Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Seduction Success

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology (well, er, Blogger scheduling) it shouldn't have been noticeable that I've been away for a fortnight. I went on holiday with a bunch of friends and dogs to the Isle of Man (no work done), and then followed it up with a week's dog-sitting for another friend in her place Down South - during which I wrote loads, I'm happy to say. Solitude may send one slightly batty, but that never hurt a writer's career.

So, things have been happening behind the scenes. I've completed the first 3 chapters of Heart of Flame. I finished a short erotic story on the subject of Liaisons and sent it off to Black Lace today. And I've managed to place 2 short stories! The first was a ghost story that's going to a Canadian horror anthology. The second was my erotic short story Honey Trap, which will be published by Black Lace in their upcoming collection on the theme of Seduction in February 2009.

This is the first contemporary and completely non-paranormal erotic story I've done for Black Lace, which breaks one of my rules. It's set in the Middle-Eastern state of Jordan, which breaks another rule by being a set in a holiday destination I've not actually been to yet: I don't get to Jordan until October. Hence no pretty pictures of Jordanian views on this post, just a bunch of (Moroccan) dates.

Oh, and I've got a novella (Bear Skin, in Enchanted) and a novel(Wildwood) coming out next week from Black Lace. Eeek! time to update the website, pronto!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

More from Bruges

This may be one of the ugliest modern sculptures in Bruges (though believe me it faces severe competition), from one of the main squares. Is it supposed to be sexy? Comic? Who was it who decided that statues of women spurting water from their breasts made for ideal public art? I know it was a big theme during the Renaissance-Baroque periods. Odd. Just odd.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Marketing Frenzy

In case you hadn't noticed, the forthcoming short story anthology Flash Fucking: 60 stories of sudden sex, which includes my story Pirate Treasure, has now been renamed Frenzy:60 stories of sudden sex.

It's not my place to say so, but I suspect this was probably a wise marketing move. How many people are going to walk into their nice neighbourhood bookstore and say "Have you got a copy of Flash Fucking?" after all...

I think it's still due out in October, from Cleis. I know my mates Jeremy Edwards and Nikki Magennis are among the other authors included. 60 Bangs for your buck(s), guys! It should carry a health warning! ("This book may cause RSI and blindness".)

Monday, 21 July 2008

More Victorian Kinkery

This is a seriously pervy piece of Victorian Art. Called Brenn and his Share of the Plunder, it's by Paul-Joseph Jamin and was first exhibited in 1893. I guess Brenn is supposed to be a Goth, from his helmet and the bad 'tash. If this isn't a case of male wish-fulfilment, nothing is!

There's a brief but interesting analysis of the painting here at the BDSM site Informed Consent.

Friday, 18 July 2008

My Ego Shelf

This is my Ego Shelf. It's a collection of all the books and magazines I've had fiction published in (not necessarily under the name "Janine Ashbless"). It allows me to measure my sense of self-worth very directly. My ego is 13.5 inches long. Or if you prefer, it is Nineteen at the moment.

Obviously this is pretty small by the standards of some writers. But I'm working on it. And I confidently expect it to grow more this year! In the meantime I keep my ego shelf over my PC so that I can stare at it when I'm feeling down or useless.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Are You Evil?

Confused by modern mores? Tired of those difficult morally ambiguous decisions? Nip on over to this friendly questionaire and in a few minutes you can find out once and for all your Dungeons and Dragons alignment - are you good or evil, chaotic or lawful?

It will also tell you, based on your answers, your D&D race, level and character class. For the record I'm a half-elf Wizard and I'm good. Lawful Good mostly, followed by Neutral good, followed by Chaotic Good, with all other possibilities diminishing into the distance. I am least Chaotic Evil.

So anyone who thinks I'm an evil bitch is officially wrong. Nah nah nee nah nah!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Simon Says...

Shhh... I really shouldn't be doing this, but I got some feedback from the assistant editor at Black Lace on Dark Enchantment and it made me so happy I had to blab.

"I’m currently reading Dark Enchantment which I’m enjoying enormously. It’s one of the best titles I’ve had the pleasure to edit (very minimally in this case) during my almost 18 months at Black Lace – sexy, stylish, full of surprises and superbly written."

And slightly more worryingly:

"It’s not often I have to reach for a dictionary when reading a BL title but ‘And Their Flying Machines’ had me opening it twice before I’d reached the end of the second paragraph."

Ah. Those pesky ornithopters, I guess...

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Research Nausea

Update on my work-in-progress, Heart of Flame:

I have started. I've started with Chapter 2 because my mental picture of the characters introduced in Chapter 1 needs firming up, but that's okay. And I've got the plot roughed out.

Mostly though, I've been doing research. And thank the gods for Wikipedia, say I - How did writers manage before it? I've also borrowed a small car-load of books on Arabic history from a friend and my head is awash with new information; when it got to the point when I was feeling dizzy and a bit sick I knew I had to start writing it down! Anyway, I now know my Abbasids from my Umayyads, and my Caliphs from my Emirs (and believe me the difference is significant).

Not that this will necessarily show up in the written novel, but if I'm going to get details wrong I want at least to be aware that they are wrong and have made a conscious decision. For example, it is highly unlikely that my hero (or Sinbad himself for that matter) would, in a real historical context, have fought with a scimitar: curved swords were a Turkish introduction and earlier Arabic warriors fought with straight, double-edged blades. But I'm going to ignore this because the curved saif is part of the Arabian Nights archetype. Likewise there's no evidence of coffee shops as early as the 9th Century when Heart of Flame is set, although coffee is native to the Middle East and was arguably drunk in domestic settings, but I'm damn well having them in my novel.

My favourite source-book at the moment is History of the Arabs by Philip K. Hitti, which was published in 1930 and thus full of colour, social detail, interesting anecdotes and highly questionable eyewitness reportage, unlike the more modern books which are on the whole as bland and dry as they possibly can be. Hatti's book is of course extremely un-PC, reporting murders and religious persecutions without a qualm (more modern historians tend to fear looking bad by appearing potentially critical of non-Western cultures) and treating homosexuality with cross-eyed horror:

"We read of ghilman [catamites] in the reign of al-Rhashid, but it was evidently al-Amin who, following Persian precedent, established in the Arabic world the ghilman institution for the practice of unnatural sexual relations. A judge under al- Ma'mun used four hundred such youths. Poets like abu-Nuwass did not disdain to give public expression to their perverted passions...'"

Huzzah - now that is the sort of thing I need to know. Four hundred? In one sitting??

Monday, 7 July 2008


I'm a bit of a folkie. The YouTube clip above is Richard Thompson, venerable folksinger, doing a cover version of Britney's Oops I did It Again - taken from his great album 1000 Years of Popular Music.

Funny: it's only when you switch the gender and age of the singer does it become clear what a truly nasty, predatory song that is. Awesome.

Friday, 4 July 2008

"Prince Caspian" - movie review

The Chronicles of Narnia movie series exists, of course, purely to fill the hole in my soul while I am waiting for The Hobbit to arrive.

But oh boy does it fill that hole well!

Plot: the Pevensie children are summoned back to Narnia to find that over 1000 years have passed, humans have taken over the country and the native Narnians have been all but wiped out. The boy-king Caspian, having been usurped by his uncle Miraz, sides with the few remaining Narnians and leads a rebellion against humankind. The Pevensies join in.

I read and reread these books when I was little and it always seemed to me that Prince Caspian was the weakest of the lot: it's basically a trudge through the woods followed by a battle followed by Aslan turning up and telling everyone where they got it wrong. Again. (Mind you, it's also the book that convinced me that those American fundamentalists that believe that C S Lewis is a dangerous heretic who will lead children to paganism in the guise of Christianity might have a point*.)

This movie fixes the weaknesses of the book beautifully. It makes the characters far more complex, rounded and believable than their author ever did. It gives Susan a proper role in this her final trip to Narnia. It soups up the antagonism between Peter (the old king) and Caspian (the king to be), and resolves it (in the necromancy scene) in a manner that I thought was brilliantly clever. It adds a whole new section where a commado raid is staged on Miraz's palace - it goes horribly wrong and a lot of Narnians die: interestingly the Narnians previously considered to belong to Evil Races (minotaurs, those broo things, wolves) are shown to be among the bravest and most self-sacrificing. Reepicheep the mouse is made to seem charming instead of being the irritating little turd he is in the books. And Aslan just about gets away without looking like a total tool.**

This is a dark film, full of violent (though bloodless) battle - even the mice cut throats, and a scene where Miraz punishes his soldiers is genuinely horrifying. The moral labelling of the characters is much less black-and-white than in the first film. The politicing among Miraz's courtiers is superb - I hooted with delight watching them manipulate him to his downfall. Trumpkin the dwarf, dry and sarcastic, is absolutely excellent: my favourite character. Caspian is cute if you like the pretty-boy thing. And the lead centaur is HOT.

But the best thing about this movie was how emotionally engaging it was: with the last of the Narnians falling victims of genocide, it conveys the despair and anger and desperation really well. You can totally understand why some of them want to call the White Witch up from the dead: I'd have been tempted myself.

* They (the fundamentalists) are still vile moronic blights on the face of humanity of course. They're just good at spotting heresy.

** I can't bloody stand Aslan. He throws people into horrible situations which he could have solved with the blink of an eye, they battle or muddle through as best they can, and then he inevitably turns up and tells them off for not doing as well as they should have. Not to mention him leaving innocent faithful Narnians to suffer and die for thousands of years and doing bugger-all to stop it. But we're getting into Apologetics grounds here so I'll stop ranting...

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

"Empire in Black and Gold"

I want to give this book a plug because it was written by a friend of mine and it's published this week. And because I've read the uncorrected manuscript and even that was pretty damn good.

Adrian and I have been in the same story-writing group for a few years. (I hasten to add, I do not read my smutty stuff out on these occasions, I stick to horror and comedy - it would be fair to say that most people in the group Do Not Approve of Erotica.) Anyway, after many years battering at the gates of publisherdom, Adrian finally sold the first three volumes of what promises to be a truly epic story to Macmillan, thereby earning in one advance more than I've managed to earn in 10 years of writing erotica. Grr. But I don't resent him (much) because he's a truly talented and witty writer. And he has this great Evil Beard (but no, that's not a picture of him!). And Dark Enchantment is dedicated to his wife (who doesn't know that yet).

So - Empire in Black and Gold is the first of a fantasy series about a content-wide war. Imagine a world which looks like ancient Greece but is just launching into accelerated industrial revolution. There's a huge Empire on the march against the free city-states, and a handful of diverse characters trying to thwart it in various ways - and no sign of a convenient plot device (such as a One Ring) to solve their problem for them. Plus, giant insects! - all the different peoples have a deep connection to one insect type or another, which give them inhuman powers such as flight, group minds etc. The guy on the book cover is a Wasp Army soldier. No - don't forget the giant insects!

It's fantasy. It's steampunk. It's an enormous war epic. It features some very strong female characters. It is all action - the pace thunders along giving you nowhere to put the book down. Take my word for it: it's gripping stuff.

You can buy Empire in Black and Gold on AmazonUK. Plus, if you are in Reading (UK) this weekend you can pop into Waterstones bookshop where Adrian will be signing copies of the book.

Waterstones, United Reform Building, 89a Broad Street, Reading RG1 2AP
SATURDAY 5th JULY, 3-5pm

And his blog is here.