-as-is basis. This means that I don't deal with coming out, per se, and I don't deal with the fight against prejudice and intolerance. Those fights were either never needed in my worlds, or they've already been fought a long, long time ago. What I do write is men whose gender and sexuality are only a small part of who they are, and never the reason for conflict or inner struggles.

That leaves the small stuff. So, when writing a trans-man, I don't go for big revelations, I go for small hints and clues scattered throughout the story. It may be as little as undoing his binder when he undresses, or writing a sex-scene suited to his body, but without screaming that he doesn't have a cock. It's also about how he handles showing someone his body for the first time, and then that someone's reaction to seeing him as he is.

To show how different trans-men can be, here's a list of characters I've written into my various works in progress up to now:

- Pip is young, fond of motorbikes and his identical twin-sister. He doesn't see the need for surgery, yet, since he's got no breasts to speak of anyway, and only packs when he's really in the mood. (Packing means creating a realistic bulge, aka appearing to have a cock.)

- Nivet has always been desperate to get rid of the body he was born into. He hated it with a vengeance. His uniform (he's a field surgeon) made it easy for him to look how he wanted to look, which isn't overly male, but more on the androgynous side. But the minute he'd saved enough, he nipped over the border and had his body transformed, knowing full-well such an act was illegal in his own country. To him, it was never a question of choice; it was change... or perish.

- Callum is a very tough man, always has been. Even before he completely realised who he was, his step-father trained him and his step-sister as security agents in the making. He's had top-surgery done, takes testosterone-shots, but has learned to live with his vagina and can live with the absence of a cock. He's more interested in his boyfriends' cocks anyway.

- Illan is a confident man in the work place, but in private, a past experience has made him skittish about showing himself to anyone. No surgery for Illan. He binds, but doesn't pack at all. He's content with the body he's been given and loves being fucked. (Binding means creating a male-looking chest, usually via compressing the breast tissue.)

This last character is from my short In His Defence… which will appear in Storm Moon Press' Legal Briefs Charity Anthology at the end of March. Storm Moon Press is one of only a few publishers actively seeking submissions for trans* fiction, both for anthologies and longer, open line calls. So far, I've enjoyed working with Storm Moon Press very much. Though, like any author, I kick against edits at first glance, I've learned a lot from them, and they're always willing to answer my questions. Not to mention they hire awesome cover artists and are very helpful on the Marketing side of things. If you write trans* fiction, definitely check out their website!

Giveaway Opportunity!

This guest post is part of Storm Moon Press' 3rd Anniversary Blog Tour! Comment on this post or any other post on the blog tour with your e-mail address, and you'll be entered for a chance to win the Grand Prize of receiving 1 FREE e-book each month of 2013 from that month's new releases for a total of 12 free e-books! Runners up will receive a $25 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon or All Romance eBooks. For more details and to find out about our 3rd Anniversary, head over to Storm Moon Press' Official Blog. Thanks for joining us!