Monday, 31 December 2012

Eyecandy Monday

Goodbye 2012! You were a mixture of pain and pleasure, as any year is. You brought us the Rapture and the End of the World, both of which we got through surprisingly easily. You brought us Gangnam Style and the Olympics and some pretty unpleasant weather ... We won't forget you.

And welcome 2013!
Treat us gently!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

2012 in the rearview mirror

It's that time of year again, when we take a glance backward before looking forward. So here goes:

Picture of the Year:

Okay, this one is very personal, but my dog Caspian (the one who got shot) featured as Mr December in the Tia Charity Calendar for 2012, so I am very proud of him!

Best Movie:

I watched 28 movies in 2012. Fantasy and SF seem to be back in vogue. Here's my top 5 (in order of personal enjoyment rather than quality):

"I'm-so-pissed-off" disappointment of the year was Batman: the Dark Knight Rises - very cruelly and accurately summed up here. My expectations were set too high.

Best Music:

I've been listening to the King Charles CD Loveblood over and over again as I drive. Kasabian's Velociraptor gets an honourable 2nd place.

Best TV:

Game of Thrones. No argument. I love it.

Best Eyecandy Pic of the Year:

Oddly, this one. Simple ... yet effective, I feel.

Best Book Not Counting "A Game of Thrones":

I bought it for Mr Ashbless at Christmas and I'm still in the middle of reading it, but it's already won. I keep wanting to read bits out loud at people.

Wisest Words:

And if you want a good example of that, try this.

Here's to the unknowable thrills of 2013!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

What day is it?

Pictures from Christmas day...

"I'm on my 4th glass of mulled wine but I'm bloody getting this roulade filled"
The recipe for Sage and Parsnip Roulade is here, btw. It's delicious, and it's by Delia Smith, which means it's fairly bomb-proof even for cooks who drink.The hardest bit is finding a shop that still sells Sage Derby cheese.

Glasses of wine knocked over: 3. Glasses broken: 1.  Dinner: Perfect.

Mr Ashbless' Xmas Lime Pie
An after-dinner game of "Touch of Evil". We killed the vampire :-)
And the traditional game of "Greyhound Tetris"

Monday, 24 December 2012

Eyecandy Monday

Here's wishing you all a merry festive season, a warm house, good food, and the company of those you love.
And happy, naughty thoughts!


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Pinus* envy

Well, it must be nearly Christmas - after months of work the Geek Love anthology is finished and sent to Kickstarter backers (Whooohooo!), and the tree is up and decorated ...

But I'm sulking because my Christmas tree doesn't look nearly as cool or geeky as these:

OMG a Dalek tree! How sweet and yet threatening!

Books ...what if you need to reference one mid-holiday?

Dead bicycles


I want a Godzilla tree :-(

* Xmas trees in the UK are more usually Fir (Abies) or Spruce (Picea) than Pine (Pinus). But I am a pun-whore.

Friday, 21 December 2012

The End of the World - it's all a Plot

So, as Any Fule Kno, today sees the end of the world, according to ancient Mayan prophecy.

I'm not going into any attempt to refute this.
I remember first reading about this decades ago - I must have been oh, ten, and reading one of my many "strange stories, amazing facts, mysterious world" type books.  The article, as I remember, ended something like this:

The Fourth Mayan Long Count Calendar comes to an end in December 2012.
There isn't a Fifth.

Now isn't that a brilliant, cliffhanger piece of writing? I remember being thrilled and scared and thinking "I'll be alive to see that!" - though of course it was so comfortably far in my future I had no actual anxiety about it.

But looking round, it seems quite a few people are now convinced and terrified by the  Mayan Apocalypse. And a lot of others are capitalising on that - using it to scam or make money. And the more the media/internet blows it up into an Event, the weirder people start behaving.

Why would they believe this? More to the point why would they want to? 

We're storytelling animals. We love drama. We want to see ourselves in the thick of the action. It's not enough that the world will end one day, it has to end RIGHT NOW WITH ME IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. It's not enough that I fall in love, there has to be ONE PERSON IN THE WHOLE WORLD WHO IS MEANT FOR ME, AND WE WILL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. It's not enough that I feel miserable, I have to TAKE EVERYONE DOWN WITH ME SO I WILL BE REMEMBERED.

We all know how stories go because we're brought up on them in books and movies and TV: there's challenge, and conflict, moments of joy and relief and then disaster, and it all comes to a huge climax. Sometimes it's a horrible climax, sometimes it's a happy ending.

Real life is just not good enough for us:

From the ever-wonderful SMBC

We don't like that. We don't like ending with a whimper, not a bang. We don't like things muddling on in a dull way until they stop. So we sell ourselves stories with Happy Endings (Heavenly rewards after all life's trials, Star Trek futures where humankind will have outgrown all its vices and problems), or Horror Endings (suicide, environmental disaster, economic and political collapse that must be Prepared For).

I do ... Don't I? Myths are simply stories we live by

And people do all sorts of stupid, self-destructive shit on a lower level - pick that fight on Xmas day with everyone in the family looking on, dial the police during a manhunt with completely made-up eyewitness accounts, slap naked pictures of themselves (ahem!) on the internet, jump onstage and punch their heroes. We're not trying to be idiots, we're trying to be dramatic.

It's because we want to be part of a Big Story.

Am I saying we should just stop this crap? Well ... I think that's like saying we should stop breathing. Telling stories is part of what makes us human, and not some sort of dull herd animal. We get born and we grow up and we fuck and we die just like every other creature - but we tell stories about it. That makes us unique. It makes us terrible beyond words. It makes us truly great.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The towering ego

My old ego-shelf was overflowing, so Mr Ashbless made me a supersize new one, with room for foreign editions and everything.
Well, I've got to have space for Geek Love!

Don't worry, I'm sure my ego will expand to fill the empty spaces ... ;-)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Crazy as a cat

Going back to fill in stuff in my last story. And I thought I'd finished ...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Movie review: The Hobbit: an unexpected journey


When I first watched The Fellowship of the Ring, eleven years ago, I finished with tears in my eyes - tears of relief that They Hadn't Fucked It Up.
I'm glad to report that I had the same experience watching The Hobbit: an unexpected journey, today.

For the record, The Hobbit has been released in three formats: 2D, 3D, and "High Frame Rate" 3D (Oh ... and IMAX; that makes four I suppose). The HFR version has had some negative press by people claiming it made them dizzy, they didn't know where to focus, or that it "looked wrong". I'm not qualified to comment on this because I saw the "normal 3D" version.

And it looked awesome. That's the first thing. The Lord of the Rings has some dodgy CGI in places (especially The Two Towers for some reason) but I didn't spot anything rubbish in this first viewing.

There's going to be a few comparisons between LotR and The Hobbit in this review, because this is a film that could not have been made before the LotR trilogy. I mean that in a literal sense: if someone had set out to make The Hobbit from scratch, without ever having seen the other movies, it would not have looked anything like this. It's not just the reappearance of familiar actors and locations; it is, in a deeper sense, a return to a fictional world that the viewer is presumed to have some familiarity with. A "blind" version of The Hobbit would never have included a White Council scene at Rivendell, because everyone would just have said "Who are these poncy dudes slowing the action down?" Historical references are flung around like confetti (The Witch-King of Angmar, Gondolin, Durin). If you don't know what they mean, you just have to ride them out. Which makes me wonder what a Tolkien virgin will make of this - particularly child viewers.

The movie opens just before Bilbo's Eleventy-first Party, so we have an unhurried introductory scene involving Bilbo and Frodo (both looking no older, a decade after their last screening, and the same goes for Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman further down the line, so someone in makeup or SFX has done a stonking job of rejuvinating the actors).

This is a massively detailed world we are entering, and this movie grabs that fact in both hands and runs with it. Throwaway lines in the book version ("he saw that across the valley the stone giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game") ("Your grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the Mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin") ) are expanded into eye-popping set pieces or vital backstory exposition. It is like Alice opening door after door in a long corridor, and through each one seeing a new vista. The scriptwriters are determined to tie together thread after thread to create a vast tapestry of faux-history that makes sense.

And here we see where the movies really enrich the story. Lord knows I love and admire the Tolkien books, but the one thing the man was not good at was character. He was writing heroic mythology, and frankly didn't bother to make any of his characters three-dimensional. In fact, of the twelve dwarves in the book, all but two of them fail to even make it into two dimensions - the lucky two being Thorin ("pompous boss dwarf") and Balin ("kindly dwarf"). The rest function as a mob of extras. Just as Jackson managed in LotR with re-writing Aragorn and Boromir and their evolving relationship, in the movie version of The Hobbit each dwarf is treated as a plausible character with his own striking appearance and personality. They've all made it to 2D, and we've still got two films to go!

Isn't this a bit strange? Aren't movies supposed to simplify the literary complexities? Yet in this franchise exactly the opposite is going on. And I am soooo pleased!

Thorin in particular is a standout character. Played by Richard Armitage with charisma and gravitas, he's never treated lightly. The other dwarves may piss about, but this Thorin is a Shakespearian tragic hero ... and we all know how that ends up, don't we?

Along with deepened characterisation comes proper motivation: in the book version, Bilbo goes off on this crazy life-threatening journey because Gandalf bullies him and he's too weak to say no:

"But-" said Bilbo.
"No time for that either! Off you go!"
To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside without a hat, walking stick, or any money, or anything he usually took when he went out..."

In the movie version, he makes a choice. And he gets a speech near the end explaining why he's sticking it out in the face of danger and massive ingratitude, which isn't just moving but actually makes psychological sense. That's all new stuff.

If you recall the book, you'll know that The Hobbit starts off as a jolly, whimsical, very English children's tale full of tea and pocket-handkerchiefs, and ends up somewhere else entirely - with death and loss on a massive scale. We're going to see a lot of that, I think. And The Hobbit also foreshadows The Fellowship of the Ring:  a group set off on a perilous quest; they learn to love and depend on each other even as the moviegoers start to invest in the characters - and then character flaws stretch that loyalty to the breaking point, ending in the destruction of the Company/Fellowship, and tragedy.

But we haven't got that far yet - this is only Movie One. It's full of singing (oh yes!) and giggles and slapstick (and the officially permitted One Dirty Joke), and there's a running fight in the goblin warrens that is just mental. I grumble a little that Radagast the Brown is played for too much whimsy, what with his rabbit sledge and a hedgehog called Sebastian. But even so I can see why they did it - another imperious/mysterious Gandalf-Saruman-alike would have been overload. 

Martin Freeman as Bilbo, by the way, is perfectly cast. And Gollum is wonderful, as ever; their riddle contest in the roots of the Misty Mountains manages to be as dramatic as any battle.

And I got goosebumps when the eagles rescued them from the orcs. Which is stupid, yeah, because I knew it was going to happen. Nevertheless ... goosebumps all over.

Can I find a fault? Yes. That feckin' theme song HAS BEEN STUCK IN MY HEAD ALL WEEK.

And I have to wait another whole year for the next part. Oh god...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

With thanks

This box sent from the States is full of "Thank You" cards which I am to write for our Geek Love kickstarter backers residing in Britain.
That'll take care of the rest of the week, then!

Oh ... I may nip out to the cinema at some point too...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Eyecandy Monday

This Eyecandy is chosen in honour of the publication of Best Women's Erotica 2013, edited by Violet Blue and including my petplay story Being His Bitch - which originally appeared in Bound By  Lust (ed. Shanna Germain).

It's officially out tomorrow, but it's on sale on Amazon in some parts of the world right now! It features tales by Alison Tyler, Lucy Felthouse and Charlotte Stein too :-)

Buy at Amazon US : US Kindle : Amazon UK (released soon): UK Kindle

BTW: Violet Blue officially recommended 3-novella compilation Magic and Desire as part of her "Kink up your Kindle" series, which is just thrilling, because it contains one of my favourite BDSM stories, The House of Dust (which to be honest I feel deserves more love). Violet says:
"This exquisitely crafted three-story book is quite fantastic (and I don’t usually go for fantasy fiction)"

Buy on Kindle US : Kindle UK
(also available in paperback)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sh! Join in the Pleasure Hunt!

This post is part of the Sh! Christmas Pleasure Hunt blog-hop. There are prizes to be won this weekend, you can take part from anywhere in the world, and all the rules can be found at Quizmeister Kristina Lloyd's place, or on the SH! Blog.

So what more appropriate theme for this post can there be, than pictures of the latest smut-reading I took part in, at the Hoxton branch of Sh! 

"D. L. King and Friends" was organized by anthology editor and femdom-smutter D.L. King, and we all read our stories from books she'd created.

Here we are looking demure and respectable:

L to R: Jacqui Brocker, Jacqueline Applebee, K D Grace, D L King, Janine Ashbless, N J Streitberger. Ciara Finn also read, but was shy!

Here we are .... waving sex-toys around:

Remittance Girl has joined in on the left of the lineup :-)

There are a lot of sex-toys to hand at Sh! when you walk in - that's the second thing you notice about the place. The first thing you notice is how PINK it is!

Carnal Machines on Kindle
Sh! does a brilliant job of supporting erotica authors with organised readings. It also runs workshops and events and has some of the most friendly, helpful staff in retail. It deservedly won Time Out's award  for London's Best Sex Shop for Women, because it's fun, bright and totally non-intimidating. Here's a quote from the manager:
The company I work for was set up, on budget of £700, so women of all ages, sexual preferences & varying degrees of sexual experience could safely shop & ask advice. It's female-focused - the shop says 'no thank you' to men shopping solo (imagine how many thousands of pounds we lose each year due to this!).

Here's a very pink pic of me reading from my steampunk story The Servant Question (to be found in anthology Carnal Machines). I had a blast reading this particular one because it's a humorous story, and thank goodness the audience laughed in all the right places :-)

If you want to take part in the Pleasure Hunt, the other links you need to go to today are:

And Sunday's links are:

Happy hunting!

Friday, 7 December 2012

When I was 45 ...

Yes, it's my Birthday Blog Post, in which, every year, I look back with a critical eye on my life and check whether I need a kick in the ass or should just give in and collect my coffin.

When I was 45, for the first time ...

  • I saw geek-god Alan Moore live! And Jonathan Coulton! My nerd apotheosis...
  • I wore a cheap-n-slutty glow-in-the dark minidress to a blacklight party
  • I reported someone on Facebook for abusive language
  • I visited Florence, Barcelona and Ravenna.
  • I saw Mumford and Sons in concert!!!

  • I crawled around an Etruscan necropolis. Two, actually!
  • I went by motorhome all the way from from Italy to England, and right through the Alps in a tunnel.
  • I ate samphire (salty).
  • I swam in a freshwater lake (in Italy).

  • I got my PADI open water scubadiving certification.
  • I saw Mathilda, and Stomp, and Jesus Christ Superstar, all live.
  • I appeared in a national newspaper - the Express.
  • My name was mentioned in The Bookseller, on BBC Online, and ... by the Canadian Broadcasting Company!
  • I backed something on Kickstarter. It still hasn't turned up.
  • I co-edited the fiction for Geek Love, which is just the coolest anthology ever, and the highest-backed fiction project on Kickstarter. I found I rather like editing other people's work, mostly because I am mean.

  • I was headhunted and contracted to write the first volume of The Book of the Watchers for Cleis.
  • I went to Eroticon 2012, which was great but exhausting. Still not sure I can cope with 2 days in 2013!
  • I had 10 short stories published. I'm definitely not going to manage that many next year!
  • I went to a burlesque show.
  • I slept in a yurt (I say slept ...), and watched the stars through the roof hole while possibly not entirely free of the influence of mind-altering substances. My hippy weekend.

  • I went to the London Book Fair and hung out with the editors of Samhain and Ellora's Cave (No, not at the same time. Hell would freeze over first, I suspect).
  • I got my kit off and posed butt-naked for photographs that'll appear in public. In Geek Love, in case you were wondering.
Other firsts ... Heh. Not telling!
So: 45 was the year of sex, drugs and ... folk music.
And geeks.

I'm definitely not dead yet :-)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Happy Krampus Night!

Brom has written/illustrated a Krampus novel

You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry, you'd better not pout ...
No it's not Santa Claus you have to worry about - it's his hairy scary sidekick Krampus!

In some European traditions, Saint Nicholas turns up on December 6th (not the 25th) to give out presents to good children ... but there is punishment in store for bad ones. Accompanying St Nick in traditional Alpine lore is Krampus, a devil dressed in chains (to symbolise his subordination to the holy powers) who wields a whip of birch twigs and wears a basket on his back. His job is to find naughty children by the 5th, beat them with his scourge, and if they have been particularly bad, stuff them in his basket and CARRY THEM OFF TO HELL.

They didn't mess around in those days.

 From the 1800s on, as real fear of infernal powers and hellfire died out,  people began to send each other jolly Krampus cards inscribed with "Greetings from Krampus."  These cards were often blackly humorous, in the grand tradition of scaring the shit out of small children. Many are jaw-droppingly dodgy from a modern perspective.

Sometimes there was a sexual subtext that was certainly intentional.

Sometimes there was nothing subtextual about the sexual content at all.

If that's not a BDSM greeting card, I don't know what is!

Krampus gets a sex-change :-)

Krampus represents the dark side of Christmas/parenting/divine grace - the gift-giver who also punishes those who don't conform. He's almost certainly got pagan roots going back to the satyrs and "wild men" of nature, and represents the terrifying danger of the dark time of the year.

There are modern Krampusnacht festivals in Europe and the USA, and Krampus costumes can be truly astonishing. Attendence is not entirely safe however - tradition/roleplaying gives Krampus-players an imagined license to get very drunk and pick on passers-by (particularly attactive women) to thrash.

There's a BDSM XXXmas story in there somewhere...

If you want to see more of Krampus there's a very fine website here with a huge gallery of period greetings cards.

So Happy Krampusnacht to everyone! And BE GOOD!