Friday, 30 April 2010

Bye Bye Boiler

Did you hear me scream?

We had a haunted boiler. It had been giving us trouble on and off for years: every so often it would stop firing up the gas and we'd have no hot water or central heating. Then, three days or so later (almost inevitably just as the repair guy was due to arrive at last), it would start working again. Boiler technicians could not work out what was wrong with it. The fail almost always happened overnight, so the first we'd know was a freezing cold shower in the morning. We spent the whole of one month with the heating running night and day, for fear that the fail was triggered when it got too cold. Then we had the ignition feedback replaced - that seemed to work for about a month. Then we had the circuit board replaced (£250 just for the part). That lasted LESS THAN 24 HOURS.
At that point I gave up, kissed goodbye to £1600 and ordered a new boiler. I am never buying another Worcester Bosch so long as I live, I tell you. After taking the picture above of the dead carcass thrown out on the lawn, I gave it a good kick and danced around it laughing like a crazy woman.

So we got this brand spanking new 35Kw Ideal Logic Plus boiler put in, and I thought I need no longer trawl round my friends using their bathrooms to keep clean. I got up the next morning and headed for the shower, eager to wash my hair.

No hot water.

I think they probably heard my howl of rage in the Ukraine.

(The plumber turned up within an hour and was very embarrassed - after testing they'd forgotten to switch the gas back on ...)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Netherlands Elf Fair

I thought I'd been to some big costume events over the years. Then last weekend I attended the Elf Fantasy Fair, held near The Hague in the Netherlands, and it knocked my socks off. I'd never imagined LARPing could exist on such a scale. It's huge! It's so professional! There are hundreds and hundreds of stalls, laid out in parkland surrounding a beautiful castle. You can shop till you drop, or just spend the day watching the eyecandy and goggling at the costumes - about half of the attendees are in fancy dress: Goths (lots of them), historical re-enactors of every era, Manga fans, steampunk Victorians, latex kinksters, combat enthusiasts, furries, exhibitionists, gamers, pirates, transvestites, angels and demons and fairies. They come to see and be seen.

Some of the costumes had had incredible care lavished upon them - I know how many hours can go into hand-sewing a patchwork cloak - and although the weather was beautiful, many a full-length wedding dress and ballgown will never be the same after being promenaded along those woodland paths.

Anyway, I thought I'd show you a broad selection of the many photos I took. What does not come across in the pictures was just how crowded the event was! [Click on a photo to enlarge]

And this Snow Queen must win some sort of prize for the least costume ... What would she have done if it had been raining and cold?


Monday, 26 April 2010

Boobquake Monday!

Well, I begged mercy from the volcano, but today it's everyone's chance to defy the earthquake. Today is BOOBQUAKE DAY. If you haven't already heard, let me explain:

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” he asked during a prayer sermon on Friday. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”

A fine example of how religion manages to combine misogyny with moronic superstition, you might well think. Well, scientist and atheist Jen McCreight (pictured above) is leading, via her Facebook page, an international effort to, *ahem*, "test" the causal connection between boobies and tectontic upheavals by being immodest in public. She says:

"On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I'm sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn't rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it'll be one involving plate tectonics.
So, who's with me? I may be a D cup, but that will probably only produce a slight tremor on its own. If you'll be joining me on twitter, use the tag #boobquake! Or join the facebook event!"

She's got more than 20,000 women pledging to join in. She's being interviewed on CNN and the BBC World Service. There are T-shirts for survivors!

I'm not likely to be out in public myself tomorrow, but to to show my support I thought I'd post the full-sized, undistorted version  of the picture I posted with my F-Stop article a few weeks back. Okay, so the original photo is twenty years old, but I do (immodestly) think it's a fine shot of my ass.  Now I will sit back and wait for the wrath of the Almighty.

Go on God - knock yourself out.

 [click on pic to enlarge, lol]

Friday, 23 April 2010

Please, Eyjafjallajoekull!

Volcano permitting, today I am flying to the Netherlands to visit an old friend. We are planning to go to the Elf Fantasy Fair, which apparently attracts 25,000 people every year! Sadly, due to luggage restrictions on Jet2, I will not be going in costume :-(

And Wow - I could never have imagined that my travel plans (especially in Europe) would be at the mercy of an errupting volcano. We just don't do that sort of stuff here! I should be back on Monday with Eyecandy, but no promises.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Sexis ... all about me!

That's not actually true, but I just liked the title.

Sexis is a magazine (online and print) and it features a section about literary erotica. Rydell Johnson is a literature teacher who has written an article on monogamy, infidelity and polyamory: "Is monogamy the only viable lifestyle choice? Is it even possible for most people?"  He asked a bunch of questions of me and Alison Tyler (among others) because she's the editor of Playing With Fire, and I'd contributed a story, Scorched, which is all about a woman named Emerald who is having a secret fling with her husband's best friend. In the article he discusses my story in some detail!

Did we all agree on the subject? Find out by reading the whole article.

Scorched is, from my point of view, probably the most amoral story I've written. I was actually really pleased to be given the opportunity to discuss what connection I thought the characters' actions had with real life. Writing it had taken me out of my comfort zone. It's a dirty wicked story and it needs to be spanked and ... Uh, no, that's what happens to Emerald ...

Read an excerpt from Scorched here

Playing with Fire on Amazon  US : Amazon UK

Monday, 19 April 2010

Eyecandy Monday

Well, in my non-writing life it's been a rather momentous week.
Like, I am officially a Parent now.

Okay, you can pick your jaws back up off the floor! What I mean is, Mr Ashbless and I went to the bank on Friday to ask for a Gurt Big Loan (a nice sort of loan, with which to do lovely things, not a bad we-are-about-to-eat-the-dogs one). The advisor went through our details and asked me what I did for a living.

"I'm a self-employed writer," I said.

So he got his drop-down list onscreen and looked through it, and we could not find a category I would naturally fit in. Clerical? Teaching?

"Are you trying to judge risk?" I asked.

"I'm trying to judge reliability of guaranteed income," said he. It took me some time to stop laughing.

"Uh, no. I've no guaranteed income. You're going to have to work out the loan based on my husband's income only."

"Right," he said; "then in that case I'm going to put you down as this, so that we don't have to fiddle about with questions." And he put me down as PARENT/HOMEMAKER.

Let that be a lesson to you, aspiring writers  ;-)

In my writing life ...
I have a whole bunch of short stories out there whining at the doors of various editors to be let in. Three of them have been told "Maybe."
There's a "Maybe - it's a good story but it's really long. Wait till I see what else I'm offered."  There's a "Maybe! You've made it through the first round of cuts!" And there's a "Yes! But ... we have to wait for the publisher's final say-so on the lineup."

See? No guarantees. 

Now I'd better go walk my three hairy cat-chasing children.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Kink up your Kindle...

... as Alison Tyler put it. I'm delighted to see that most of my books are now available in electronic download format for the Kindle reader. If you happen to have one of them (and don't just spend all your time using it to pretend you have been beamed down from a starship to study the ways of this primitive planet, which is what I'd do) you can find a bunch of my Black Lace novels and novellas in the Kindle Shop. And most (the ones marked *) are cheaper than the paperback versions (which is not always the case with Kindle. I don't get why that should be, but it's true: sometime you pay more for the electronic version. Go figure.)

Cruel Enchantment $8.15
(my first collection of fairy/fantasy and horror shorts. Includes the infamous dragon-sex story and undead story. Ooh ... Looks like the paperback was reissued last month! How awesome!)

Dark Enchantment $7.67*
(as Cruel Enchantment, but a new collection. Ghosts and steampunk and the Devil and Death ...)

Divine Torment $9.69
(my first swords-and-sandals novel. In an ancient desert temple the arrival of a warrior tears the priestess' world apart...)

Wildwood $7.91*
(contemporary paranormal full of nature spirits and faeries and a bitter magical battle that will change the world.)

Enchanted $8.06*
(3 novellas. Mine is about a woman who goes off with a bear... It's okay, he's only a bear sometimes: he's under a curse, and boy does he needs her help.)

Magic and Desire $7.71*
(3 novellas. Mine is a retelling of the oldest myth in the world: the Descent of Inanna into the Underworld ... with added kink and BDSM.)

Ashbless on Kindle 

UPDATE: Electronic downloads in non-Kindle format, via Waterstones!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Skin Tones

Just for fun! These body-art pictures are doing the rounds in an e-mail I gleefully appropriated. I can't make up my mind which I like best: the Hussar one ... the Hoplite armour ... the vulture ...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hot Scientist (female): Dr Brooke Magnanti

A few weeks back I sang the praises of hot male scientist Dr Brian Cox; this time round I want to go giddy over Dr Brooke Magnanti. She's a research biologist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology at Bristol University. And she's been in the papers rather a lot over the years because she is Belle de Jour, the sex blogger. When she was working on her doctorate in 2003-4 and desperate for cash, as students tend to be, Magnanti decided to support herself - for 14 months - by working in secret as a call girl (at £300/hour).  Her blog about the experience became notorious and led to several book versions and a TV adaptation that has run to three series.

In 2009 Dr Magnanti outed herself as Belle, thus sticking two fingers up to all those media pundits who had sworn that no real woman could work as a prostitute and write about it in such a way, and that it was all just a male-written fantasy. Her academic colleagues seem to have taken it in their stride, though she did get flak from assorted media sad-acts and anonymous lunatics (e.g. death threats - what is wrong with people?). Her newspaper article on the fallout from going public can be found here.

I never watched the TV adaptation, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. I'm just not that keen on Billie Piper, who played Belle (Despite being a big Dr Who fan, I find her leopard-seal grin just a bit too scary). But there was a rather wonderful documentary where Piper and Magnanti sit down and chat about the reality behind the fictionalised version. Dr Magnanti is elegant, grounded and confident. Asked if she has any regrets, she says "I regret I didn't tell my friends sooner."

Nowadays Dr Magnanti still blogs as Belle de Jour, but it's now a blog about sex in general rather than a diary of her encounters. She's intelligent and provocative, grounded and independent. Just what you'd expect.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Eyecandy Monday

I spent Saturday (thanks to an extremely generous Xmas present) having a spa day. And as I lay there face down on a mat whilst the shiatsu masseuse knelt on my ass ... I thought of you, dear readers.

Shiatsu hurts, by the way.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Well, since I saw Clash of the Titans last week, I thought I'd post some fine-art bondage pictures of Andromeda tied to her rock, being rescued by Perseus just before the sea-monster gets her. (All should be enlargeable by clicking.) Out of interest, I've started with two ancient depictions - the Greek vase above and this Roman wall-painting from Pompeii:

Look carefully. We have Andromeda and Perseus. Note who is wearing the clothes and who is naked, eh? See how it changes as we fast-forward a few centuries...

Perseus and Andromeda by Joachim Wtewael (1611). Particularly good bones and shells in the foreground, I think.

And here we are into the 19th Century:

Andromeda by Edward Poynter  (1869)

Perseus and Andromeda by Lord Leighton (1869). I note how the monster seems to be protecting the girl from Perseus' arrows!

Roger Delivering Angelica by Jean Ingres (1819) The changed names are just a reworking of the myth into medieval form. Same story.

Panels from the Perseus series by Edward Burne-Jones (1884)

Andromeda and the Nereids by Theodore Chasseriau (1840)

Andromeda by Gustav Dore (1869). Possibly my favourite just because it is so dramatic.

There are loads of others - this must be one of the most popular classical themes for artists ever - including some truly ugly paintings by Rubens, which I will not sully my blog with...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sweet Love - more details

Wheee! ... my contributor copies of the Sweet Love anthology have arrived, so I can tell you the complete lineup (I spent a lot of yesterday reading it, btw, when I should have been doing other things, like making my dinner, and sleeping):

  • Clearing the Air - Thomas Roche
  • Jump or Fall? - Janine Ashbless
  • Five Senses - N.T. Morley
  • Her Turn - D.L. King
  • Storming the Castle - Andrea Dale
  • (S)pan(k)cakes - Kristina Wright
  • Clothes Make the Man - Emilie Paris
  • Playing Rough - Kat Black
  • Searching for Her - Kay Jaybee
  • A Week and a Whip - Alison Wonderland
  • A Little Push - Felix D'Angelo
  • Dishpan Hands - Jan Darby
  • My Turn - Jude Mason
  • Do You See What I feel? - Theresa Noelle Roberts
  • Better Bent than Broken - Amanda Fox
  • Safe - Vanessa Vaughn
  • Bachelor's Dessert - Alison Tyler
  • Extreme Dogging - Dylan Reed
  • A Guy She's Never Met - Zach Addams

Nineteen tales of loving couples breaking out of the rut and trying out their kinkiest fantasies.  Kristina Wright's fantastic little spanking story even includes a recipe for the pancakes, lol!

In her foreword Violet Blue introduces all the stories. Her teaser for mine is: "Renowned and compelling author Janine Ashbless takes us backstage in a daredevil act where the layered characters draw us in and make us hold out breaths, as we anticipate what will happen if they "Jump or Fall" into their greatest sexual fantasies, and possibly love."

Sweet words! I posted a short excerpt from this story a few weeks ago. If you're interested, there is now a new page of notes on this story up on my website (scroll down the huge main page to the short stories section at the bottom to find the link) where I reveal and discuss Blayne's secret. And you can watch Violet Blue's own trailer for Sweet Love at the top of this post. Book Trailers are a cool idea!

It's out on sale now from Amazon US - UK readers still have to wait until May, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Clash of the Titans: movie review

Tentacles! Men in skirts! GIANT SCORPIONS!!!

Come on, you don't need more than that in a review, do you?

Okay ... Clash of the Titans is a remake of the 1981 film of the same name, which happened to be Ray Harryhausen's last bash at stop-motion animation. It's based on the Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda. The new version is in every way superior except one - the new Medusa isn't as scary (so good on you, Ray!). That's not actually setting the bar very high: the old film was really boring (and I say this as someone who adores the old Jason and the Argonauts) and starred a crap mechanical owl that was supposed to be comedic, and a cheesey-looking hero with a waxed chest.

The new version stars rent-a-grunt Sam Worthington as the half-god Perseus. I can't imagine why he's the only bloke in the movie with short hair, unless it is to annoy me.

Anyway, he's okay, though a total meathead. He picks up a bunch of rather appealing military sidekicks and goes off on a quest to seek the Stygian Witches (who have only one eye between them), so that he can fetch the head of the Medusa from the Underworld, so that he can turn the Kraken to stone, so that he can rescue the princess Andromeda and revenge himself on Hades, lord of the dead, who killed his foster-parents (are you following this?). There's a winged horse and a scarred superpowered ex-king called Acrisius whose blood turns into GIANT SCORPIONS and a bunch of Djinn involved on the way, but I'm not going to try and explain that lot.

Oh - I thought the Djinn were cool.

The action is fast and the CGI is overblown - exactly what you'd expect from a modern remake. This is not a great movie by any means. The script reads like it was much longer but has been trimmed  hacked about with an axe (Like, there are two "hunter" characters who make a big fuss about joining the party for the quest ... and then have practically no function for the rest of the film. Why bother with them at all? And the Witches prophecy that Perseus will die if he fights the Kraken - and then he doesn't! Look guys, you can't have prophecies that don't come true: don't you know anything about storytelling?). It tries for a harsh anti-god message but can't even pull that off properly because Zeus is too much of a softy. It is just eyecandy.

I am not going to waste breath complaining about Zeus' anachronistic High-Medieval French armour, I'm not, I'm ... Oh goddamn.

But at least there's no bloody mechanical owl, hurrah! Or rather, it gets an appearance (and I nearly shat myself, let me tell you) and then is thrown away. Best joke in the movie. And how can I really complain when there are GIANT SCORPIONS, eh?