Sunday, 31 July 2011

I'm at Maelstrom

And since it's a Sunday I'm probably hungover by this point :-)

But I got my edits done first!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Sale: Heart of Flame


I've just received in my grubby electronic hands the countersigned contract for my Arabian Nights novel, Heart of Flame - now to be published by Samhain!

Brace yourselves for djinn and passionate romance, lost temples in the desert, horrible monsters, hot sexual negotiations, people getting mad at each other, ghouls (I love ghouls!) and swashbuckling and magic.

Colour me happy!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Guess what I did...

Actually it was sort of a joke. I was going to a friend's birthday party and she'd picked an "Inca" theme. Fancy dress was mildly encouraged, though not mandatory. I thought about it, rejected wearing a stripey blanket, then decided that if I couldn't manage Peruvian, I could at least go for a Brazilian :-D

Hm. Do you think a weakness for puns could actually be a dangerous character flaw?

And for the record, yes it hurt. But nothing - and I mean nothing - like as much as when I had my eyebrows threaded that time. Man, NOBODY is ever going near my eyebrows again.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Eyecandy Monday

So I get home after a week and a half to find that my Amazon order is being held hostage in a depot 2 hours up the motorway, my guttering is overflowing into the neighbours' garden, my drains need rodding, and the appointment I rushed home for has been cancelled.

The proofs for The King's Viper have been delivered and need doing NOW.

I also need to get the car serviced, persuade the doctor that my left elbow needs x-raying, and officially tell my brother that I'm not going to his wedding. All in the next 4 days before I'm off again.

Sadly, instead of wanting to step up to the plate, I just want to play Spider solitaire ... until everything goes away...

Sunday, 24 July 2011


... we went to the ancient Roman baths in, er, Bath. At this rate I'll be back in the 21st Century by the middle of the week.

And if you look very carefully, you can see the ghost of a naked Romano-British bather captured on camera:


Friday, 22 July 2011


Charles William Mitchell (1854-1903): Hypatia

The story behind this Victorian painting is pure tragedy. Hypatia lived in the city of Alexandria in the late 4th-early 5th centuries AD. At this time Christianity was on the rise and grabbing power from the old pagan institutions. Hypatia was a Neoplatonist pagan and a reknowned philosopher, teacher, astronomer and mathematician with tremendous status in the city and influence with its Governor. Being a pagan and a woman this earned her the hatred of Bishop Cyril (later sainted) and during Lent in 415 AD a mob of Christians waylaid her, stripped her naked, dragged her through the streets to a church and butchered her there, using tiles torn from the floor to cut her to pieces.

Mitchell's painting of course shows a romanticised and sexualised version of the moment just before her murder - beauty, nudity but no blood. Only if you know the backstory can you, the viewer, share in the sadism of the occasion.

I recently watched the 2009 movie Agora, which is all about Hypatia (though why they didn't call it Hypatia, I have no idea), who is played by Rachel Weisz as an obsessed geek.

It's a beautiful film, visually speaking - the depiction of ancient Alexandria with its decayed grandeur and the last remnants of its irreplaceable library is just enthralling. The Christians are terrifying - fanatical yet cunning, their appeal to slaves and the poor is clear because they bring hope, like all fundamentalist cults. It's the flipside of those old films like The Robe and Quo Vadis they show on TV at Easter, where the persecution all runs the other way, because it's set just those few years later when the boot is on the other foot. Power corrupts, of course. Agora is a salutory reminder that a religion we tend to see as respectable, sensible and gentle started out as no such thing.

So yes, a good film; not cheerful, either in its plot or its general view of human nature, but absorbing.

Where Agora and Mitchell's painting converge is in their romanticisation of Hypatia's death. The director can't bring himself to show her being skinned alive, so he has her - while the monks are looking in the other direction - smothered in a mercy-killing by an ex-slave who loved her from afar, and then just stoned a bit while already beyond pain. I do get that we don't actually want to see the murder, but once more it feels like a cop-out to me, lessening the sheer brutal mysogyny of the event.

btw: Historian's Notebook has an excellent post on Hypatia here
and discusses the Agora movie in depth here

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Yay! I've seen the White Horse of Uffington! I'm just delighted - in many many years of nosing around the historical sights of Britain, somehow I've never managed to get to Uffington by daylight, until yesterday. And it's beautiful. For those who don't know, the White Horse is an abstract figure cut into the chalk hillside. It's 110 metres long and is reckoned to be up to 3000 years old. There's a better (aerial) shot here.

From close up the "horse's" head looks like this:

We actually did a whole fantastic day of touring prehistoric sites.

Silbury Hill, constructed 2400 BCE, 40 metres high, took 18 million man-hours. Nobody has the faintest idea what it was for.

West Kennet Long Barrow, 3600 BCE.  This was a tomb. 


You may recognise this place:

Stonehenge, 3500 - 1500 BCE
The facilities at Stonehenge are pitiful. I mean, actually embarrassing - it's possibly the single most iconic sight in the country, receives thousands of visitors a day, and yet the visitor centre is the worst in the country: a tiny muddy carpark, portaloos, and a gift shop in a fecking tent.

I say, go to Avebury instead:

Avebury is a chocolate-box-pretty village that just happens to have been built inside a huge prehistoric henge and stone circle. It's a World Heritage Site and so attractive it makes your teeth ache. (Heh. Anyone remember Children of the Stones?)

Built 2600 BCE. Posted on a smutblog 4600 years later.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The shallow end

I don't know about where you're at, but here it's scorchio today - too hot to walk dogs!

Fancy a dip in a pool?  Fancy something short, frivolous and featuring a bouncing bikini-clad babe? I've got a new story up on my website - just go onto the main page and look in the left-hand column for the Free Story button :-)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


This was the very first bit I saw of the modern re-boot of Sherlock and I knew right then that I loved it, I loved it forever.

Oh how I want to write like Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss...

Dialogue - it's a bugger to write. I always struggle with it, but it's vitally important for a story. Yes, in erotica too! Especially for me, because I'm not the sort who does page-long descriptions of plumbing and orgasms. I have written erotic shorts in which the protagonists don't talk to each other - both Cruel Enchantment and Dark Enchantment feature stories wherein the lovers have no common language - but it's petty rare for me.

Dialogue is there for tension and power-play, for emotion and revelation, for plot and character. It has to sound realistic but not be dull or longwinded. It has to convey information that moves the book forward, but not come across like a memo in capital letters from the author (Oh how I struggle with that!). It has to be dynamic and surprising, yet flow seamlessly. It has to be hot and horny and hit the sexual trigger buttons for readers, but at the same time not clichéd and risible.

Jeez. I wonder sometimes how I dare even try.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Eyecandy Monday

Today's eyecandy comes to you courtesy of my boob-envy. After the public reading last weekend, I spent Sunday lunchtime sat carelessly out on a sunny patio, in a fairly low-cut top, without wearing any sunblock (okay, the fact that we had nothing but alcohol for lunch may have contributed to my recklessness).

Now my cleavage has Comedy Sunburn: scarlet on top, white below.
Serves me right.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Poppy power!

I've had to dodge out between thunderstorms to get any gardening done this week...

Look - poppies! It's the first year I've grown any and I've totally fallen in love with them. They are silky, and so bright it's like a party in my brain just looking at them, and just glorious. I want poppies everywhere!

And pansies too!
Aren't they a wonderful colour?

We've had some very strange weather this year. Winter arrived with prolonged snow (extraordinary, here) in November (WTF?!)  - and then summer started in March. It didn't rain at all until June and every tree came into flower and fruit about a month early. Now we have rapidly alternating downpours and brilliant sun, which I love, frankly, but it does make planning awkward.

My poor cinnamon-barked myrtle was killed by the snow :-(

But look - it's sprouting again from the roots! *happy dance*

And this is my back garden that was so wrecked by the builders last year, come back to life:

I'm very proud. It may be wobbly but it's all my own work :-)

Friday, 8 July 2011

This is going out...

... to everyone heading off to the Sonisphere festival this weekend. Without me :-(
I hope Biffy Clyro are great!

This is the (unembeddable)  really sweaty version of the song though. Yum :-)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Heh. After my post on the death of Orpheus last week, Danielle said he prefered to see more of the Maenads who killed him. 

 Arthur Wardle (1864-1949): The Bacchante

The Maenads (or Bacchantes) of legend were human women who worshipped Dionysus (later known as Bacchus). Their name means "the raving ones." Basically they were the nightmare vision of femininity as the classical Greeks saw it: what happens if you let women out from under proper patriarchal control. They'd roam the hills in packs, dancing, drunk on wine - the gift of Dionysus - and in a state of religious frenzy, killing any animal they came across and eating their raw flesh. Sometimes they preyed on men and children too. Wildly promiscuous, they constorted in orgies with satyrs - because human men just couldn't keep up. 

So ... drunk, horny and violent - what Victorian artist could resist, you'd think?

Auguste Léveque (1864-1921): Bacchanalia

Actually, if you go looking for Bacchantes in art, you'll find that most of the wild orgy scenes are painted in earlier, less prudish eras. The bacchanale seems to have been just a bit too full-on the for Victorian audience. Offensively unfeminine, I suspect. Not nice enough. Maenads certainly exist in Victorian art, but they tend to be depicted with a quite inappropriate delicacy:

John Collier (1850-1934): The Priestess of Bacchus

Um, very dignified.... 

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912): Bacchanale

Less dignified, but only because of the skipping...

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905): A Bacchante

Oh, come off it! - this one looks like she's sipping tea with the vicar!

Lawrence Alma-Tadema : A Dedication to Bacchus

Okay, better. It's still a bit staid, but it's an awesome picture, one of Alma-Tadema's greatest. Go on - click to enlarge in all its glorious detail.

Where Victorian artists do tend to concentrate is on the aftermath of the Maenads' frenzy - exhausted women having a nice lie down and maybe a grape or two. It's a lot less threatening to the viewer.  

Paul Merwart (1855-1902): Bacchante with Grapes

Auguste Clésinger (1814-1883): A Bacchante

 Jean-Bapstiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) : Bacchante with a Panther

 Henrietta Rae (1859-1928) : A Bacchante

Enough with the grapes!

  Lawrence Alma-Tadema: The Women of Amphissa

Another beautiful picture from LA-T: a group of maenads wake up with a belting hangover and the women of the town where they've collapsed - having watched over them all night - bring them breakfast. It's rather sweet actually.

I'm finishing with a photograph from a theatrical show, Euripides' Bacchae. It's well out of the Victorian/Edwardian era but I think it captures the true spirit of the Maenads. And it's not at all sweet or staid.

Max Waldman: Dionysus in 69

Monday, 4 July 2011

Eyecandy Monday

I didn't watch any of the Wimbledon tennis chamionship this year.
Damn - look what I missed! It's Feliciano Lopez...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Cupcakes and champagne

Here's some pictures of the the reading that went on last night at Sh! in London (It's pronounced Shush, I found out). Sh! is a very friendly, very pink women's erotica emporium. Normally they hand out cups of tea to shoppers, but they did us proud with champagne and cupcakes. And the first thing the storeboss said to me when I walked in was "Oh - I thought you looked like a writer."
It must have been the hippy beads and the look of terror.

Here's Rachel Kramer Bussel, who organised it all for us, as writers in her anthologies. I don't think she was terrified. We read from Smooth and Surrender and Orgasmic and Gotta Have It and Best Bondage Erotica 2011.
And our basement reading room was packed out!

I had a great time, though I did klutzily spill champagne. I met a load of wonderful writers and we did some shopping for toys too :-) Sadly the picture of me reading came out blurry.

The guilty parties:

From left to right, Justine Elyot, me, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Kay Jaybee, KD Grace and Jacqueline Applebee - Carmel Lockyer was there too but missed the photocall because she had to catch the last train home to her vegetable allotment. (There was a curiously high incidence of gardening enthusiasts in the group, it turned out. Hm.)

Then I had to run because our parking ticket was running out and the traffic wardens in London are just plain evil...

Friday, 1 July 2011

Reading out loud

So I'm about to drive off down south in preparation for doing a public reading at Sh! in London tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it - I'm nervous, but I haven't got to the rabbit-in-the-headlights-panic stage ... yet.

When I first started writing stories back in 19mumble90, it was with a new group of friends who wrote stories to read out loud to each other. That group is still going, though now I've switched from horror to erotica I admit I don't contribute so often! (They would faint if I tried. Seriously.)

I don't have a great voice, but I don't mind reading out loud ... much. I just concentrate on trying to do the story justice. Don't gabble. Don't drone.  I've filled my copy of the book with little pencil notes, tweaking the text to make it more intelligible to a listening audience. Removing plot details that don't add anything in an out-of-context excerpt. Adding the odd "he said" and "she said" to unattributed dialogue. I owe it to the story.

Which in this case is my Best Bondage Erotica 2011 tale: The Ingénue. Corruption of the innocent! Men in bonds!

Where and When? Here

And  as for how nervous we're all going to be - Justine Elyot (who's going to be reading there too) says it much better than me in her post The Fear :-)