Sunday, 28 February 2010

Beauty and the Beast

This weekend just gone Mr Ashbless and I went to see the Disney Beauty and the Beast stage musical. It was lovely. And sweet. Or maybe not so sweet...
"My father lost me to The Beast at cards," is how Angela Carter's short story The Tiger's Bride opens. It's one of two riffs on B&tB in her seminal fairytale collection The Bloody Chamber (and if you haven't got a copy, WHY NOT? Get one now! - even if you have to sell your children to do so).

Beauty and the Beast has long been one of my favourite fairytales. Bookish girl, half-human male interest, the sickening fear, heh heh. And she's bartered by her father into slavery to a master with very unplatonic designs upon her: it's just bursting with sexual tension. My werewolf novella Bound in Skin is in fact an almost direct take on the story. Isolated castle. Big library. Trapped girl. Tortured, dangerous, lonely Beast. Oh yeah...

I always prefer the Beast before he gets transformed back into a handsome prince. Doesn't everyone? Of course this fairytale is forbidden by Black Lace standards - it breaks their rule that "It's got to have a human head!" and treads too close to bestiality. Hear that, all you Beauty and the Beast fans? You're a bunch of perverts! *sniggers*

Of course if you like your romantic hero more traditional - a dominant male who doesn't like to take No for an answer - there's always the hunky Gaston:

But I much prefer the Beast.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Short, but not all that short

So, for the last fortnight I've been working on two separate short stories, getting them ready for subbing. Much of this consisted of beating them with a big stick until all the adverbs fell off, because both were well over the max wordcounts allowable for their respective anthologies -10K in each case. (My natural wordcount for a short is actually about 7K, but both of these stories included lots of paranormal stuff and plot.)

Still, this should please the dingbat  reader who gave Dark Enchantment a 1-star Amazon review simply because she doesn't like short stories.

Honestly, there are days when I wonder why the hell I bother.

One of the two stories wasn't erotica - it was a Cthulhu-mythos horror tale I'd been sitting on for a few years. It needs to be published. You know how sometimes (maybe only once in your lifetime) you write something and you know it's better than anything you could actually do, and you think "Where the heck did that come from?!" Well, The Play's the Thing is one of those. I'm desperately hoping this one will please the dream editor and end up in his dream anthology.

The other story was the romance thingie I was worrying about a while back. I think I made the romance work. It also turned out to have just about everything I knew about Viking magic shoehorned into the plot, which gave me a headache...  I do do these things to myself, don't I? Anyway, it's off and begging for acceptance and all I can do is cross my fingers.

And buckle down to the next deadline.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Alison's Wonderland

Wow - here it is at last: the cover for Alison's Wonderland, due out from Harlequin Spice on first of July this year. Isn't it just beautiful? Edited by Alison Tyler, this chunky anthology - 27 stories! 100,000 words! - is all erotic fairytales, and includes Gold, On Snow, my own dark and very very dirty take on Snow White.

Yes, there are seven dwarves. Well, "dwarves."
Why yes, reader, they do.

This Pienkowski-esque artwork (based originally on Polish/German paper-cutting folkart, I understand) evokes the fairytale world so well. I have memories of watching animated TV fairytales in a similar style, when I was little. And the emotions of the child reader - wonder, terror, exploration, the tangible blossoming of imagination - are strong and powerful: reawakening them is the essence of the adult fairytale.

I am so looking forward to the publication of this book!

Pre-order at Amazon US : Pre-order at Amazon UK

Monday, 22 February 2010

Eyecandy Monday

I have no idea where I snagged this photo from. I just know he's pretty and he looks like he's posing for the cover art of some romantic fantasy novel. Boy, is there a lot of really bad fantasy cover art out there.

(Just don't blame the author. She wasn't asked.)

You can just see him, on a cold day in a park in Milton Keynes, being told: "Look brooding!  And horny! But sensitive! You're a naked barbarian swordsman who is ready for lurv!" - can't you?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Last Woman Standing

Hurray - combat/anthropology reality series Last Man Standing is back on BBC3, only this time it's Last Woman Standing! Same format, though: five fit amateur athletes - a boxer, wakeboarder etc - are sent off round the world to live with indigenous tribal peoples and try their hands at their local martial arts or gruelling competitive sports, with the aim of proving who is the all-round toughest competitor of the five. As with the men's competition, the contestents are suspiciously easy on the eye and wear little clothing (although to be fair, in the first episode the local Brazilian tribespeople wore markedly less). 

There are scarification rituals, ingestion (and vomiting) of herbal narcotics and lots of pain as they grit their teeth and get on with it. Rather them than me, but I love to watch. So far we've had wrestling competitions and a relay race, and I am in total awe of their fitness. For the race the teams had to run 4km carrying a 50kg log over the shoulder.

Coming up, we're promised a raft-race on the open ocean, water-buffalo chariots, and some vicious-looking Filipino stick-fighting.

I am in my happy place. Which looks like this:

If you're in the UK you can stream previous episodes from the BBC3 website, or download the most recent from iPlayer. Plus there are also clips up on YouTube. (Sorry - I've a nasty feeling these won't be available if you live in other countries, at least until the programmes appear on BBC/National Geographic channels. Look, you get better weather than us: there has to be some sort of compensation.)

Friday, 19 February 2010

Gives Me Hope

Hope in the Prison of Despair, by Evelyn De Morgan (1887)

Anyone who's read much of this blog will probably be aware that I'm sometimes prone to a pessimistic view of the human race. Indeed, as I squat here in my volcanic Fortress of Gloom, surrounded by my army of faithful greyhound minions, often the only thing that cheers me up is the thought that the Yellowstone Supervolcano could go up any time now.

But even I have my better moments. And a really good place to have better moments is Gives Me Hope, which is a website where ordinary people post about incidents in their lives which have - completely unexpectedly - let them see the better side of human nature. Random acts of kindness and courage and clarity, which let light into the darkness.

It's guaranteed to make me cry, though.


Hope by George Frederic Watts (1885)
(Although this is actually a pretty downbeat vision of Hope, who is chained to her lyre and plucks blindly at the last remaining unbroken string. I know how that feels.)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Chicago on the Tyne

Last weekend I caught the national tour of Chicago, in Newcastle. It was a really impressive production, and I doubt that a fitter or sexier chorus line has ever graced the stage!
Billy Flynn was played by Marti Pellow, who used to be a pop singer back in the day. He certainly has a few fans who still remember him, judging by the cheer that went up when he appeared.

For once, the stage version impressed even more than the film. The only disappointment was that, having seen Queen Latifah play Mama Morton in the movie version, nothing else can compare. I mean, Queen Latifah was far and away the hottest thing in the film. Or maybe ever, in the history of the world...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Happy Valentine's Day...

... to everyone.

And if you haven't got a partner (or partners) to share it with, I recommend settling down with a good hot book!

Friday, 12 February 2010


A friend sent me this Wordle composed from my story Of High Renown, which was up on my website (Size of words is proportional to their frequency). It's rather lovely, I think. You can have a go creating  Wordle wordclouds with your own paragraphs or stories here.

Incidently, I've just removed Of High Renown from my website and put up a new story: Good Doggy, which is a terse and kinky little tale (tail?) of petplay. To read it, just go into my website and click on the FreeStory button in the left bar.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


I actually have a "Learning for Leisure" class every Wednesday morning, which makes it a bit of a push to blog. I have to get up insanely early (well, insanely early for me) to get the dogs walked on time too. Then I'm off for a 2-hour lecture. I get to walk round the beautiful university campus and pretend I'm a student again.
And I'm one of those people who can't just sit and listen. If I'm not taking notes then I have to doodle - anything to keep my hands busy. Many's the time over the years I've drawn a nice pair of boobs or a stiffy - and then had to hurriedly disguise it as something else! Which is why I was so pleased to find the masterclass in rude doodling above...

Friday, 5 February 2010

Rammstein - live!

A late post today because yesterday evening we were in London watching Rammstein in concert. And Wow. Wow. What a show!

Most of the songs were from their new album Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da ("Love is for everyone"). I did do my homework and went and read the translations just so I'd know what it was I was singing along with. ("Ew!" I said a couple of times) Let's face it, this is Rammstein: their subject matter is frequently dark and sometimes downright disturbing (there's a song on the album based on the Josef Fritzl case, for example). But equally their songs are also often majestic and moving and heartbreaking. And they do great melodies. Somehow their extraordinary combination of industrial heavy metal and synth-pop dance riffs - along with vocals that make your hair stand up on end - works so well. I'm besotted. And boy do they know how to put on a live show.

"Other bands play - Rammstein burns!" There were plenty of jawdropping pyros last night: explosions, flares getting fired over the crowd, the keyboard player getting set on fire (twice), flamethrowers, and an angel with blazing steel wings.

Sometimes the circus antics verge on being a bit Spinal Tap ("We need lots of dolls hanging from the ceiling in nooses, to signify, you know, the death of innocence. Dolls WITH LASER EYES!! How cool is that, man?! And at the end of the song the dolls EXPLODE!!!").

And as for Till Lindemann's Big Pink Foam Cannon...

After extensive research in the lobby I can report that the Rammstein demographic in Britain is slightly overweight blokes in their thirties and forties. Which meant, despite my worries that we would be the oldest rockers in town, that we fitted in fine.

But I may never go see another gig again. I mean, what could possibly top this?

(All photos by my friend Roland, because my camera is rubbish)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

I am your bitch

A postscript to the rant below.

The Good Book

Rudest verse in the Bible?
Ezekiel 23:20: "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses."

Apologies. I realise that for most of you this will seem to be an utterly trivial preoccupation of mine. But when I found The Skeptic's Annotated Bible online, I was lost in it for hours.

Oh ... I wish I'd had this when I was a teenager. It goes through the Bible verse by verse and points out the internal contradictions, the folly, the insane cruelty, the mysogyny, and the inaccuracies of fact - historical and scientific. With cross-referencing and Lego people. It is an ideal source for those who want chapter and verse (literally) on why the Bible is not the inerrant word of God.

Maybe you had a secular humanist upbringing and you think that's pretty obvious. I, on the other hand, am now consumed by the desire to tie up EVERY PERSON I SPENT MY TEENAGE YEARS WITH in front of this website - and smack them over the head with a copy of the New International Version until they've taken it all in.

It's not that they were bad or malicious people. But I spent so much time (until I finally threw it all in at age 21) struggling with the disparity between what they told me the Bible said, and what it really says. That the Bible is historic record. That God is good. That God is just. That God loves us. That if I did things the Bible way I'd be a better person, and if we all did then the world would be a better place.

Well, it's a huge heap of bullshit. I mangled my intellectual integrity for nothing. As Richard Dawkins put it: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction." Or as Thomas Jefferson said: "The Christian God is a being of terrific character - cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust." Personally I'd add "evil" to that description.

"Why the bitterness, Janine?" you might be saying. "Why not live and let live?" The answer to that is that for decades I wasn't bitter about Christianity. I thought from my apostate perspective that they were mistaken, but basically good-hearted and harmless. Mostly harmless, anyway.

I've stopped believing they're harmless. This year - This year - it's only a month old! - we've had the Irish passing a law fining people thousands of euros for blasphemy. We've had major American evangelists telling us that Haitians got the divine punishment they deserved because they were in a pact with Satan. We've got Uganda - after decades of targetted missionary work from the USA, not that they needed a lot of encouraging in their homophobia - bringing in the Death Penalty for Homosexuality (and don't think Ugandans are safe in other countries - oh no, they intend to extradite and prosecute Ugandan gays living abroad). And this week we've got the Pope - remember him? the head of a Church that has systematically protected and promoted the careers of paedophiles in its ranks? - telling us that British equality legislation is a "violation of natural law".

Hell yes, I'm bitter.

Lady-in-chains picture at top is Mariamne by John William Waterhouse. Mariamne was married to Herod the Great (who was definitely mad, bad and dangerous to know) - he had her arrested and executed for adultery, on the instigation of his sister.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. The Gospel of Luke tells us he was born when "Quirinius was governor of Syria". There was actually no overlap between those two historically verifiable periods - so at least one of the accounts must be wrong.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Eyecandy Monday

More tats. I'm in a tattoo mood. Also in a will-this-boiler-ever-get fixed-properly mood. My house is like a tropical beach, since we haven't dared let the heating go off since Xmas: when the boiler cools down it refuses to fire up again. Goodness knows what it's costing in gas.

I shall look at this pic and imagine myself there...