Swingers by Ashley Lister

Fantasy is the heart of erotic writing. I like to imagine being sandwiched between two horny men, or boldly seducing an inexperienced young woman, or being tightly bound and used in unspeakably obscene ways by a powerful and implacable Master or Mistress. I read erotica partly to experience what it might be like to fulfill such fantasies. In fantasy we can savor the decadent and possibly dangerous activities we don’t dare to attempt in real life, without worrying about conscience or consequences.

What happens, though, when we step over the line and make those fantasies real? In SWINGERS, Ashley Lister’s scorching new non-fiction title from Virgin Books, dozens of real people talk about what it’s like to make their particular fantasies come true: Ménages á trois, gang bangs, public sex, Roman orgies, lesbian lust, even being ravished by a werewolf. Okay, so the werewolf scenario is still a fantasy, but Walter and Wendy enact this imagined encounter in painstaking detail (on a moonlit night, in a deserted highway rest area, with the help of a rough, hairy stranger solicited via the Internet).

An accomplished erotic novelist, as well as a prolific columnist for ERWA, Ashley has turned underground journalist in order to explore the mostly secretive world of swinging. His stated objective is to share the realities and debunk the myths about people who indulge in recreational sex. Ultimately, though, Ash is a story teller. Instead of a dispassionate examination of the varied activities and conventions of contemporary swingers, he has woven a lusty and entertaining tapestry from the personal stories of their sexual adventures (and occasional misadventures). He mixes direct quotations from his interviewees with his own (presumably imagined!) descriptions of their encounters — explicit sex scenes at least as hot as any you’ll find in his novels. Sly Mr. Lister doesn’t openly admit that one of his goals is to arouse his readers, but I’m sure that the effects of this book are not accidental.

At the same time, the varied definitions and activities clustered here under the broad heading of “swinging” do fascinate and inform. There’s the happy threesome of Andrew, Brenda and Charlie (all names, of course, are fictional), who attend swing parties together but who find that they have the most intense and enjoyable sex together after they get home. Eve and Frank get their kicks “dogging”: parking in deserted areas and letting strangers watch or participate in their sexual antics. Sam arranges a very special birthday present for Sandra: a visit, in their hotel room, from two well-hung guys who screw her while Sam watches. Deborah enjoys jacking off her male friends’sometimes several at a time — although she insists that she’s not a swinger. Grace and Harry host parties deliberately choreographed to get their guests’ blood boiling. Norman’s and Olivia’s sex life has blossomed since she began seducing other men and then recounting all the juicy details. Successful single career woman Shelly fantasized for years about a gang bang, and finally realized that she had to arrange one for herself.

Most of the voices in this book sound pleased and satisfied with their lifestyles, but Ashley doesn’t omit the occasional awkwardness, discomfort, inadequacy and even negativity. One couple he interviews eventually separated, after trying swinging in order to “add honesty” to their relationship. Some couples set strict limits on what activities they’re willing to engage in with someone other than their spouses. Some attend parties or sex clubs but never do find what (or who) they really want. Then there’s the bizarre but compelling story of Xia, who arrives at a party to be told that she’s the evening’s “gang bang girl”, and who is then fucked so often and so hard that her kidneys are bruised and her sex scraped raw — but who’s more turned on by the experience than she’s ever been before or since.

My personal favorite anecdote belongs to Sonia and Roger, who turn a night in the pub with some male friends into a public masturbation party. No one touches Sonia as she shows off and turns them all on, but the story hums with sexual tension. I found this particular tale such a turn-on because the scene was largely unpremeditated. Sonia and her husband had talked about exhibitionist and group sex fantasies, but the details, and the reactions of the other participants, were spontaneous. Anything could have happened.

My own experience with swinging has been largely consistent with the world described by Ashley’s informants. On the one hand, it’s exciting to be in an environment where the atmosphere is reeking with sex; where you’re encouraged to view others as potential partners, and to flaunt your own sexual desirability. On the other hand, the scripted quality of sex parties (“protocol … more rigid than you’d find at a Victorian tea party”, according to one of Ashley’s contributors), and the emphasis on physical attraction, reduce some of the appeal for me. I’d rather be surprised and overwhelmed by lust than expect it.

But of course, that’s just my personal fantasy. Whatever your own favorite imaginings, you’re likely to enjoy these accounts of people crossing the line to make their secret desires and obsessions real.

Swingers: True confessions From The Modern Swinging Scene
(Virgin Books; June 27, 2006; ISBN 0753511355)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

© 2006 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Writing Naked by Mike Kimera

What is the essence of erotica? On the ERWA Writers’ List, this question surfaces at least once every quarter. There are as many answers as there individuals — readers and writers. Erotica is writing that arouses the reader. Erotica is words to wank to. Erotica celebrates our sexual selves. Erotica is escapist, letting us experience vicariously the fantasies that we can’t fulfill in real life. Erotica is political and subversive, writing that challenges the dominant cultural view of sex as something shameful, sinful, and evil. Erotica is personal and psychological, exploring the sexual sources of human conflict, motivation and emotion. Erotica is transformational, leading us to new visions of our sexual selves.

Mike Kimera sometimes wonders in his postings to Writers whether what he writes is “erotica”. Based on the sampling of stories in his stunning collection, WRITING NAKED, I don’t think there is any doubt. Mike writes graphic, honest, revealing, and sometimes painful tales about believable and mostly sympathetic humans in the grip of sexual desire. WRITING NAKED is bold and arousing. At the same time, it delves deeper and exposes more of the psychological realities of sex than most erotic writing.

The slim volume hangs between the poles of two multi-part stories: “Writing Naked: Letters to Myself” (the highly deserving winner of the 2005 Rauxa Prize for erotic writing) and “American Holidays”. The former is the intricate self-dissection of an acknowledged porn addict and sexual adventurer. The latter follows a set of interlinked characters through a set of emotional and sexual crises that coincide, as crises so often do, with holidays: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and so on. Each is a tour de force of erotic writing. Reading about blindfolded Peter being used by his dominant wife and her much-desired best friend is an incredible turn-on. However, there’s more here than that. The characters feel extraordinarily real. They are ordinary people except perhaps for being more sexually voracious than average. They are confused and guilty and consistently, overwhelmed by lust.

If there’s one theme that unites the stories in WRITING NAKED, it is the concept that intense sexual desire is somehow foreign, inscrutable, uncontrollable, and irresistible once it is given free reign. Kimera’s characters do things they know they will regret later, burning as they do in the superheated furnace of lust. In the brief but totally arresting “Happy Hour”, a character muses:

“I wonder how many other women have sweated and moaned their way to slick release upon the tightly woven beauty of this rug? In the beginning I thought it a magic carpet, carrying me to new heights; I rode it while Gerald rode me. Now I realise that both Gerald and I have been abducted by some poltergeist of lust. We are now so high we can find no way to reach the ground.”

And then later:

“This thing we have, whatever it is, is not friendship, or love. It doesn’t make us stronger or better. It consumes us. We are burning in each other’s arms.

“I hope that when the fire goes out we will not be hollow.”

It’s not that Kimera’s creatures don’t know love. They do. When they are lucky, as in the opening story, “I Want to Watch You Do It”, the romantic short “Kneading”, or the slyly seductive BDSM tale, “Other Bonds Than Leather”, their emotional attachment coincides with the object of their lust. All too often, though, their hearts and their genitalia are headed in totally different directions.

“I felt like an alcoholic who everyone thinks is sober; the fact that he isn’t drinking doesn’t mean he’s sober, it just means that he’s managed not to be drunk today. Every day that I refused to listen to the wilder side of my nature was a victory, but I didn’t expect to keep on winning forever.” (“Happy Anniversary”)

It may sound as though Kimera’s stories are dark, and many of them are. I couldn’t read the two hundred pages of this book in a single session; the emotional impact was just too overwhelming. However, there are gems of raunchy humor in this collection, most notably the tongue-in-cheek “Friday Night at the Adult Bookstore”, the delicious fantasy tale “Go Large”, and the truly inspired “Mating Calls”:

“I made the mistake of phoning Kyle, my most recent ex, to ask him if I was a noisy fuck. Cue one fucked up conversation.

“‘Babe,’ he said (I hate being called babe and he knows it), ‘when we fucked, I only knew you were awake because you made no noise. As soon as you fell asleep, you’d start snoring.’

“‘Oh, yeah?’ I replied (okay, so I’m not always calm on the phone). ‘Well, the only reason I knew I was awake when we fucked was because sex was always fun in my dreams.'” (“Mating Calls”)

There are also a few stories of sweet redemption through the flesh. “Newton’s Laws of Emotion” traces the emotional tectonics that bring a woman scientist to the point of introducing her artist husband and her physicist lover. “Eve’s Freedom” is a simple tale about the healing power of love, even when unrequited. And the lyrical “Tiger Tiger” reaffirms that even when we don’t will or comprehend it, there may be something transcendental about sexual union.

There’s a trend in erotic writing these days toward the edgy and extreme: violent, shocking, completely transgressive. You might wonder if Mike Kimera’s stories fall into this category. In fact, they do not. Mike’s characters often behave badly. They fuck roughly, deceive freely, break taboos left and right. However, they never lose their humanity. Somehow there’s always a spark of empathy — even for the ugly millionaire who gets his kicks by paying women to be degraded in “Fucking Money”.

Mike pretends to distance himself from his characters, to survey their actions and unflinchingly report their foibles. His bio notes that he took a degree in psychology “out of sheer self-indulgence”. He likes to assume the pose of the analytical observer, the chronicler of lust. It’s just a pose, though. He cares about his characters far too much to be a clinician.

If you’re looking for light entertainment, no thought or emotion required, then skip this book. On the other hand, if you’re ready to experience desire in all its complexity and intensity, don’t miss it.

Writing Naked by Mike Kimera
(Samba Mountain Press; October 15, 2005; ISBN 0971662398)
Available at: Amazon.com

© 2006 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers Edited by Mitzi Szereto

When I first saw the call for submissions for Mitzi Szereto’s anthology, I had to admit I was intrigued. History and sex should go together like bacon and jam. These are two subjects that are so totally different they should not naturally be combined. One is something that happened a long time ago and a subject I have seldom understood: the other is history.

Admittedly, bodice rippers and period romances are perennially popular, but this anthology called for more than that. The CFS [Call for Submissions] mentioned famous historical characters and demanded a speculative insight into their private lives. It was such a unique challenge I had to put pen to paper.

My submission is on page 166 for those who are going to rush out and buy a copy. But I’ll share a secret about Mitzi’s editing before you go to the shop: she’s ruthless. When she sent back my proofs, complete with suggested revisions, there was a wry note attached to one of the typos. My intention had been to mention the heroine’s “golden curls.” But the typo pixies had intervened and produced the phrase “golden girls.”

The Golden Girls?” Mitzi enquired. “Dorothy, Rose and Blanche get everywhere, don’t they?

Wicked begins with the King and ends with the Lord. It’s fair to say that the anthology takes a pleasantly circuitous journey between these two legends through some of history’s most memorable names as perceived by some of today’s strongest erotic writers.

Elvis, Axl and Me is a shining example of perfectly paced story-telling, quirky humour, and characterisation so strong you could almost kiss the heroine. Award winning short story writer, novelist and essayist, Janice Eidus, has produced a tongue-in-cheek tale that sizzles with passion and sings with its own distinctive style.

In The Ballad of Scott and Zelda, Maxim Jakubowski transports the reader back in time to the days of flappers and the American literati of the twenties, thirties and forties. Aside from writing with his usual flair for noir erotica, Maxim makes this story delicious for the exchange he has included between Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Tulsa Brown brings together Pablo Piccaso, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas with an imaginative twist and a sizzling content. Lynda Schor has produced a story that is grotesquely absorbing and arousing in spite of its subject matter. Vanesa Baggott rewrites Genesis with her cleverly constructed tale: On The Eighth Day.

There are other legendary names in the anthology, and that remark applies to the authors as well as the protagonists in their stories. Mitzi Szereto has included her Letter to Valentino, while Sacchi Green presents a glorious image of Dietrich in army boots. The brilliant Ann Dulaney, the inimitable A F Waddell and the stylish Fiona Zedde all make compelling contributions. There are plenty of others all of them equally worthy of being mentioned — but a part of the appeal with this anthology is that you don’t know who you’re going to meet next and, personally, I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Some of these stories will entertain as they are read: others have that distinctive charm that makes them return to the thoughts days later. Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers, is an anthology that is needed in everyone’s collection: and I’m not just saying that because my story is included.

Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers
(Cleis Press; March 10, 2005; ISBN: 1573442062)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

© 2006 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

The Collector’s Edition of Victorian Lesbian Erotica, World of Woman, Twilight Girl, The Devil Inside, Bosslady, The Erotic Writer’s Market Guide, The User’s Guide to the Rabbit

The Collector’s Edition of Victorian Lesbian Erotica
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

Why does lesbianism work so well in a Victorian setting?

According to common sense it shouldn’t. The Victorian’s were a misogynistic society where a woman’s place was firmly set in either the home, the brothel or any other place where she had no political or spiritual influence. Admittedly Queen Victoria reigned over the UK then, but her position did very little to forward the cause of feminism. It’s difficult to say whether this was because Queen Victoria was as ignorant of real life as all British royalty before or since. (I believe there is some grain of truth in the rumour that Queen Victoria vetoed references to lesbianism in a ruling against homosexuality because she maintained ladies did not do such things). Or if she simply didn’t care about the sex lives of the populace because she was highly satisfied by a husband who gave his name to one of the most notorious of male body piercings.

It can even be argued that lesbianism didn’t properly exist during Victorian times. Etymologists have difficulty locating references of that word prior to 1880 — two thirds of the way through Victoria’s reign. Up to that point lesbianism was referred to as tribadism, sapphism and urningtum. Rather than being known as “the love that dare not speak its name,” it would probably have been more accurate to call it “the love that has difficulty pronouncing its name.” Without wishing to go for the cheap gag: I would find it hard to get my tongue around any of those.

Yet, for some reason, The Collector’s Edition of Victorian Lesbian Erotica provides us with stories that are arousing, true to their time, and show that stories of lesbian erotica do work very well in the strict formality of those times.

Magic Carpet books have put together a delightful collection of Victorian stories that show, regardless of the era, girls just want to have fun. Complete with all the coy phrases, verbosity, and the overly formal language that is the hallmark of Victorian storytelling, The Collector’s Edition of Victorian Lesbian Erotica delivers a wonderful balance of lengthy and arousing short stories.

World of Woman & Twilight Girl
Available at:
Amazon.com / Amazon UK

Less salacious, but no less compelling, are the recent Cleis re-releases of World of Woman and Twilight Girl. These stories, marketed under the label “Lesbian Pulp Fiction” are delightful explorations of three-dimensional characters from the early sixties.

The erotic content of these stories is subtle. The focus is heavily centred on the interactions of living, breathing (and sometimes panting) characters. They live in a murky world of passionate relationships, broken hearts and an unforgiving society.

When these stories were first released they broke the mould of storytelling. In a century that was far more homophobic than the one where we currently reside, these stories provided reassurance to many and confirmation to others that female relationships were not evil, immoral or wrong.

And, while they deserve a commendable place in history for that small service, they should also hold a prize for being effective tools of characterisation and storytelling. Admittedly, the bedroom scenes don’t go as far as those contained in The Collector’s Edition of Victorian Erotica, but the sensual intimacy that leads to those scenes suggests enough compelling action to make them a worthwhile investment.

The Devil Inside
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

What can I say about Portia da Costa that hasn’t already been said? OK. I could say that we were in a chatroom the other night and she told me what she really thinks about guys who do the housework. Her words: “I’d rather be dead than domesticated,” certainly put me in my place.

Portia da Costa, as most regular erotic readers will know, is the successful author of many erotic titles. Her recent Black Lace title Entertaining Mr Stone is an amusing and arousing romp through the corridors of local government offices.

But The Devil Inside is something else.

Set in an idyllic and exclusive Caribbean resort the story begins as the heroine (Alexa Lavelle) is recovering from a recent head injury. Alexa hasn’t been seriously hurt but it has left her with more than a small bump on the back of her bonce: it’s left her with an ability that Portia describes as “Extra Sensual Perception.”

Portia writes sex for connoisseurs of quality erotica. The motive that adds rocket fuel to the heroine’s libido is made believable because it’s inexplicable. Alexa’s subsequent encounters, her desire to understand this new driving force in her life and her response to each intimacy are all delivered in a credible and convincing fashion. Definitely a good title to increase the temperature of the remaining summer nights and make things steamy and sultry.

Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

For those of us who like our women strong, Bosslady includes twenty tales of women who wield the whip, rule the roost, and generally prove that the fairer sex deserves (and often demands) due reverence.

Those who know me will be well aware that I enjoy anthologies, especially when the pages are filled with writers who have proven track records. Michelle Houston “Sensual Bonds,” Rachel Kramer Bussel “Spike,” and D L King “Subway Story,” are all veterans of the genre and provide their usual fare of quality fiction that is designed to please on so many levels. D Musgrave “Plumb Bob,” Robert Buckley “Going the Distance,” and JZ Sharpe “In the Stable,” add a familiar style and high standard that should be trademarked to those who have written for ERWA.

There is a lot to be said for a strong and purposefully lady. Aside from the reflection in my mirror, there are few things sexier than a woman who is in control and knows exactly what she wants. Bosslady proves this with the panache and style that Justus Roux adds to all her anthologies.

Erotic Writer’s Market Guide
Available at:
Amazon.com / Amazon UK

I held the Erotic Writer’s Market Guide in my hand and thought: Why wasn’t this available ten years ago? Ten years ago I was struggling to break into the erotic writing market and had no idea where to turn, who to trust or what to do. A book like this would have been invaluable ten years ago.

Then I opened the book and discovered the book was effectively started ten years ago. According to the introduction The Erotic Writer’s Market Guide was originally the brainchild of David Laurents. As a work in progress it was added to by Cecilia Tan and then augmented by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Rob Hill, Nick Richardson and Kelly J Cooper are some of the others who have contributed to the finished product.

And what a finished product it is!

The advice in these pages comes from writing professionals who know the industry better than anyone else. There are chapters that objectively break down the forms of erotica; advise how to make a submission; and suggest how to deal with rejection. There are helpful tips on of contract negotiation, reprint rights, online rights and even advice on how a writer should meet their readership.

With only those elements, The Erotic Writer’s Market Guide would be a complete book and worth the read. But because this volume contains Market Listings for books, magazines and electronic books that specialise in erotica, it becomes invaluable.

If you enjoy reading erotic fiction, you will want to buy one of the previously mentioned titles. If you enjoy writing erotic fiction: you need to buy The Erotic Writer’s Market Guide.

The User’s Guide to the Rabbit
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

When I mentioned The User’s Guide to the Rabbit to a female friend her immediate response was: “Who would need a user’s guide for a vibrator? doesn’t everyone know what to do with them?”

I then mentioned one of the tips in Marcelle’s latest title and the lady replied, “Oh! I never thought of doing that.”

The User’s Guide to the Rabbit is essential reading for anyone who owns a Rabbit vibrator or is thinking of making the purchase. As Marcelle points out: “Although these vibrators sell in their millions, typically sex toys contain no product literature.” This book provides the much needed solution to that oversight — and more.

I don’t use the word “sexpert” often (mainly because my computer puts a wiggly red line underneath it and makes me feel guilty about writing a word that isn’t in the dictionary) but Marcelle is definitely worthy of the title. The User’s Guide to the Rabbit contains invaluable information on purchasing a rabbit, using a rabbit, maintaining a rabbit and even taking it safely on holiday.

© 2006 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage

The book has a wholesome cover, with a resounding title, The Commitment, the letters of which happen to go through a gold wedding band. The subtitle is almost as thoroughly decent: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family. It’s that sex part that is going to bother people. Of course Americans are all over the map about sex, but surely no one really objects to sex when connected to marriage. But that’s the problem. The Commitment (Dutton) is written by Dan Savage, who can’t marry, or at least, in America, in most places, can’t marry. The book is built upon the preparations Dan made to celebrate ten years of a stable relationship with his boyfriend (he hates the word “partner”) Terry, and the varying degrees of cold feet they got about making it a marriage. The relationship between them never seems in doubt; Savage writes convincingly and sweetly about his love and reliance on Terry, and especially about their six-year-old adopted son D.J. If those who insist that marriage can only be between one man and one woman pick up this book (not much chance of that), they will find an otherwise rock-solid, traditional family: Dan goes out and works, Terry takes care of the home front, and D.J. plays Iron Maiden too loud. And they have a deaf, half-blind, brain-damaged poodle. “With the exception of all the homosexual sodomy, most of what goes down under our roof is a social conservative’s wet dream.”

So, if it has all worked so well so long, why fret about making it a marriage? There are many wonderful reasons given here, which from time to time almost convince Dan and Terry. I think the most preposterous one is one of the most convincing. The poodle, named Stinker, was badly injured when it jumped out of Terry’s car; eventually it got to a vet’s, and Terry was taken home by sympathetic bystanders. He called Dan in hysterics, and Dan decided to take over, calling the vet to find out how the dog was. He got a curt response that that the veterinary clinic could not release a patient’s confidential medical information unless it was to a family member. “There was a long pause,” Dan writes, “as I picked the pieces of my brain up off the sidewalk.” Dan was not a husband or wife, and so could not be told anything about Stinker’s condition. In exasperation, he exclaimed, “Lady, it’s a dog — and the hysterical fag who brought the dog in? That’s my boyfriend. And the dog isn’t even technically his dog. It’s my son’s dog. And I paid for that dog. And you know what? You have my permission to release my dog’s confidential medical information to anyone on earth who expresses the least bit of interest in it.” The receptionist does not budge. Dan had worried for years that he might be unable to make medical decisions for Terry if there were an emergency, but it “.never occurred to me that, as a gay couple, we would face discrimination during our poodle’s medical emergency.”

Until gay marriage is completely legal, they will face such problems, but they might spring up to Canada and get a real marriage just for the sake of doing so, although such a marriage will not be recognized when they return. It might put a jinx on the relationship, they reason; so might the his-and-his matching tattoos, which Terry suggests. With their 10th anniversary fast approaching, they want some way of celebrating, and they start all the plans, hiring Caroline, a professional “Non-wedding Planner”, with whom they hammer out such niceties as cake. “We decided against cake,” says Terry, the “we” being he and Caroline; “A cake says ‘wedding’.” But Dan gives a delightful history of cake in his life and insists on it, and gets his way. (Elsewhere in the book, he sagely cautions, “If I’d learned anything after being in a relationship for nearly ten years, it’s the importance of letting your boyfriend win one every once in a while.”) Confronted with the rising cost of the party, Caroline cheerfully admonishes, “Look on the bright side. You don’t have to buy a dress. That’s going to save you five grand right off the bat.” Dan writes a hilarious invitation:

Mr. Daniel K. Savage and Mr. Terrence A. Miller Request the honor of your presence at, Well, not at the marriage of Mr. Daniel K. Savage To Mr. Terrence A. Miller Since they can’t get married. Gay marriage is illegal where they live. Even if they could, they’re not sure they would. So while this may look like a wedding invitation, It’s actually an invitation to a party — are parties still legal? — To celebrate Mr. Savage and Mr. Miller’s Tenth Anniversary.

They were eventually sure about the party, but remained iffy about marrying. Terry’s objection was always, “I don’t want to act like straight people.” But as Dan writes, “I believe the first time he made this comment he was folding my laundry, balancing our baby on his hip, and stirring a pot of grits on the stove.” The strongest advocate for marriage was Dan’s mother, who insists, “You should stop worrying about acting like straight people, Terry, and start acting like the person I know that you are — a serious, grown-up, responsible person who should be mature enough to make a serious commitment to the person he chose to start a family with, just like his parents did.” The strongest advocate against the marriage proved to be D.J., who expresses the opinion, “It would be dumb and stupid and retarded and gross and dumb and stupid and retarded and gross and dumb.” (Religious conservatives take note: Terry and Dan are raising a son, not raising a homosexual.) His objection: “Boys don’t marry boys.” But when Terry asks, “So, should we marry some girls?” D.J. exclaims, “No!” Dan writes, “It just felt so weird to be a gay couple with a six-year-old kid who opposed same sex marriage.”

But D.J. comes around when he thinks about his friend’s parents who are divorcing, and that they didn’t keep their promise they made when they got married. Dan assures him that he and Terry will stay together, that they love each other and always will, but D.J. likes the promise idea: “I want you and Daddy to promise, to pinky promise, to seriously and forever promise, and no breaking your promise.” He thus consents to a marriage as a promise, but insists that it if it consists of a minister saying “You may now kiss blah blah blah” he isn’t going to watch. But he has to make the trip to Canada, since the friend who was to keep him got the flu, and on the trip, to get him in the mood, Dan tells him he can pick out the rings. He picks out skull rings, which makes Terry laugh but makes Dan try to direct D.J.’s attention to plain silver bands. “Skulls are cool,” said the Iron Maiden fan, and was exasperated to have to explain: “You’re going to promise to stay with Terry until you die. So when you look at your ring, you’ll see a skull and you’ll remember that you and Dad will be together until you’re both dead and you’re both skeletons and both your skulls are showing.” Skulls it is.

This is a wonderfully funny memoir with mild polemic running throughout. It’s a family story; if you want Americana in humor, there are plenty of episodes, like the time Dan played tooth fairy and mistakenly placed a five dollar bill under D.J.’s pillow instead of a one, thereby setting an expensive precedent and earning the ire of D.J.’s friends’ parents. It’s the sort of wholesomeness that makes one wonder just what those who object to homosexual marriage are so upset about. As Dan reflects on the Canadian marriage they had entered, “If marriage was a promise to care for another person, Terry and I had been married for a long time. When he calls, I drop everything. When I’m sick, he takes care of me. I don’t see how our commitment to each other threatens traditional marriage, but if it does, well, then traditional marriage will have to tough it out.”

The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family
(Dutton Adult; September 22, 2005; ISBN: 0525949070)
Available at:Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

© 2006 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Stirring up a Storm: Tales of the Sensual, the Sexual, and the Erotic Edited by Marilyn Jaye Lewis

This anthology has given me a lot of trouble, just its presence on the coffee table seems to send my children into a furore of activity, and causes the phone to ring incessantly. Which meant for some considerable time the nearest I got to indulging in its tales of the sensual, sexual and erotic was starring longingly at the cover, and wondering why my legs never look that good in stockings.

Eventually, I did manage to delve inside and was rewarded by some great storytelling from some of the hottest women authors of the last 30 years, including Margaret Atwood, Janice Eidus, Joyce Carol Oates, Max Sharam, M M De Voe, Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Rosemary Dashiell.

Lauren Henderson’s opening tale 5 JANUARY, 2004, invites us to throw off our inhibitions and experience the delights of an erotic massage, in a delightful holiday tale that engages the senses but never loses sight of reality.

Tulsa Brown follows with SKY PEOPLE, a deeply evocative tale of homosexuality and alien obsession at the dawn of the 1960’s. It begs us to question of ourselves and the motives of others, while entertaining us with its humour and insight.

Another trip into the past follows. Here ambiguity and drug-induced surrealism draw us into NON-STOP NEW YORK ECSTASY (1981), an essay by former music journalist and fetish model, Beverley Glick. You’ll notice I said essay, because I can’t bring myself to describe this particular piece of autobiography as a story — which doesn’t detract from it’s power, but does lead me to one criticism of the anthology. Why was this particular piece the only one of its kind? Intriguing as it was, it felt oddly misplaced surrounded by so much pure fiction. Poetry fares similarly; the only two entries are both from Rosemary Dashiell’s 1975 book, A Sexual Tour of the Deep South.

The anthology continues to explore a variety of sexualities, eras and personalities.

In CRUISE CONTROL, Pushcart Prize-winner, Janice Eidus draws us into the life of two strangers who recognise in each other traits they pursued and hungered for in their youths’ but rejected in favour of stability.

Bryn Colvin’s MOVING ON, portrays more lives on the cusp of change. In a grim future cityscape of a world destroyed by poisons in its atmosphere, a few hours and some simple human contact change a woman beyond recognition, and help to her face her past crimes.

There are plenty of gems tucked away at the back of this anthology too. HUBRIS, an amazon-inspired kidnap and freedom tale, by Jean Roberta, is about taking risks in the hopes of achieving a better life. NEROLI, by Susi Hara, uses roses to forge a link between two flatmates. In THE PANTS GIRL, Rachel Kramer Bussel ups the kink, and addresses the practice of fisting, while Kinni Ibura Salaam’s, MARKET INTIMACIES, wrenches the emotions, as we join a big lady on a desperate search for affection after the loss of a baby.

Editor, Marilyn Jaye Lewis’ ‘TIL DEATH, is a creepy, nostalgic tale of one woman’s lifetime experiences with two partners. The emotional complexities of our closest relationship are scrutinised and rounds out the collection, leaving us with questions to ask ourselves even once the book is closed.

The tales in STIRRING UP A STORM are intelligent, often brave and cover a variety of persuasions, orientations and fetishes. While not every story will appeal to every reader, they are all executed with the sort of style, solid plotting and good characterisation that pushes erotica ever close to the literary mainstream. I sometimes felt, though, that the anthology had been assembled to adhere to a manifesto, rather than purely to entertain, and that many of the stories are literary first and erotica as an afterthought.

Stirring up a Storm: Tales of the Sensual, the Sexual, and the Erotic
(Thunder’s Mouth Press; November 9, 2005; ISBN: 156025727X)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

© 2006 M. Ellis. All rights reserved.

Forbidden Reading by Lisette Ashton

I’ve a certain admiration for the Marquis de Sade, not for his politics, his philosophy or his sexual peccadilloes, but simply for his magnificent ending to Justine. It’s just so gloriously overindulgent. It’s also one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, which perhaps says more about my sense of humour and lack of regard for Justine, than it does for de Sade’s work.

I’m pleased to say that the principle character, Justine, in Lisette Ashton’s latest novel, Forbidden Reading makes a far more likeable heroine than her namesake. She is neither painfully stupid, or obsessed with her virtue, just a sexy submissive on a quest for a book she truly desires: La Coste, supposedly de Sade’s most disturbing work. To acquire it, Justine must prove herself worthy by facing the extremes of punishment and pleasure at the hands of the members of The Society, a collective of hedonists and perverted heathens dedicated to exploring the arts of sacrilege, sadism and subversion. Cue horny priests, stern mistresses, and orgiastic delights.

While much of the book is pure homage to de Sade, and Justine seems to drift along with what’s happening with few questions as to where this is all taking her, there are also moments of genuine reflection and emotional attachment. The lesbian relationship she develops with a particular French penitent offers an insight into her real motives and feelings, as well as providing some softer moments. It’s not a romance by any stretch, but the heartfelt simplicity of the relationship in the midst of all the sexual excess does render it that bit more poignant.

I can honestly say I liked Ms Ashton’s, Justine, who is submissive without falling into the trap of being a vacuous bimbo or hopelessly naive. Instead, she is intelligent enough to know what she is, and how to enjoy the opportunities offered her. She also deserves her far kinder ending.

While I enjoyed Forbidden Reading, I will say that this isn’t a book for everyone. It really caters for a niche market that enjoys its sex with lashings of pain, humiliation and blasphemy. If these aren’t your things, choose something else, because this is what Forbidden Reading dishes out aplenty. If they are, give Justine and her quest a go. It’s fun escapism, a bit tongue in cheek, well written and manages to deliver a few twists along the way.

Nexus is the UK’s longest running imprint of erotic fiction and consistently delivers quality fiction with an unusual slant and Forbidden Reading is no exception.

Forbidden Reading by Lisette Ashton
(Virgin Books/Nexus; August 29, 2006; ISBN 0352340223)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2006 M. Ellis. All rights reserved.

The Black Masque by Lisette Ashton

Vampires, sex and gothic grandeur combine in this fourth outing for bisexual private eye Jo Valentine. The Black Masque are a secretive community whose ceremonies are steeped in an erotic blend of vampire myth and orgiastic excess. Here eager virgins are prepared for the sacrificial altar and new members are welcomed in twisted ceremonies of pleasure and pain. Presiding over this dark world is Barrington, their mysterious and commanding leader.

Sharp-tongued Jo is drawn into this community as they prepare for their greatest ritual to date. Barrington is to take a bride, and passions are running high over who will fill that illustrious position. Particularly affected are Eloise and Zoe, the foot rubbing lesbian lovers, whose affair has so far escaped Barrington’s notice.

Jo finds herself on a tight deadline. She has been hired to get the Black Masque out of the mansion they’re occupying by the weekend, or she forfeits her fee. In order to convince Barrington to leave she’s going to have to use all her powers of persuasion, as well as her wits to find the wedding dress he’s so adamant his bride should wear.

To top everything off, Jo’s infuriatingly submissive partner Sam turns up and proceeds to do exactly the opposite of everything Jo asks her in the hopes of being punished. Still, somehow Jo manages to successfully conclude everything and win her fee.

What I like about this book is the delicious blend of high jinx and gothic overtones. It’s very hard to take things seriously when everyone is having so much fun. And the emphasis is on fun. There’s no heartache or real emotional turmoil here and you’re left in no doubt that everything will come right for everyone, eventually.

I would have like there to have been more of a twist to the story. The mystery elements are fairly light, and really just provide an interesting backdrop for the book’s real theme of sex, of which there’s plenty. Lesbianism features prominently as do group couplings and vampire S&M trysts. Jo drifts from one sexual encounter to another (we never really see her do any detective work) enjoying everything that’s thrown at her, and occasionally finding time to engage in a bit of witty repartee. The characters in general aren’t particularly deep; however, they are distinctive, from the quick-witted Jo, through the waif-like Zoe, to imposing yet indecisive Barrington. Perhaps the most interesting representation is that of Eloise, who is practical, sexy, intelligent and large.

If you’re looking for a bit of undemanding vampire fun with lots of sex then The Black Masque may just appeal. Should you find you’re enamoured of luscious detective Jo, then you can follow her other adventures in The Black Room, The Black Garter, The Black Widow and The Black Flame, all of which are available from Nexus books.

The Black Masque by Lisette Ashton
(Virgin Books/Nexus; August 30, 2005; ISBN 0352339772)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

© 2006 M. Ellis. All rights reserved.

Filthy: Outrageous Gay Erotica by M. Christian

M.Christian will do anything. That’s what you’ll be ready to believe if you read much of his work, and most particularly, this latest collection of his M-M stories, Filthy: Outrageous Gay Erotica. The subtitle “outrageous” is appropriate, as much for the ancillary action and the themes of these tales as for their sexual content. The truth is that M.Christian can imagine anything, and describe it so convincingly that you can’t help but believe that he has actually been through the experience.

In the chilling yet ultimately uplifting “Friday Night at the Calvary Hotel”, we meet a nameless drifter who accepts thirty thousand dollars to indulge another man’s unusual kink: a lust to be crucified. “Suddenly, Last Thursday” introduces us to Sebastian, a diabolically talented chef who understands the incestuous relationship between physical and sexual hunger. “Imago” portrays the peculiar liberation of suspension bondage, being completely immobilized, mummified, blindfolded, gagged: “Breathing a cavernous roar in his ears, his heartbeat the trot of steaming horses, vision nothing but soft black, taste of his own sweat trickling down from his upper lip, touching nothing but steaming self, reflected back by his insular cocoon, … between floor and ceiling, self and other, here and there.” “Heart in Your Hand” is simultaneously graphic and romantic in its portrayal of a relationship based primarily on fisting.

M.Christian does it all: sentimental nostalgia in “Happy Feet” and “Flyboy”, gritty noir in “Bitch” and “The Hard Way”, self-deprecating humor in “Moby”, and futuristic angst in “Utter West”. The latter was one of my favorite stories in the book, as much for its haunting depiction of adolescent desire and loss as for its portrayal of the uber-suburbia of the future and its discontents. Another favorite was “The Greener Grasses”, with its searing D/s scene and its final ironic twist.

The sex in these stories also varies, from gentle and tentative to rough and urgent. None of the stories, though, is only about sex. I found myself wondering whether gay men would be turned on by these tales — and whether they would be able to tell that M.Christian is in fact (if not in fiction) straight. In “About the Author”, M.Christian imagines, in his usual vivid detail, the disillusionment of a gay man discovering that his favorite author of queer smut is actually one hundred percent het.

Much of the other gay erotica that I’ve read has leaned heavily on the physical. This author, though, is at least as interested in the emotional and yes, the spiritual, dimensions of sexual encounters as he is in muscular buns, tanned pecs, thick uncut cocks, salt, sweat and jism. I don’t know how a gay man would react to these non-physical complexities, but they suit my preferences perfectly. If your tastes match mine, you should pick up a copy of this intriguing collection.

Filthy: Outrageous Gay Erotica
(Alyson Books; June 1, 2006; ISBN: 1555839517)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2006 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Sex in Uniform Edited by Kerri Sharp

Can I let you into a secret? I find uniforms sexy.

OK, you’re thinking: what’s the big secret?

The truth is, we can seldom admit to finding uniforms sexy without being branded as the kinkiest sort of pervert. And the bigger truth is, we all find one uniform or another sexually exciting. I’ll be honest and admit I don’t find every type of uniform stimulating. Show me someone in a red and white striped shirt asking me if I’d “like fries with that,” and I can’t say it will ever be a big turn on. Similarly, the dull green fleeces and shapeless black pants that comprise the ASDA [UK equivalent of Wal-Mart] uniform have never pressed my buttons.

But, lead me to a naughty nurse, show me a policewoman looking cool and authoritative or, my personal favourite, present me with a female soldier in camouflage gear and combat boots, and I turn into a gibbering blancmange of lust and hormones.

When I’ve confided this to friends, I’ve been told I have some sick and twisted appetites: although it’s always agreed that my thing for nurses is a universal deviance. So I usually stay quiet and seldom mention the pleasure I get from watching those unfortunate incidents that involve large crowds of police officers or the grim news footage of military manoeuvres.

Consequently, it has come as something of a relief to find my kinkiness is supported by the opinions of those authors who have written for Black Lace’s Wicked Word anthology, Sex in Uniform. This anthology of cheeky shorts includes eighteen naughty tales of uniform desires. The stories are as stylish as the usherette in Candy Wong’s “Second Skin” and hot enough to require the services of the fireman from Dru Barker’s title: Sophie’s Choice.

For an anthology with the word uniform in the title, the mix of writing styles is wonderfully diverse.

Alison Tyler, as deliciously kinky as ever, introduces her heroine to a masterful police officer in “Ransacked.” Those familiar with Ms Tyler’s fiction won’t be disappointed with this story, or her eloquent execution of a tale that is both amusing and arousing.

Primula Bond produces a collection of deviant outfits for her story “Confessions.” From the sixth form uniform of the heroine, through to the habit of a novice nun and the cassock and vestments of a convent chaplain, Primula describes and narrates a wickedly entertaining tale.

In “Ramraiders,” by Nuala Deuel, a security guard working the night shift receives a pleasant distraction to her evening in an empty warehouse. The strength of the characters involved is only surpassed by the marvellous development of the tale and the perfect climax that follows a gloriously torrid encounter.

Forest rangers, postal workers, air stewardesses and chauffeuses are all beautifully represented, as are the cleaning lady, doctors and railway guards.

But perhaps the most deviant icon in the collection comes in Elizabeth Coldwell’s witty and exciting tale “Park and Ride” where her heroine develops a fixation with Traffic Wardens.

Surprisingly, Elizabeth Coldwell shows her traffic wardens to be human beneath the uniform. Admittedly, she does take a glorious pleasure from equating her heroine’s infatuation to something intolerably vulgar and low. But the fun of the story makes up for the fact that she has humanised the most inhuman of all uniformed workers.

Sex in Uniform is the latest in a series of anthologies from Black Lace and it really does showcase some talented authors exercising the most wonderful imaginations. For those who enjoy their erotic fiction dressed at its most resplendent, Sex in Uniform is a must-read title.

Sex in Uniform
(Virgin Books/Black Lace; ISBN 1562014455)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

© 2006 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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