by Ashley Lister

My father was a music hall comedian. I’m not saying his material was bad but, on the night variety died, his act was held for questioning.

Actually, that’s unfair.

He was very good at making people laugh. I remember his last words to me. “Don’t turn the machine off. Please. Please, for the love of God. I’m sure I’ll recover. I don’t want to die.” How we all chuckled.

But I’m not sure if it’s because of father’s influence that I’ve developed my lifelong passion for humour.

In poetry, the form most commonly associated with humour is the limerick. This is a format with which we’re all familiar. The limerick manages to combine vulgar humour with something that’s often sexual in nature. To illustrate:

There was a young fellow named Dave
Who took a dead whore from her grave.
He said, “It’s disgusting,
But she only needs dusting
And think of the money I’ll save.


There once was a man from Madras
Whose balls were both made out of brass
In stormy weather
They’d both clang together
And sparks would fly out of his ass!

The limerick, as I’ve probably mentioned before, has a rhyme scheme of aabba. It’s supposed to consist of anapaestic feet (that is, with two short beats followed by a third, longer beat) and the ‘a’ rhymes have three feet, whilst the ‘b’ rhymes have only two. However, to put it in more simplified terms that allow for the lack of formality in this form, the ‘a’ rhymes should have roughly eight or nine syllables and the ‘b’ rhymes should have five or six. Below is a final example.

There was a young woman from Leeds
Who swallowed a packet of seeds
With half an hour
Her arse grew a flower
And her clunge was a bundle of weeds

Now it’s your turn. Please share a limerick in the comments box below.

Boring Legal Stuff

Image by Susan Sewert from Pixabay

Almost every author I know writes first and foremost for personal satisfaction. There’s something addictive about capturing your visions and passions in a story. At its best, when you’re in the flow, the process of writing itself can be intoxicating. Sentences and paragraphs spill onto the page, almost like magic. You’re lost in a world of your own creation, focused on the transformation from idea to expression. Everything else slips away.

After you’ve written your story, you get the ache to share the products of your imagination. With the advent of self-publishing, it’s delightfully easy to make your opus publicly available to anyone wants to read it. And every royalty payment or positive review rekindles the spark of excitement. Someone likes my writing enough to pay for it! What a heady concept!

Of course, there are plenty of writers for whom the money is a major motivator. I have a few author friends who make a significant fraction of their income from sales. Still, I doubt they’d continue in this arduous endeavor if they did not enjoy the act of creation. After all, there are many more lucrative professions. When you do the math, you find that even highly successful authors earn a pretty pathetic hourly wage.

Once you start publishing and receiving payment, however, writing becomes more than just fun. You now have to concern yourself with the business and professional aspects of publishing: contracts, accounting, taxes and all that – all the boring legal stuff. I think it’s safe to say that nobody likes this aspect of being a writer. Certainly I’d rather completely ignore these issues, and just write thrilling smut.

Alas, if we want to publish, we can’t.

I got a wake-up call this past month that hammered this truth home. I’ve been spending what scarce writing time I have on my WIP, the third book in my steam punk erotica series The Toymakers Guild. During the first part of 2022, I reclaimed the rights to a number of my romance titles and re-released them, but the remainder won’t become due for reversion until next year. So I haven’t published anything in months.

Painfully aware of Amazon’s thirty day cliff, I decided to release an old erotic short called Goldberg Variations as a single title. It’s 8500 words, which I figured might be long enough to tempt some readers. I duly spent a day reformatting the text and making a cover, then uploaded to both Smashwords and Amazon as I normally do.

A few days later, I received an email from Amazon, asking for evidence that I owned the rights to this story. I’m not sure if they found the story in the anthology where it originally appeared (The Mammoth Book of Threesomes and Moresomes, 2010, edited by Linda Alvarez, Running Press) or if they have my story confused with some other tale with the same title (alas, there are many). Either way, they wanted me to prove it was mine.

I discovered that I couldn’t.

I have a file which I believe contains every paper writing contract I’ve ever signed, and a folder on my hard disk with all the digital contracts. I did not find a contract for this anthology in either location.

Is it possible there never was a contract? Sure. Those of you who’ve been around since the early part of the century may recall that Maxim Jakubowski, who edited the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica series, not only neglected to provide contracts but occasionally reprinted stories without the author’s permission! Maybe this Mammoth Book followed the same sloppy practices.

On the other hand, it’s also conceivable that I’ve lost the contract. Not likely, but I can’t rule this out.

Anyway, I tried to locate the editor (no luck). Then I tried to contact the publisher to ask for a letter certifying that I owned the rights. It turns out that Running Press was acquired by Perseus Books, which was later acquired by Hachette, a huge juggernaut of a publishing company.

Their website says that people with questions about rights should use the web contact form. I followed their instructions. Needless to say, I have not received any response. Why should they bother to answer an individual author inquiring about a publication twelve years ago, in a book that’s currently out of print?

So, ultimately, Amazon refused to publish Goldberg Variations. There’s nothing I can do. Well, I suppose I could try telephoning Hachette long distance from Asia… or sending them a registered letter. But honestly, I don’t have the time (or the energy) for that sort of thing. It’s just an 8K short story, and I’d rather devote my scarce resources as Lisabet to creating new material.

Still, it’s a lesson. I should have been more conscientious. I should have insisted on a contract, if one was not offered. I should have made sure I got a copy with signatures by both parties, then stored it in the correct file.

I should have paid more attention to the boring legal stuff.

It’s hard to force oneself to do that because… well, it’s boring. But unfortunately, important.

Stuck in Neutral

I developed my initial interest in creative writing when I was in high school. The English department didn’t have a formal textbook for the course, because it was being offered for the first time. We had to buy a paperback from the bookstore to use as a guide, and I still remember the opening words.

“Does the blank page hold terror for you?”

To this day, sometimes the answer is a resounding “Hell yes!”

I suppose like everyone else I’ve had my share of stumbling blocks when it comes to writing. It usually follows a pattern. I get so far into a story, then come to a spot where I stare at the screen and think “OK, genius–what happens next?” I developed a routine to handle these situations. Since I typically have more than one project in the works at any one time, including blogs and editing gigs, I put away the one that’s giving me trouble and move onto something else. After a cooling off period, I go back to the first one and move forward. This technique has served me well through nearly 30 books.

I’ve heard different solutions from others on the subject of the dreaded writer’s block, and some of them have worked for me. Here are a few “dos” and “don’ts” I culled from workshops and discussions.

Try to discover the cause of your blockage.
Is it your plot or your inner critic, that little voice inside your head that constantly yells “You’ll never finish this book because you’re a failure!”? If it’s the latter, ignore it and keep plugging away. If it’s the former, take time to review and evaluate your plot up to that point. Identify what isn’t working and make needed corrections. It could be something simple, like the story started going in a direction you didn’t envision. My advice? Go back to the beginning (or at least a few chapters), read what leads up to the blockage, and see if you gain any insight.

Recharge your creative battery.
Take a walk in the park to bask in nature’s beauty while breathing deeply, visit an art museum, go binge shopping, or spend time talking with family or friends. Do something other than writing. I have a pool table in my basement, and I love to play. One of my recharging tactics is to forget the book, shoot a few games, and concentrate on making my technique better for the next pool challenge at my favorite watering hole. I usually return to the book refreshed and focused. My game nights have improved, too!

Look at the scene that has you blocked.
Would a change in POV make it flow better? Would a rewrite help? Is the scene in question even necessary to the story? Caveat: I’ve taken this approach and quite often, the answer doesn’t hit me until a day or two later, when I’ve had uninterrupted time to really think about it. Don’t make yourself crazy.

Put the book away and focus on doing something physical.
Physical activity, especially tasks that you can perform with your brain on autopilot, are an excellent way to work through writer’s block. Exercise, taking a walk, or working in the yard are effective activities.

Call up a writer friend and talk through the problem.
I can say from personal experience that this works. Authors tend to get too close to their work-in-progress, and treat it like a favorite child. Your critique partner may be able to see the solution to your problem when you can’t. I’ve even e-mailed passages so they could fully understand the problem. A word of advice: Be willing to return the favor when asked, and offer to do so as a way of saying “Thank you.”

One thing I try not to do when this happens is pick up one of the books from my reading table, especially if it’s in the same genre I’m currently writing. I have a fear that I may read something good, and it will accidentally wind up in my book. I also tend to put my leisure reading on hold when I’m actively developing a story for the same reason.

On the subject of getting stuck, I have an anecdote about a favorite author, Raymond Chandler, who popularized the pulp fiction style of writing in the 1940s. Chandler battled alcoholism his entire adult life until one day he decided to quit, cold turkey. He had just landed an assignment to write an original movie script, which would become the film noir classic “The Blue Dahlia” with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Chandler jumped into the project, cranking out page after page in his trademark hard-boiled style, with snappy dialogue, shady characters, and unexpected plot twists. The producers were ecstatic, and knew it would be a hit.

Then one day, the unthinkable happened. Chandler sat down at the typewriter, and…nothing. He was stuck on what would happen next. Even re-reading his previous output didn’t help him get back on track. This went on for a few days, until it hit him. He had remained sober during the project, but realized that he actually wrote better when he was buzzed. He began the next day with a tumbler of scotch, which he sipped throughout the day, replenishing it as needed. Problem solved. He got his groove back, and finished the script. Of course, he still had a drinking problem, but at least he cured his writer’s block.

As a footnote, that approach doesn’t work for me. When I try writing, texting, or e-mailing after I’ve had a few, the results are usually incomprehensible and inflammatory. I think I still owe a couple of apologies for something I posted on a chat board last New Year’s Eve.

A different approach was taken by Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Each summer, Fleming took a month’s holiday from his job as a newspaper writer in London and stayed at a friend’s home in Kingston, Jamaica. He kept a strict routine, arising early each day to compose his newest 007 adventure. He wrote one chapter a day, non-stop, not bothering to review what he had written. He finished his work in time for cocktail hour, then repeated the ritual the following day. Upon his return to London, he gave the manuscript to his book editor, and didn’t look at it again until he received the galleys. This unorthodox method apparently worked, considering the number of best sellers he accumulated.

How do you get around the problem when you’re stuck in neutral?

Five Essentials Every Writer Needs

by Ashley Lister

This is a list of the five things that I think every writer needs to have in order to start working as a creator of fiction.

1. Post Cards
I use post cards for every project. Most typically these are for brief character descriptions, so I’m not skimming backwards and forwards through a MS to recall eye colour, hair colour or other important body details. It’s only a small thing but, without them, I’d lose hours to searching for this information and there’s a strong chance I’d lose the thread of what I was saying.

2. A Things-To-Do List
A list of all those things you need to do is essential for everyone (not just writers). Start the morning by deciding what you’d like to accomplish by the end of the day, write all of those things down, and then tick each one off after it’s achieved. These lists can be expanded to include weekly goals, monthly goals, or even annual goals. My current TTD List includes the directive to write a chapter on the current WIP, record a chapter of a forthcoming audiobook, and update information for a newsletter.

3. An Online Presence
Admittedly, FaceBook is a time vampire. Twitter is a seething pit of potential depression that can drag a low mood into the pits of hell. And no one knows what the fuck is happening on Tik-Tok. But an online presence is useful for every writer for two reasons.
Primarily, it gives a writer access to readers: an opportunity to tell them about new ventures and other ways for readers to experience the writer’s work.
Secondly, it allows a writer to meet colleagues, share ideas, learn about new markets, find consolation and support and generally feel like a professional in a professional environment.

4. An Exercise Regime
Writing is not the most physical of occupations. My FitBit is programmed to remind me if I’ve not walked 250 steps in an hour so, when the alarm sounds, I get off my backside and make some movement. Because writing is a sedentary occupation I try to get to the gym each morning before the start of the day and (weather permitting) I’ll take the dogs for a walk at some point during the day so my muscles don’t get a chance to atrophy. This isn’t my way of bragging about my physical condition: it’s my way of saying it’s important for writers to take care of their physical well-being as well as their mental well-being.

5. A Notebook
Paper notebooks are very useful. I’ve got dozens of the things scattered around my house filled with observations, ideas, notes and other important details. I also use the notebook apps on my phone to make reminders about things such as plot points, ideas for poems, details I need to include in a story etc.

Have I missed anything? If you think I need to add something to this list, I’d love to see it in the comments below.

A Trip to Cockaigne

This image is from The Land of Cockaigne (literally, “the lazy-tasty land” in Dutch) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1567.


Lately, when my spouse Mirtha and I were having a drink in the local queer bar, a gay-male friend of ours told me he had read some of my erotic stories, and he thought I was writing about the Sexual Revolution of the late 1960s, the heyday of the hippies. He knows I am 70 years old, and he suggested with a grin that I have lived through some wild times.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to say. In my teens and early twenties, I dated young men who identified as “radical.” They told me that all the old rules about sex needed to be thrown out. I completely agreed. I remembered how easy it was for girls in high school to get bad reputations based on the slightest indiscretion: being seen with the “wrong” boy, or wearing a skirt that someone else considered too short.

I couldn’t wait for the culture to change. More specifically, I wanted an era of sexual freedom to arrive. I’m still waiting.

My father warned me that I had no right to refuse sex with any young man if I had “led him on” or “flaunted my body.” Boys told me the same thing. The same boys had a vocabulary of ugly words for girls who had (gasp) committed sex with someone other than themselves.

I never lived in a commune on the West Coast (American or Canadian). If there was a patchouli-scented era of enlightenment, joyous polyamory, waterbeds, and ecstasy for all, I missed it.

I’ve written true stories about some of my relationships (to use the word loosely) before I ventured into the sex trade and the LGBTQ community at age thirty. There was the high school boyfriend who aspired to be a writer, and who dumped me after I won a major award in a national student writing contest. He seemed to believe I had sold out to the Man.

There was the guy who claimed to be a Yippie (member of the Youth International Party) and who raped me in my dorm room in my first year of university.

There was my Nigerian husband (whom I met in London, England) who claimed to be a social justice warrior, and who seemed convinced that all white women are sex demons who can never be faithful to one man. You can guess how compatible we were.

When I ventured outside of monogamous heterosexuality, the 1980s were starting, and a backlash against “women’s lib” had already set in, along with a retrenchment of conservative policies in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. The first AIDS patients had died of a disease that was known to spread through sexual contact, and their suffering seemed like a cautionary tale to those who thought “promiscuity” was the road to Hell.

I was a divorced mother living in a housing co-op for low-income single parents. My ex-husband stopped making child support payments, and I learned that I had no way of squeezing money out of him.

I spent three years in a relationship with a married man who dominated conversations by proclaiming his radical political vision. He told me I was naive and “trying to be bourgeois,” which seemed to mean that my need for a livable income showed what a hypocrite I was: a slut trying to pass for a good mother. I believed that he was separated from his wife and children because we sometimes spent the night in his sparsely-furnished apartment, which turned out to be a temporary shelter so that he wouldn’t have to commute between a small town and his job in the “city” on weekdays in an icy Canadian winter. After I overheard him telling his wife on the phone how much he loved her, I had to lock him out of my apartment to prevent him from showing up late at night for free sex.

For a few months, I lived with my first woman lover, whose hard-drinking friends were always hanging out in our apartment when I was trying to work on my Master’s thesis. My relationship ended when I discovered that she had emptied my bank account and taken the proceeds with her to the summer Stampede in Calgary, Alberta.

If anyone was having fabulous sex parties at the time, I was not invited. I probably wouldn’t have gone anyway, since I didn’t want to risk losing custody of my child.

However, I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and that’s where I go to get inspiration for sex-stories. In the Land of Fantasy, the weather is always perfect for outdoor sex, the other inhabitants are attractive, eager, and honest, and there are no disappointing revelations afterwards.

As far as I know, the real world has never been like that. And speaking of backlash, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the right to a legal abortion looks like the first sign of a general stripping-away of hard-won rights for everyone other than wealthy, conservative white men.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have savings and relatively well-paid jobs (based on seniority) are no longer as young and nimble as we used to be.

It seems as if the only safe space is in our own heads, and this is nothing new. Luckily, there is a tradition of sex-writing which features pleasure in all forms, and which serves as a consolation for having to live in the real world.

We need to find or create versions of the Land of Cockaigne, which Wikipedia describes as: “a land of plenty in medieval myth, an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures are always immediately at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life does not exist. Specifically, in poems like “The Land of Cockaigne” it is a land of contraries, where all the restrictions of society are defied (abbots beaten by their monks), sexual liberty is open (nuns flipped over to show their bottoms), and food is plentiful (skies that rain cheese).” Apparently Cockaigne appeared often in the Latin verses of travelling scholars of the 12th and 13th centuries. It represented wish fulfillment in times of scarcity and resentment of the rules of the medieval Christian church.

Maybe the occasional trip to Cockaigne can help give us the energy to fight the general slide into a shortage of everything human beings need and want. Even (or especially) if a Sexual Revolution never really occurred, it seems like a worthy cause.



I do not remember getting The Talk when I was younger. Now, I don’t know if this is because I was sick that day, it was so traumatic that my mind simply blocked it out (which is entirely possible). But since I never received a discussion on the birds and the bees, my actual education had to come through more extra-curricular activities.

Now, way back when, porn was not as readily available as it is these days. I am old enough to remember trying to watch it on scrambled, late-night cable TV channels (‘Wait, is that a boob…or is that’s someone face?’) I also remember rushing to the mailbox after school to try and save the flyers or catalogs that would randomly arrive before my parents found them. Said flyers would advertise everything from the latest videos to toys to phone sex lines and the ever popular ‘massage parlors.’ So it was through these pilfered periodicals, and the videos I eventually borrowed from friends, that I came to learn about condoms, positions, the actual mechanics of sex, and at least some idea of how to please a partner. Porn is where I learned what I liked and what I was curious about. It also gave me damn good indicators as to how broad my sexuality truly was.

But please don’t misunderstand, I am in no way advocating for porn. I will absolutely take porn to task for a host of issues. It has real problems with how it depicts consent. It has a long history of creating unhealthy body images, it has a deep-seated issue with race and how it treats LGBTQ content. There are well-established, completely valid problems with porn.

But I also think that we can’t have a real conversation about porn without also discussing the state of sex education in this country, which is severely lacking.

I think most people who’ve had The Talk, whether it’s with their parents or a teacher at school, will tell you that it was an extremely awkward (some would even say traumatic) experience and when it was over, everyone was just glad to be done. This is because The Talk, when it happens at all, tends to be less about informing people and more about scaring them through dry biological facts about menstruation, pregnancy and STIs. The worst part about all of this is that once The Talk is done, there’s no follow-up. Most parents will look at their kids and say, ‘You had The Talk, I bought you that book, never speak to me about this again.

If there is one thing I know, it’s that presentation is not education. Telling someone about something one time doesn’t prepare them for anything. For it is a universal truth, divinely writ, that children are curious and teenagers are horny, so all of the warnings in the world won’t stop them from seeking out the forbidden any more than it stopped us when we were coming up. And this is before we get to the problems that abstinence training presents.

Every metric known to man shows that abstinence training doesn’t work. Neither do purity rings or those creepy purity balls where teenage girls promise themselves to their fathers until they get married. In fact, all of these events only end up having the exact opposite effect of their desired intentions. For it is another universal truth, though less divinely writ, that between the islands of ‘No Answer’ and ‘A Skewed Answer,’ there lies an ocean’s worth of trouble.

Porn may be extremely problematic but leaving kids with no guidebook at all is just as bad. So if there really is no good reason why we shouldn’t be talking sex, then that begs the question of what actually talking about sex should look like.

To that end, I think I have an idea. In the film The Girl Next Door (2004), a former porn star and her boyfriend create a modern sexual education film, one that doesn’t try to scare viewers or bore them into disinterest, but also doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of sex. Now, this film within a film went on to make millions but in the eighteen years since The Girl Next Door’s release (God, I’m old) I can’t help but want to expand upon the idea.

Instead of just one film, why can’t we have a series of comprehensive, readily accessible tutorials? Miniature guidebooks, broken down by topic and expanded upon by people who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to sex (therapists, sex workers, adult film actors and actresses, etc.). Information sessions that cover pregnancy and STIs but also talk about masturbation and sex positions (which ones are actually fun and which ones are just for show).  What if we had lessons which covered the range of genders and a helpline for those questioning their sexuality? What if we had a recurring segment where we rate sex toys the same way that America’s Test Kitchen tests out spatulas?

It’s a radical idea, I know, and you can call me crazy all you want, but hear me out all the same.

Because if the numbers of teenage pregnancies and STIs are any indication, it’s that our country is in desperate need of a comprehensive sex education program. One that isn’t a one-and-done but is something kids can look to if they have questions and return to again and again as they, and their sexualities, inevitably change. For when it comes to our own history, and the state of our kid’s futures, I think we can all agree that we’ve been drifting between the islands for far too long.

Tempted by Monsters

Muscular torsoWhen it comes to writing, I’m influenced by trends, but usually only in a negative way. If everyone is writing Mafia romance, or reverse harem, or billionaire’s babies, or hotwife/cuckold kink, my immediate reaction is to write something that twists the genre so thoroughly that it’s unrecognizable.

This doesn’t do much for my sales, of course; someone who’s looking for hunky alpha billionaires and pretty, susceptible virgins is not going to get off on my story about a wealthy woman entrepreneur and her nerdy, inexperienced lover.

But I have to admit that I get perverse satisfaction out of torturing tropes. Furthermore, I find the exercise of turning fads on their heads to be an excellent stimulus to the imagination.

I’ve recently noticed a newly popular sub-category of monster erotica. The stories I’ve seen mostly feature big, bad, burly humanoid creatures – orcs, ogres, and the like – who have lots of muscles, enormous cocks and a strong partiality for barely legal girls in short school uniforms. Furthermore, these monsters get their jollies from punishing their sweet little victims as well as screwing them silly. As for the young ladies, well, they’re terrified, but when you’re a teenager you’re also so very horny…

And I have to admit, I’m tempted to try my hand at this sub-genre. I’m pretty sure I could nail it (so to speak), if I took it seriously. I’ve thought about a setting – too many of these take place in high schools, so I’d want something at least a little different – and come up with the notion of a run-down diner somewhere out West, where the cook and owner is an ogre. The heroine will be an eighteen-year-old headed to California, looking for stardom, but marooned on the highway to nowhere. Her old car dies and she’s stuck in the dusty, nearly deserted town, where she takes a job as a waitress to earn money for repairs. I see lots of opportunities for spanking and other chastisement in this scenario, as well as abundant filthy sex, of course.

Of course, this temptation isn’t helping me complete my work in progress, a novel which still has at least ten chapters to be written. Still, I find myself sketching out scenes while I’m swimming my laps, or waiting in line at the bank. If I keep following these lines of thought, I might not be able to resist.

Meanwhile… I thought I’d share a short, tongue-in-cheek tale that involves a monster, and speaks to the question of tropes. Enjoy!


By Lisabet Sarai

Laurel gazed out at the lake from the cabin porch and released another sigh. A full moon silvered the water. Little ripples murmured as they kissed the narrow beach. A gentle wind stirred the pines. Otherwise, silence reigned. She ran her fingers through her long, blonde locks. Pain knotted under her lush breasts. The night was achingly beautiful, but so very lonely.

Of course, she had wanted solitude. That’s why she’d fled, after Harold’s funeral. Her step children circled like vultures, ready to attack, determined to contest his revised will. She had to get away. Let her lawyers handle them She understood why her husband had cut them out and left his entire fortune to her. He was trying to assuage his guilt, to apologize for his failures. No amount of money, though, could ever compensate for those lost years.

She had always loved this place, buried in the forests of the Upper Peninsula, ten miles from the nearest settlement. “Aren’t you worried, Lauri, up there all by yourself?” her best friend Marissa had asked when Laurel announced her plans. “A woman on her own? What about wild animals? Criminals? Rapists?”

I’ve got the satellite phone, hon. And the Farleys in the next cabin are barely a mile away. Jim checks by every day to make sure I’ve got everything I need.”

The haunting call of a loon echoed through the stillness A chill shiver ran up her spine. During the day it was easy to forget how alone she was, but at night…

I’m fine, she told herself. There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

A sudden noise arose, as if to contradict her self-reassurance, the crackle and pop of something moving through the underbrush along the shore. Shrinking back into the shadows near the cabin wall, she scanned the thick vegetation. The racket grew louder, snapping twigs and a huff that might have been the breathing of some great beast. A moose? she wondered. A bear?

She gripped the rifle Jim Farley had pressed on her. Laurel had no idea how to use it – what romance heroine would? – but the cold metal under her palm blunted the razor edge of her terror. If I just stay quiet, it will probably go away. She knew she should slip back into the cabin and lock the door, but fear held her paralyzed. Quite simply, she couldn’t move. Standing barefoot on the rough boards, wearing only brief shorts and a tank top – why bother with undergarments when there was no one around? – she’d never felt so vulnerable.

The intruder was close now. She could see the bushes shaking, off to the left. Any instant, it – or he – would burst into the clearing in front of the hut.

She found herself whispering a childhood prayer.

Ugh! Damn roots!” It was a man’s voice, confident and mature, deep and rich as milk chocolate, with a hint of a drawl that brought back memories from her youth. A decidedly masculine body stumbled out of the brush onto the beach. He pulled himself up to his full height – easily six three or six four – and gazed around him. Broad -shouldered and narrow-waisted, that lithe, powerful form set alarm bells ringing in Laurel’s mind and a current of heat swirling through her body.

No. It couldn’t be.

The interloper peered into the darkness and sniffed the air. All the lights in the cabin were off. He seemed not to see her. He raised his face to the moon.

There was no doubt. She would never forget those perfect cheekbones, that arrogant nose, that chiseled jaw. Moonbeams lit his bottomless blue eyes, making them glow like sapphires. A strangled moan escaped her throat. Her nipples beaded under her thin top and a growing hunger throbbed in her core.

Grant. Grant Steele. The one man she’d ever loved.

Laurel? Laurel baby! You are here, after all.” In two athletic bounds, he’d scaled the porch and stood towering over her diminutive frame. He was solid, real – this wasn’t one of her eternal fantasies. Without preliminaries, he gathered her into his arms. He smelled of balsam, damp earth and grease from his favorite french fries. The all-too-familiar scent left her limp and increasingly damp.

His firm lips pressed against her, mastering her in an instant. Molten need flooded her as he pulled her more tightly against his rock-hard body. His tongue invaded her mouth and tangled with hers, brazen and insistent. Meanwhile his always-bold hands traced her bountiful curves, kneading her well-toned buttocks and tickling the side of one full, tender breast.

Lightning sparked through her with each of his touches. His massive erection prodded her pubis as he continued to ravage her mouth. All she wanted was to sink to the ground and open herself to him. It took every ounce of will she could muster to push him away.

Grant – Grant – wait a moment, please!”

I’ve waited half a lifetime for you, angel. That’s long enough!” Nevertheless he backed off a bit. She pressed her hands against his chest, needing to catch her breath for a moment, to increase the distance between them. If she didn’t, she’d go mad.

Under his tight tee shirt, ridges of unyielding muscle rose and fell under her fingertips, like a bumpy road. She fought down a sudden wave of nausea. “Grant, how did you ever find me?”

Instead of answering, he bent to kiss her again, nibbling at the corner of her mouth, sliding his burning lips along her jaw, sucking on her earlobe until electric sparks sizzled down to her moist center. His hands busied themselves, too, slipping under the waistband of her shorts to cup her bare rear cheek.

The shock of his flesh on hers made her see stars. He kindled delight in every cell of her being, but she had to hold on, at least for a moment. She had to know. She trust her palms against his chest once more, ignoring the shudder that crept through her.

Grant! Please! Who told you I was out here?”

Nobody told me. I just knew. You’re my soul mate, Laurel. I always know where you are. Of course, getting to you might not always be that easy.” He glanced a bit ruefully at the biceps bulging out of his short sleeves, which were scratched and raw from fighting his way through the woods, then favored her with one of his irresistible, boyish grins. “But it’s worth it…”

The sight of his torn, pneumatic flesh made her a bit queasy. She ducked away before he could descend on her mouth once more. She wanted him – oh, how she wanted him, with the pent-up urgency of fifteen years apart! But first they had to talk. Communication was important. She wasn’t going to just give herself to him like some slut. She had to know how he felt, why he’d left town so suddenly after that night, so long ago…

Still. His soul mate, he’d called her. Passion flared in her heart and between her thighs. It was too wonderful to be true!

If you felt that way – why did you leave me – you know, after…”

After you refused to give me your cherry?”

Come on, Grant, you know we couldn’t. We were barely seventeen. We were romance characters. It’s just not allowed.”

He didn’t try to disguise the bitterness in his voice. “I ran away from the hurt. I thought I could forget you. That I could bury myself in other bodies and burn out the need.” With a gentleness that almost made her sob, he trailed his fingers through her luminous golden tresses. “And I tried, baby. Believe me, I tried. I whored my way from Mombasa to Bangkok. But you were with me the whole time. Every woman I ever fucked was really you.”

His crudeness made her own desire flare. “Oh, Grant…”

Then, when I heard your husband had died, that you were a widow now – I had to track you down. To make you give me what you’ve owed me for so very long… what we both need and deserve…”

He seized her with new roughness. “I’m finally going to make you mine, baby.” Her clothing tore like tissue paper under his assault. She sprawled backward onto the porch, bare as the day she was born. The night air, cool on her fevered skin, both thrilled and terrified her.

Her nakedness stunned him for a moment. He gazed at her with something like reverence. “God, you’re beautiful, Laurel! You’re a dream come true.” He dabbled his fingertips in her moist cleft, barely revealed by her gracefully parted thighs. “And so wet, darling! You want me as much as I want you.”

He knelt between her legs and she held her breath. The moment – the moment was coming. But she had to tell him the truth.

Of course I want you, Grant. I always wanted you, no matter what I said or did. That night up on the hill above town – you have no idea how much I wanted you to be my first. How difficult it was to say no.”

I should have been.” Anger and regret both rang in his voice. He was fiddling with his jeans, trying to get his zipper open. Laurel held her breath. “But it’s too late now.”

She propped herself up on her elbows, her eyes glued to his fingers. “No, Grant. It’s not.”

What?” He sat back on his heels to stare at her. “What are you talking about?”

Harold – he – well, let’s just say that he and I never consummated our marriage.”

You mean – are you trying to say….” he whispered.

Yes, my love. I’m still a virgin.”

Praise the Lord and the saints!” He dragged her back into his arms, kissing her all over. “I can’t believe it. After all this time… Oh, baby, I’m going to make it so good for you, so very good. Just lie back and let me take care of everything!”

With exaggerated care he settled her onto her back once more. Her legs flopped open and her musky aroma pervaded the atmosphere. Never in all her thirty three years had she been so drenched, so aroused, so ready.

Grant gave her a devilish grin. He grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it over his head to reveal his naked torso.

Laurel screamed. Terror drowned out every erotic thought, every lascivious sensation. “No! No! Get away from me!”

The vision before her was more monster than man. Unnaturally smooth, totally hairless skin stretched taut over the swollen contours of his massive pectorals. Puffed-up deltoids merged into the ballooning biceps she’d glimpsed earlier. Ropy veins twisted around the contoured flesh of his arms, like tubing installed to nourish some artificial life form. Below his nipples, his abdomen rippled, wavy crests and valleys, all hard and burnished. The sight made her ill, made her weak. She closed her eyes, unable to bear the horror.

Laurel, honey. What’s wrong?” Grant bent closer to her face. One rubbery nipple brushed against her own breast.

Aye! Get away from me…!” Crab-like, heedless of the splinters embedding themselves in her bare butt, she scooted backward, trying to get away from that unbearable ugliness and the awful fear it kindled. Fear was her only reality now. She clambered onto her feet, stumbled down the porch steps and raced off into the night.

Of course, Grant could have stopped her – he outweighed her by sixty or seventy pounds, easily, and he had all those muscles – but he was so astonished by her reaction that he didn’t even think about it. What was wrong with her? All the women he’d had over the years had raved about his physique. He’d expected Laurel to go weak with lust, as they had…

He shook his head. She had always been a bit nuts. A virgin at thirty three! Maybe she wasn’t his soul mate after all.

Meanwhile, Laurel crashed through the forest, heedless of the branches tearing at her naked flesh. Her only thought was to put distance between her and the disgusting reality of Grant’s over-inflated body. She ran and ran, until she was totally lost. Finally, when her strength failed her, she collapsed on the mossy bank of little stream that ran through a moon-dappled clearing.

Tears streamed down her cheeks as she gasped for air. Sobs shook her ripe, vulnerable body. Was she crying for her lost love? Her lost innocence?

Gradually her breathing slowed. She drank deeply from the crystalline rivulet, to soothe her raw throat. Then she lay back and closed her eyes, focusing on the faint sounds of the night and the sweet, spicy scents of the nature. Gradually a kind of peace stole over her. She had escaped. She was free.

Her fingers drifted to her bare sex. She was still wet, still tingling with residual want. Not for Grant, though. Never. Dreamy and relaxed, she stroked her moist folds and savored the ripples of sensation kindled by that light touch. Perhaps she didn’t need a man at all.

The sound of breaking branches roused her from her erotic reverie. Grant! But whatever was forcing itself through the underbrush was bigger than Grant, more powerful.

Her heart in her throat, Laurel rolled onto her knees. She was ready to run if she had to, but for the moment curiosity held her fast.

A hairy form at least seven feet tall burst from the trees into the open area and stood, sniffing the air. The beast stood on its hind legs like a man, but its immense stature and shaggy pelt made it clear this creature was not human. Its tufted ears swiveled, trying to locate the source of Laurel’s shallow breathing. Saliva dripped from its maw, which bristled with vicious looking teeth. Meanwhile, jutting from its groin was a rigid and very human-looking male organ – aside from the fact that it was half again as long and thick as any penis that had ever appeared in an erotic romance story.

The creature’s ferocious growl changed to some more ambiguous vocalization when he finally noticed Laurel’s naked form crouched on the earth. He took a step forward, his erect member bobbing like a conductor’s wand. The rhythmic motion held Laurel transfixed. Rekindled lust flickered through her, tightening her nipples and moistening her virgin cunt.

Her fur-covered companion made another sound, grunting with a rising intonation that seemed to signal a question. He took yet another step in her direction.

He didn’t seem inclined to attack her. Laurel almost wished he would.

Finally, worn down by too much terror, frustrated with waiting, she flopped over on her back, raised her knees and gave the creature a good look at her wet and gleaming sex. Enough was enough.

Come on, big boy. Let’s see what you can do.

Fact or Fake?

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as much as you please.” – Mark Twain

I’m not sure how closely Mark Twain followed his own advice, but that quote can apply just as well to news writing as it does to fiction in this age of distorted truth. It’s getting to the point where you can’t tell the real news from the stuff people seem to make up based on things they overheard while waiting in line at Starbucks. The new mantra has become “I can neither confirm nor deny that I had any knowledge of this event which may or may not have happened.” Huh? When I watch a press briefing, I can tell they’re lying because their lips are moving, and it’s likely I don’t believe most of what they say anyway.

The problem isn’t the reliability of the mainstream news media. There are so many social media outlets that anyone can record something on their cell phone, post it online and call it “breaking news.” They’re not required to do basic fact checking, and people are so enthralled by made-up stories that they don’t seem to care. It used to be that the only place you found “fake news” was standing in the checkout lane of the grocery store, thumbing through the National Enquirer. There was also Mad Magazine, but they were honest enough to call it satire.

By the way, did you know that the toilet paper shortage during the first few months of Covid was caused by a group of cross-dressing Haitian immigrants who snuck into the U.S. and planned to exchange the toilet paper for visas? A Georgia politician said so on YouTube, so it must be true.

It’s been a longstanding practice in the entertainment industry for publicists to tweak someone’s bio to make them more appealing to the public. A lot of dark celebrity secrets have been hidden thanks to fictionalized life stories. Unfortunately, the practice was picked up by political campaign managers, and people stopped checking to see what was true or false. I absorb most of what I hear on the news outlets with a skeptical ear, until the anchor person says “According to our fact checkers…” When they say that, I pay attention to find out what they got wrong.

That reminds me of another public service message that made the rounds. I heard that you can avoid the flu by drinking an ounce of Mr. Clean before going to bed at night. Of course, the odds aren’t good that you’ll wake up the next morning, but at least you won’t catch the flu. Someone in Washington, D.C. posted that on Twitter, so it must be true, right? At least they didn’t recommend sitting on a cactus as a cure for hemorrhoids.

I’m a fan of shows like “Law & Order,” where they flash the disclaimer “Although inspired by actual events, this story is fictional…” I occasionally watch crime re-enactment shows like “Dateline” and “Unsolved Mysteries,” too. The ripped-from-the-headlines concept has inspired many crime fiction writers, myself included. Looking at it realistically, though, you have to ask “Who do they think they’re kidding with that work-of-fiction bull? If it’s fictional, why do the names sound like the actual participants, and why are the locations the same as where it really happened?”

Like many writers of contemporary mystery/thrillers, I get ideas from current events or my own life experiences. Publishers make it easy for us by putting that nifty little disclaimer at the front of the book, the one about it being a work of fiction. I rely on that disclaimer, and I even consulted an attorney about it once. He informed me that when describing a location, I could use the actual name of the establishment, as long as I didn’t say anything derogatory about it. For example, I can name the Marriott Key Largo Bay Resort as long as I don’t say that it’s a front for drugs, gambling or prostitution. It may very well be, but I can’t make the claim.

I’ve found that I have to exercise caution when it comes to characters, too. How many times has one of your friends or family members sworn that you based a character on them or someone you both know? It’s happened to me a few times. Likewise for the things I have my characters doing. Has anyone ever asked you how much of your story is fictional and how much of it is based on personal experiences? Been there and done that. I won’t deny that many of the plot twists I use were inspired by an actual life event, but I never give away the store when answering that question. And I flat out refuse to answer if it pertains to the sex scenes.

Did you hear that a group of radical Canadians launched a satellite armed with a laser beam? It’s pointed at the American side of Niagara Falls in case they get more tourists than the Canadian side. It must be true because I read about it on Instagram. They even had a video.

As a wise old scholar once told me, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Of course, that same scholar was convinced that JFK was assassinated by renegade CIA operatives employed by Castro, and that NASA staged Neil Armstrong’s moon landing on a Hollywood soundstage. Remember those rumors in the pre-internet age?

Sometimes, fake stories can have destructive consequences. How about when actor Burt Reynolds injured his jaw while filming a fight scene that got out of hand? It resulted in TMJ, he was restricted to a liquid diet and lost thirty pounds. The painkillers he took led to addiction, and he was physically unable to work for a long time. In spite of those well-documented facts, the tabloids claimed he had AIDS. He didn’t, but his career comeback was delayed a few years because of it.

Speaking of celebrities, I read on Facebook that Elvis Presley was spotted leaving a Krispy Kreme in Cleveland, Ohio with a box of jelly donuts tucked under his arm. It was online, so it must be true.

I once gave an interview to a newspaper in the Florida Keys, which is the setting for my Nick Seven spy thrillers. The reporter gave me a wonderful write-up, and e-mailed me the PDF so I could get a sneak preview before the print version hit the stands. The original headline was “Former spy finds paradise in Ohio man’s novels.” I was thrilled. When the print copy arrived, they had trimmed the headline to make it fit the page. The new one was “Former spy finds paradise in Ohio,” right above my head shot. I laminated a copy to use at personal appearances, and the reaction I get from people is priceless. They read the headline, see my face, then look up and see me. Their eyes shift back and forth a few times, then someone will invariably ask me if I’m the former spy. I just smile and shrug. Sometimes I really have fun by saying “If I answer that question, I’ll have to kill you.”

There’s a line in the classic Western film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” A newspaper reporter is writing the life story of the title character, who parlayed the shooting of a vicious outlaw into a political career. When the reporter exaggerates the man’s accomplishments, he objects to them embellishing the truth. The reporter’s response is “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

How you doin’?

by Ashley Lister

It’s that time of year when my students are graduating and receiving their degrees. It’s a time of mixed emotions for me as I’ve known some of these folk for more than three years and, as they move onto bigger and better things, it might be the last time I see them. I’m particularly proud of the current cohort as these brave educational adventurers managed to achieve their success during the restrictions of Covid – and that can’t have been easy.

But, instead of viewing this as a sad time, we rightly choose to see it as a cause for celebration. It’s a time to celebrate the accumulated results from all the hard work and study and it’s a chance to look forward to the bright future that’s awaiting each graduate.

Which is what I’d like to do on this post. I’m not going to spend the remainder of this post bragging about my personal achievements (other than to mention I’ve published a book of my incredibly rude poetry and recorded an audiobook version of that title).

What I’m more interested in is: what have YOU been doing over the past couple of years that is worthy of celebration? And yes, dear reader, I’m talking directly to YOU.

Please shout about your reasons to celebrate in the comments box below, share links to your work if that’s possible, and give us all a chance to congratulate you for your success.

When You Don’t Want to Hear What She Has to Say

I'm Tired of Explaining ConsentOur bodies are strange things. They can be wondrous, pleasurable, even astonishing. But they can also be downright weird. And it often takes us time to understand what our bodies are trying to tell us.

Consider, for a moment, a pencil. Just a plain, ordinary Ticonderoga. Now, if I were to jab you with said pencil, it would hurt, right? You’d feel it instantly? Well, that’s a good thing. It means your body is doing what it’s supposed to do. Our bodies are giant nerve clusters and they’re designed to react instantly to stimuli. ‘Instantly’ being the keyword here because if it takes your body ten minutes to tell you that your shoe is on fire, that’s bad, and you should lodge a complaint with your manufacturer (if you can find them).

But while these alerts and transmissions may be instantaneous, how we decipher them (how we feel about what is happening) can take much longer. Often, the way our body reacts to something can be at odds with how we feel about whatever it is we’re reacting to.

For instance, consider a man and his erection. Men do not always achieve erections due to arousal. They can wake up with them, get them due to an intense need for urination, simple fidgeting, or for no real reason they can explain. Teenage boys understand this on an intrinsic level, especially if they have ever had to hunch or hobble when called to write something on the board in high school. (Not that this every happened to me).

Unexplainable bodily reactions are the purview of all humans, and they even come with their own medical terminology; “Arousal Non-concordance.” It’s the disconnect between our bodies reacting in ways that we might categorize as sexual but there being no accompanying desire or consent for the stimuli to continue. Essentially, if you rub something, it’s going to react to you. But that doesn’t mean you should keep rubbing.

If you need a further example to understand this concept, I don’t blame you (I’m convinced that medical terminology is designed to be inscrutable) but I want you to consider that self-same pencil we talked about earlier.

If I were to jab you with said pencil again, only this time you achieved an erection, would you say I should continue jabbing you? Or would you say this was weird, maybe even frightening, and would you ask me to please stop?

How we feel about something is often nebulous and should come with its own warning label. (I suggest, ‘Subject to Change.’) It’s the difference between ‘Yes, I loved that!’ and ‘Please don’t do that again. You’re scaring me.’ It is the difference between thinking that we’re ready and actually being ready, which unfortunately for many of us, is a certainty we only achieve when we’re actually in the moment.

Whether we are a man or a woman or anything in between, our bodies can fool us, lead us on, and put us through the ringer. But before anyone tries to get impatient or pushy or disbelieving of what a potential partner is trying to tell you, I want you to keep thinking about that pencil. Think about being jabbed and shocked and confused and maybe even a little bit frightened. Hold onto that feeling. And then stop whatever it is you’re doing. Because clearly your partner and their body need to have a little talk before things go any further.

Henry Corrigan
People come to erotica for the heat, but they stay for the heart.
Twitter: @HenryCorrigan

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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