Six-Fifteen

(Inspired by this – NSFW picture at link)

Six-fifteen was her favorite time of day. The last of the pre-schoolers were always picked up by one, and she walked through her front door no later than two-oh-seven. She washed the breakfast dishes, pulled the night’s dinner meat into the sink to defrost. On Wednesdays, she did the laundry, washed the sheets on alternating Fridays. It was a point of pride for her to keep the house tidy, so any small cleaning that needed to be done never took her long, and so she always started running her bath by three-forty-five.

The bath was an indulgence. Even her long, lithe body had no trouble stretching out in the marble monstrosity that could easily have held three others the same size as her, and on one highly memorable occasion, had. She kept a variety of fragrance oils on the counter; selecting the proper scent for the evening was a particular treat for her. She lay her head back and closed her eyes, luxuriating in the moment. Only the flicker of a vanilla-scented candle threw any light into the room, and the only sounds were those of the water against her skin as she moved.

Most people could easily lose track of time in such an environment, maybe even fall asleep. But she’d done this too often; her body knew the pace too well. She knew without looking when it was five-o’clock and left the nirvana of her bath, never off by more than three minutes. She dried herself — patting, never rubbing, to keep as much of the scented oil against her skin as possible — and took the extra time to rinse the tub to keep it pristine for the next time. If laundry was done, she put it away. If sheets were washed, she remade the bed. She did these things nude, allowing the air to finish the drying, enjoying the scent wafting from her body as she moved.

At six exactly, she selected a pair of heels from her collection, maybe something in shiny red leather, or a dark blue suede with stilletos, or, like tonight, one of the black, strappy, open-toed affairs. For a touch of whimsy, she added some long, beaded necklaces of different lengths, some falling just between her breasts, some drooping down almost to her navel. She sat down in her favorite chair, the one by the window, ran a brush through her hair, and checked herself in a small hand mirror. Perfect; she needed nothing else.

And then, at six-fifteen, she was rewarded with the most beautiful sound in the universe. His car, pulling into the driveway.

Daddy was home.

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Newest Release

I’m terrible at blogging, but I’m hoping to set a New Year’s Resolution to blog at least once a week. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I have a new release. It’s the short story The Sub’s Gift in Storm Moon Press’ Milk & Cookies & Handcuffs anthology. I co-authored it with S.L. Armstrong, which was a hell of a new experience, and we are the ones who contributed a poly, bisexual story to the mix. I think we’re in pretty great company: Alex Whitehall, Erzabet Bishop, Kathleen Tudor, and Verity Blackthorn.

MilkCookiesHandcuffs_3d_500 Ah, the holidays. Gifts and songs. Tinsel and lights. Whips and chains? That’s right. This holiday anthology is all about BDSM, filled with characters who know that sometimes it’s Nice to be Naughty. This collection of five stories includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, and straight couples (and moresomes) that share a common desire for the kinkier side of sex: sensual bondage, sexual domination, and genuine, loving submission. And what better time to explore this dynamic of giving and receiving than the holidays? ‘Tis the season, after all!

In Holidays in Hell, Jonas is an incubus searching for one final soul to finish out his contract, but as a self-styled connoisseur, it has to be the right one. But when he finds the beautiful Holly Pendleton, Jonas is struck by her innocence and puts his own eternal comfort in jeopardy to protect her. Then, shapeshifting Ellis learns from his new master William about the traditions and true meaning of First Day, stories kept from him by his spiteful former master. The day of celebration becomes even sweeter when Ellis opens his presents and receives the Gift of the Familiar — and then has William try it out on him!

For New Year’s Eve, Ebet is afraid she’s Pushing the Line by bringing her girlfriend Meg home to meet her family for the first time. Meg is confident things will go fine, but Ebet is a mess, so Meg steals them away and proceeds to give Ebet something else to focus her energy on — her. Next, all that submissive Jeffrey wants from his mistress Athena is the Gift of Self, for Athena to recognize Jeffrey’s true identity as Jessie, a self-described “woman with a penis”. Athena is scared and confused at first; she loves her slave-boy, but isn’t sure that she can accept this a change this big. Finally, in The Sub’s Gift, the submissive Kyle gets an early Christmas present from Ryan and Amber, his Master and Mistress. But when that present turns out to be a sister-slave, Kyle wonders about his place in this new dynamic.

It’s my only release for 2012, but I have plans to do a few short stories for 2013. There are nine anthology calls I’m interested in, plus I’ve volunteered to write a free short for Storm Moon Press to be released on Earth Day. So, I’m crossing my fingers my inspiration hangs around and that I have time to focus on writing even half of what’s on my list.

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Why ‘OUT’ Has Nothing Relevant to Say

Okay, so apparently, people haven’t learned the lesson of Save the Pearls that trying to turn a majority into the minority in fiction and then make the minority character the hero against an oppressive society just smacks of unchecked privilege and thinly veiled bigotry. Because now we have Out by Laura Preble (Kickstarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/809008221/out-boy-meets-girland-is-imprisoned-for-it) that turns same-sex couples into the ruling class and focuses on a poor, oppressed straight couple getting crushed by the system.

First of all, let’s look at the very first sentence of the pitch: “OUT is a novel that is too controversial for the traditional publishing world.” By which, I have to assume, the author means, “I pitched this to some publishers who told me it was a stupid idea, but they just don’t understand mah jee-nee-us, so I’m gonna put it out anyway. As soon as I can get some other bigoted chumps to pay for it for me.” Because no, the idea that straight people are being oppressed by those horrible gays is not controversial, it’s fucking stupid and bigoted, and I applaud those publishers for not wanting to be associated with it.

The hero of this book is Chris, who is the son of a powerful Anglicant minister (yes, we see what you did there) who finds himself attracted to a girl. And because the “Parallels” are the ruling power backed up by the Anglicant church, this kind of “Perpendicular” love is forbidden. Christ (yes, we see what you did there, too) is in love with Carmen, who is the daughter of a lawyer who prosecutes Perpendicular people (or Perps — anyone else noticing the clue-by-four yet?) for their crimes. So the two of them are forced into a secret underground society (unimaginatively called “The Underground”) so that they can truly experience their forbidden love. Oddly enough, it is Chris’ own sister who tells Chris about The Underground (I think this father needs to keep a better watch on his kids, personally), who want to use Chris and Carmen as martyrs for the cause since both come from high-profile families.

Okay, so let’s start with the obvious — if same-sex lovin’ is all that’s legal, HOW DO PEOPLE HAVE CHILDREN? This isn’t some strange planet we’re talking about where the genders are capable of asexual reproduction — this is a “young adult speculative fiction novel” set right here on Earth. And while the author claims there’s no apocalyptic turnover of society, it’s hard to imagine any other way that same-sex relationships could become the norm and still ensure the continuation of the human race. Even if this world has perfected genetic manipulation to the point of being able to synthesize a fertilized egg from same-sex gametes (which would mean that lesbians could ONLY ever have daughters, let’s remember), that doesn’t explain how the race was able to populate itself BEFORE that level of technology. And if they couldn’t, then obviously opposite-sex pairings had to be the overwhelming majority at some recent point in the past, or else there would be no population growth.

But, given the religious domination (and assuming the Anglicant church to be the same age as our Anglican one), there is no indication that this shift ever occurred. So where the hell did the children come from? Are all the children simply the product of illegal Perpendicular love and stolen away as their mothers are sent to the “rehabilitation camps”, and then adopted by good Parallel couples? That’s gotta be some great parenting right there — “Yes, Timmy, according to the law, you shouldn’t even exist. You’re the product of a vile and reprehensible act, and every time I look at you, I’m reminded of the disgusting union that spawned you. Now eat your vegetables.”

So, right off the bat, we know that the author is talking out her ass. She has no conception of politics, religion, culture, biology, or genetics. She claims the book to be “speculation on conscious survival of the species rather than natural selection”, which seems to imply that homosexuality is “natural selection” and that if we want the human race to survive, we have to reject that and consciously force ourselves to survive. Except that natural selection, by definition, refers to those traits that make a species more likely to survive long enough to reproduce. So a conscious desire to procreate would necessarily be the more selected trait, as those individuals without it would rapidly die off.

But even setting aside all the logical and logistical objections to this story, the moral ineptitude is just staggering. Writing a story that casts a poor little straight boy at odds with a society of evil, homosexual oppressors is just reprehensible at the outset. This doesn’t send the message of “what if *you* were the oppressed one”, it sends the message of “fight back against those hateful queers”. This book represents the culmination of the fear of “the homosexual agenda” — it is the ultimate expression of the world that hate groups like the FRC and NOM claim will result from GLBT equality. A book like this is a wet dream for homophobes. They can (and will) hold it up and say, “See! This is what we’ve said all along! This is where we’re heading!” And I’m not entirely convinced that isn’t Preble’s intent.

Her personal web site claims the book is a look at “gender identity and discrimination”, but Out doesn’t deal with gender identity, it deals with sexual orientation. The fact that Preble is unable to tell the two apart is at best ignorant, and at worst transphobic. And, of course, a world with Parallels and Perpendiculars erases the existence of Diagonals (i.e., bisexuals), which throws some biphobia onto the pile as well. In short, there is no corner of the QUILTBAG rainbow that the author is not pissing on with this book.

And, of course, Preble is complaining that people are coming down on her as homophobic, swearing she has the “best intentions” and only wants to “open a meaningful dialogue” because she wants to “say something useful”. Because, apparently, the best way to present yourself as an ally to the GLBT community is to speculate upon a world where gay people throw straight people into rehabilitation camps. Because telling young adults, “You know that gay kid on Glee you like to watch? Well, if his kind were in charge, you’d be in jail right now!” is the best intentions she can imagine.

The simple truth is, you cannot be an ally if the people you claim to ally yourself with are telling you you’re doing it wrong, and you don’t listen. It’s not being a GLBT ally when you tell those people accusing you of homophobia that they’re stupid. Being an ally doesn’t mean automatically having perfect understanding, but it does mean paying attention when people who are actually in that marginalized group point things out to you that you’re doing wrong and fixing it.

Instead, Preble is doing the same thing that countless others before her have done, swearing that she knows better than us how to properly present our struggles, oppressing our viewpoint through her misguided attempt at “liberation”. She is no friend to the GLBT community, and no amount of trying to force her way in the door will change that.

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Thoughts on “To Pierce the Sky”

On Friday, my short story “To Pierce the Sky” from the Daughters of Artemis anthology came out as a single release on the Storm Moon Press site, so I thought now would be a good time to talk a little bit about my feelings on the story, and a little “director’s commentary”. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers if you’re interested in reading the story.

The idea sprang from the marriage of two things I wanted to showcase in the story I wrote. Firstly, an older female protagonist, and secondly, a situation where being alpha in a pack didn’t mean being in control of everything. The idea to use a Native American main character and to work within that culture and set of beliefs came fairly quickly on the heels of that first idea. I haven’t seen a lot of werewolf stories that are built on that premise, and I thought it would be a nice challenge to work in an unfamiliar culture. Besides which, lesbians of color are sorely under-represented in erotic fiction, so I felt strongly about framing the story around the Native Americans.

The choice of the Lakota Sioux was made partly based on geography — reservations that existed near places where wolves were prevalent — and partly based on ideology. The Lakota are among a small number of Native American tribes that are considered GLBT-friendly on the whole, which made it feasible that my main character would be receptive to the advances of another woman.

That was the genesis of Susan Runningwind, a 40-something Lakota woman who had earned a place among her pack’s strongest and yet lived apart from them. Her backstory came remarkably easily to me after that. In fact, in the initial draft, the first line was “The day Susan Runningwind was born, her entire family died”. So I knew very early on what I wanted Susan’s childhood to have been like. The circumstances around her family’s death served to ostracize her from the rest of the pack, and built in her a fierce determination to succeed no matter the cost.

I left the history of the pack — their origins — deliberately untold because the point to me was that this was simply the way that they were. Generations of werewolves had lived and died in this pack, enough so that no one knew for certain how it all started. The pack accepts their nature and lives according to it, and for them, that’s enough.

Jesse’s character was less well-formed in my head. I knew I needed to strike a balance in her character between “femme” and “butch”, because too far in either direction risked falling into stereotypes and tropes. Jesse’s given name is actually Jessica (something that’s never revealed in the story), but she found she preferred the gender-neutral Jesse after coming out. Her look is something of a compromise as well: men’s shirts and well-worn jeans, yes, but ones that accent rather than mask her feminine attributes. Her lifestyle is “practical yet comfortable”, and it’s of particular interest to Susan the way that Jesse balances the two.

And now, here’s a little excerpt from the story if you’re still torn about buying it. (It’s a different excerpt than what’s on the publisher’s site and is only posted here!)


“All right, Susan. First of all, is it true that wolves aren’t often seen in this part of South Dakota?”

Susan tried not to look up at the camera over Jesse’s shoulder. “Wolves are very isolated by nature. They try to stay away from areas of human occupation—there’s limited prey and the chance of their own death from hunters. So it’s true that wolf sightings tend to be rare. But of course, as people continue to push farther into the wilderness, there is always a period of adjustment before the wolves again pull back from inhabited areas. In that sense, seeing a wolf here and there is always a possibility.”

Jesse’s eyes widened a little, and she gave a tiny nod of encouragement. Susan had to admit she felt pretty proud of herself as well. Maybe she could do this after all.

“And what about these so-called Werewolves? Are wolf sightings more common around the full moon, and if so, why do you think that is?”

“More light.” Susan laughed softly. “Actually, that’s true. Wolves, like most predators, tend to blend into their environment. So just because you don’t see a wolf doesn’t mean that she’s not there. People are probably only remembering the ones they see in the full moon because those would be the clearest sightings.”

“So there’s nothing magical about the full moon?”

Susan smiled. “Oh, I didn’t say that. The moon is a very powerful symbol for us. There are some Lakota rituals that can only be performed under a full moon. But it doesn’t control the wolves, no.”

“But still, if I wanted to see a wolf, the night of the full moon would be my best chance.”

“If you were foolish enough to go looking for wolves at night, the full moon would be your best chance of seeing them in time to avoid them,” Susan said bluntly. “Wolves will defend their territory. With some animals, you’ll be told they’re as afraid of you as you are of them. But not the wolf. Make no mistake: the wolf is not afraid of you.” Jesse’s encouraging smile had turned into a stunned expression, and it appeared so out of place on her otherwise soft face that Susan immediately shook her head, counted to three, and started again. “Most wolves know better than to try and hunt during the full moon, but at this time of year when food is getting scarce, often they have no choice. So, yes, you might have a fair chance.”

Jesse had to take a couple of breaths to steady herself before her next question. “Your tribal group here is known as the Family of the Wolf. Does that mean you have a special kinship with wolves?”

Susan shrugged in what she hoped was a convincing way. “You would have to ask the ancient fathers about that. It is a name we have carried for hundreds of years. No one today could tell you how the name originated. We respect the wolf, but no more than we respect all life.”

Jesse looked up at Tyler and gave a curt nod. “I think that’s all we need for now. The light’s starting to shift anyway.” She looked back to Susan. “You were awesome. Maybe you should be doing this instead of me.” Tyler and Jorge nodded in agreement, even clapping lightly for her.

“Being the youngest of the council means that I have to be able to speak well in order to be heard by anyone. Perhaps I’m learning after all.”

Jesse leaned forward, pitching her voice lower. “Did you mean that? About the wolves not being afraid?”

“In this part of the world, the wolf has no natural predators. They’ve learned that not even a man on his own can stand against them. It’s only when men are armed that they have the upper hand. If anything, the wolf fears the gun more than the hand that holds it.”

“That’s a chilling thought,” Jesse admitted.

“What can I say? Nature’s a bitch.”

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Multimedia Thursday 2/16/12

Today’s Multimedia Thursday is musical. The song is “Walking in London” by Concrete Blonde.

Walking in London was the second Concrete Blonde album I owned, the first being Bloodletting. But it was the first one that I bought for myself. And this song was, of course, the title track from that album.

What I love about a lot of Concrete Blonde songs, and this one in particular, is the sensuality of it. The bluesy kind of rhythm that I can’t help swaying my hips to, the breathy voice that cuts right through me, the drum beats at just the right speed to coax my heart into beating in time. It’s the kind of song that I would strip to if I had the body for stripping.

And that doesn’t even touch on the actual lyrics. What it evokes for me is a person at once desperately in love and desperately afraid of that feeling. No matter how far she runs or where she hides, she can’t escape it. The memory of her lover, the emotions they drew out of her, are always with her, pulling her back.

Because “Bloodletting” was the first song of Concrete Blonde’s that I ever heard, and I was very much into vampire mythos at the time I bought the album, I also constructed the mental narrative of a fledgling vampire trying to escape her sire, trying to deny her new nature, but constantly being followed by her sire in each new city. Not in the sense of trying to force her back, but just to remind her of what she is, where she belongs.

Even now, almost 20 years later, that imagery has stuck with me. Every time I hear it, I still fall into that world I created around it, let that sensuality wash over me. There aren’t very many other songs that have made such a lasting impact on me. And that’s why I love it.

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Short Stories And Why I Write Them

So, here’s the thing about writing short stories that I love: they’re a challenge. Novels have hundreds of pages to develop a character, get them into and out of trouble, and tie everything up with a little bow. Short stories have a fraction of that, but are expected to do the same thing.

When I was in fandom, I used to write drabbles. For those of you who don’t know, a drabble is a 100 word story. Not a scene or a snippet or a vignette. An entire story compressed into 100 words. Granted, in fandom, this is easier because you don’t have to do any character or world building — that’s all inherently built in, so you can focus on story. Still, it’s a format that gives many writers pause. The watchword for drabbles is “economy”. Economy of thought, economy of words. Learning how to convey ten words of information in a single word. It’s a fascinating writing exercise, and I highly suggest it to all writers.

A short story is just an extension of that, to me. In 100 times 100 words (or thereabouts), create a world, fashion characters to live in it, present them with a problem, and guide them to a solution. And, if you like an extra challenge, tell a story that couldn’t be told in a longer format. You see, there’s a misconception that people who write short stories are either lazy, or lack the creative oomph to write a novel — that any short story could have been a novel if the writer had the chops. And I don’t believe that. There are stories that would simply fail in any longer form.

One of my favorite examples of this is Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples. It’s a reimagining of Snow White with tinges of erotic horror. In the short space of the story, Gaiman completely blew me away. But I can’t see how he could have carried it through into a longer piece and maintained the pace. It would have either fallen flat halfway through, or never achieved the level of tension managed in the short. It is exactly as long as it needs to be.

“But, Erik,” I hear you cry — or imagine I do, which may mean I need to take my meds again — “if it’s a reimagined Snow White, then it’s basically fanfic, right? You’ve got the story built in to use as a crutch.” And, okay, that may carry some weight, and I think even Neil would admit he relied at least partially on his audience already knowing the story. So, I’ve got another example for you that might be rather less well-known. Cornelia Grey wrote a short story called Apples, Regret, and Wasted Time (geez, what is it with the apples already?) that relies on no external storyline but still manages within 6,000 words to (if the reviews are any indication) peel back layer after layer of emotion and lay them bare. And she does this without giving either character a name!

Look at it this way: some runners are sprinters, and some are marathoners. But no one accuses the sprinters of being too lazy to run a marathon. It takes just as much training and just as much talent to cover 100 meters as it does 26.2 miles in such a way to make it interesting. And that’s the key. Running 100 meters at a marathoner’s pace isn’t going to impress anyone, and running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace just isn’t sustainable. (Though, granted, it would be damned impressive if someone could pull it off without their heart exploding.)

I’d still like to try my hand at a novel someday. I certainly have enough ideas for longer works. But it’s more than just “a short story, only longer”; it’s something I’m going to have to work toward, to retrain myself for a different kind of journey.

Until then, I’ll stick to the short stories.

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Multimedia Thursday – 2/9/12

Doctor Who villains drawn as the Charlie Brown gang

L-to-R: Front Row: Dalek, Judoon, Smiler, Ood. Middle Row: Auton, Saturnyne, Weeping Angel, Sontaran, Cyberman. Back Row: Silurian, Silent*.

Kicking off “Multimedia Thursday” with an image that just makes me giggle every time I see it.

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on here, this is a number of the alien races (primarily villains, though in several cases, the ally/enemy line is blurred) from Doctor Who drawn as the characters from A Charlie Brown Christmas. (If you don’t know what one or both of those are, then I envy you a little since you still have the childlike wonder upon discovery of these two masterpieces ahead of you.)

I don’t know why the artist chose A Charlie Brown Christmas to put them into — none of those pictured have been featured in any DW Christmas episode. I also don’t know if the artist had any reasons for the specific replacements made, if there were any metaphorical comparisons meant to be drawn between the Dalek and Schroeder, for instance. I don’t even know who the artist is — I found the image randomly one day while puttering about the Internet.

But it makes me smile, so whoever you are, mysterious artist, I thank you.

(And just for reference’s sake, here is an image taken from the scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas that the above image was inspired by:)
The original image from A Charlie Brown Christmas

* For purists (like me): Despite having been referred to as Silents in the early part of series 6, we later learn that the Silence is not a race, but a religious order made up of several species. This particular species was never given a proper name, so Silents will have to do.
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