Monday, 28 April 2008

Wii Wii Wii All The Way Home

Well, I might as well announce my retirement from writing now, because this weekend we bought a secondhand Wii.

I am incredibly crap at computer games normally. I do not have the ability possessed by, say, the average 5-year-old, to commit a flurry of key-presses to motor memory: I have to think consciously about every key.

Nor do I have Mr Ashbless' persistance. I'm just too egotistical to cope with failure. If I haven't managed to get Lara to run up to the edge, jump, grab the ledge and climb up by the 3rd attempt, I just snarl "Stupid bloody game!" and go do something I am good at.

But the Wii has the advantage of using intuitive motor memories and natural movements. And I can actually do that! It's so cool! So I suspect I will be spending far too much time from now on boxing, playing tennis and ten-pin bowling.

Plus I bought a couple of games. (Both carefully selected as suitable for "Ages 3+") . Endless Ocean allows you to swim around a beautiful tropical sea and befriend fish, which is about the level of my actual socialising skills. Sea Monsters: a prehistoric adventure is similar but you get to be eaten by Lipurodons as well, so I'm gearing up to that one.

Publishing deadline? What deadline?

Friday, 25 April 2008

What's in a Name?

One of the thing's I've been doing is writing a database of the names I've used in my fiction. You just get to that point after a while. I'll be thinking "Right, this character is Victorian, posh and British - she looks like a Cassandra to me. Urm .... have I used Cassandra in a previous story?"

So I've been going through my back-catalogue, and recording which names have been used for actual characters and which have been mentioned only in passing (e.g. "This took place during the reign of King Edwin the Lascivious"). Some interesting results have cropped up:

Not counting Divine Torment and Burning Bright (where the names are all fantasy inventions), I have used 95 male names and 68 female names in my erotic fiction, suggesting the women are indulging in multiple sexual partners ...

But, if you are a named female in my fiction, you will almost certainly be involved in sex. Rather more men than women are named as background characters (e.g. soldiers, landowners, relatives) and don't get any nookie. Damn, the ratio is falling (Although Annnette and Kitten both strive nobly to skew the figures back...).

I've never written from an anonymous male point-of-view. I have written nameless female POV. On the other hand I've written sex with more un-named men ("the prince," "the sorcerer") from a female POV than un-named women ("the dryad") from a male POV.

Two names ("Alex" and "Emma"/"Emmer") appear in both male and female lists.

Three women (The Malia Shai/Myrna, Surya/Raihn and Kitten/Zoe) have multiple aliases.

I've written 2 priests, 2 saints, rather a lot of Lords and shedloads of soldiers.

My favourite male name so far is Arailt (Gaelic for Harold). My favourite female name is Allisandra (yes, she is posh!). I've got more 'A' names than any other single letter of the alphabet.

I still haven't used some names I like very much: Astrid, Gavin, Padraig, Killian ... so look out for them in future stories!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

DVD review: Aetbaar


I knew what I was getting into when I bought this: it's a John Abraham film where he plays a very bad Badboy indeed, and the movie has been panned by the critics.

Plot first: Ria (Bipasha Basu) is a carefree college girl with a very protective father, Ranveer (Amitabh Bachchan), who wants to be with her every possible moment. (Note that the glaring Freudian undertones are never addressed by the film but are painfully obvious to the British viewer who'll have an inbuilt mistrust of father-daughter intimacy.) She bumps into badboy biker Aryan (John Abraham) and he falls for her instantly. She soon returns his passion, since she is "listening to her heart" (or at least some bodily organ not known for rational judgment). Ranveer mistrusts Aryan, and finds out he has in fact killed his father. Ria accepts Aryan's story that his father was an alcoholic who murdered his mother, and refuses to ditch him. Ranveer does some digging, finds out that this was a pack of lies and sets Aryan up to demonstrate this to Ria. She dumps him, he tries to kill her, daddy saves the day.

Okay, so I bought this DVD because I think John Abraham is hot - and there he does not disappoint. He looks good whether wet with sweat, rainwater or blood. He is also pretty damn good in the role, switching between brooding rage, charm and suffering at the drop of a hat. Bipasha only gets one scene where she can do any proper acting, but otherwise looks beautiful. Amitabh does staunch, heroic and benevolent with his usual effectiveness.

The film isn't let down by its cast, but by the ham-fisted direction - which goes out of its way to excise any dramatic tension or ambiguity from the story. For example, there's a brothel scene early on that firmly establishes that Aryan isn't just a bit intense; he's madder than a burning box of ferrets. It would have been so much more effective if he could have charmed the viewer first, only later for his madness to be revealed. There's a scene where he's pursuing a woman with dangerous intent which could be quite dramatic - only the director reveals halfway through that it is all a set-up and Ranveer is in control of the situation. The suggestion that Aryan might have serious, erm, "anger management issues" due to a horrible childhood is swiftly knocked on the head as too nuanced: hell, he's just an evil psycho. And if you're in a Bollywood film and your mother disowns you, well then you know there's no hope for you!

Of course the ironic thing is that Ria falls for a possessive, intrusive, obsessive boyfriend precisely because he is her father writ larger and sexier.

I was also personally disappointed because more than any other Bollywood film I've watched, this one smacked of a US film remade with Indian actors. There was no real sense of any Indian-ness about it. The musical numbers were half-hearted. The street scenes looked like sets.

So, overall, not one to watch for its worth as a film, but on your own so you can enjoy the eye-candy in peace.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

CowBoy Up!

I'm so excited! I've just got official permission from my editor at Black Lace to write a minotaur story for my new anthology!!!

Yes, I had to ask permission in advance. Black Lace are extremely wary about featuring semi-human beasts even in a fantasy context - when I tried to use a minotaurish fairy in Wildwood (out in August this year) I got sent to Perverts Corner in disgrace. Despite my first anthology Cruel Enchantment featuring full-on sex with a dragon, anything too reminiscent of bestiality is now firmly rejected.

But this time I pitched for a minotaur story that will be unsettling, tragic and deeply dirty - but it won't depend for its effect on emphasising the horns 'n' hooves of one of the participants. And I was told "Go for it".

Oh, I'm just so happy!

BTW - if you haven't read The House of Asterion by Jorge Luis Borges there's a link to this (very) short but lovely story here.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


Rajko Radovic has done his stint as Sidebar Guy for a week over at Lust Bites, so I thought I'd put his photo here for more permanent display. It's just beautiful.

Sadly I haven't got a bigger version of this picture. I could do with one, say, 3ft by 2ft for the back of the bathroom door (currently occupied by a 300 poster). Sigh...

Rajko of course came to public notice as a contestant in the anthropology/martial arts reality show Last Man Standing (broadcast in the US as Last One Standing). He's a warrior, a world record breaker in a strength/endurance category, cute, fit as hell and an all-round nice guy. He's also a singer/songwriter and I only went over to his website 'cos I fancied him, but was surprised to find that actually I really really like the music. I hope he realises his dream one day and we can all buy his CDs.

He's got 4 songs available as free downloads ... Go on, let them grow on you.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Amazon Trouble

Now that was a weird thing. I was on doing a search under my own name (which is not as egotistical as it sounds - it's the usual way we find out future publication dates and what covers we're getting). But instead of the usual 9 results for "Janine Ashbless" I only came up with 7. Divine Torment (in both editions) had vanished. Not "out of print" or "not currently available" - all record of its existence had vanished, as if it had never existed.

Now, people should not do that to authors. We have weak constitutions. We are prone even at the best of times to paranoia, anxiety attacks and fits of crushing despair about our dismal careers/prospects/talents/bank-balances. To lose a whole book is suffer a deadly blow!

In the best traditions of British courage I sent a bleating letter off to Amazon and another one off to my editor, in the hope that he could get the Big Boys and Girls at the Virgin to do battle on my behalf. And a few hours later my book was back online. Handkerchiefs were wiped across fevered brows. Huzzah for us.

(To be fair, Amazon replied amazingly promptly to my query, which was good of them.)

So I'm okay again, for the moment. Sanity slightly reduced, perhaps*. I just wish I wasn't going to react exactly the same way next time technology makes me feel powerless and ignorant and useless. And again. And again. And again...

* When it gets to zero I become a Shub-Niggurath cultist.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

"Magic & Desire" - first glimpse

Woo-hoo! My contributor copies of Magic & Desire have arrived today!

This book is a collection of 3 novellas with magical/paranormal themes by three of the Lust Bites crew - myself, Portia Da Costa and Olivia Knight.

Portia's story is called Ill Met By Moonlight and is a contemporary tale of a Fairy who falls for a human woman - and has only a month to work out what to do about it or lose her forever.

Olivia's is a fantasy tale, The Dragon Lord, about a princess with a serious problem: she breathes fire when confronted with an untruth. And about a dragon rider on a mission to save the human race.

And mine - The House of Dust - is set in ancient Mesopotamia, and is the dark story of a priestess who descends into the Land of the Dead to return her murdered lover to life.

The book is officially available from 1st May, I believe, but can be pre-ordered from Amazon as per usual. There are going to be features/excerpts on Lust Bites during the week starting 5th May, and we'll be giving away free copies so don't miss out!

It looks great, I think. I'm busy trying to read through the whole thing without, you know, getting RSI or going blind...

Thursday, 10 April 2008

"Gerard & Jacques"

I love my local library. In the Young Adults section it has a couple of cases of graphic novels, which is good news for me because my own graphic novel bookcase at home is FULL, plus I get to explore the world of Manga comics for free. Manga is good for pretty-boy heroes (and villains) and steamy m/m romance. This week's discovery was Gerard & Jacques by Fumi Yoshinaga, which is set during the French Revolution and is more or less Mills 'n' Boon with blokes ... if Mills & Boon did anal rape that is.

I really have no idea if the librarians realise what's inside the covers of this book. It amuses the hell out of me to think that what we have here is public-funded free porn for teenagers - and porn it is, of the most artistic sort: erect cocks, cum-shots, semen spilt on young men's lips and all. I certainly have no intention of bringing the contents to public notice: I was avidly reading the dirty bits in adult novels from about age 10 myself, and see no reason other generations should be deprived of my education. (And believe me, I was far from the poster-girl for underage promiscuity.)

Huzzah for local government!

Monday, 7 April 2008

... That's Nobody's Business But the Turks

And that's what I call a suggestive landscape! Yes, I'm still wallowing around in Turkey for my current story. The picture above was taken in Cappadocia, which is an extraordinary region where the soft volcanic stone has been weathered into forms politely known as "fairy chimneys". They sort of remind me of something other than chimneys. But maybe I have a dirty mind. ;-)

Google/Images "cappadocia" for more amazingly phallic landforms. Better still, go there on holiday like wot I did. Every erotica writer needs a place they feel at home...

And here's another reason for lusty women to go to Turkey: he's called Ugur Pektas and, having been in a reality show, is now a TV actor. Yummy.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Istanbul, not Constantinople

What's the opposite of homesickness?

The short story I'm currently writing is set in Turkey and primarily in Istanbul. This is a city I've been lucky enough to visit twice: once in 1998 and once in 2003. As a result I've got my holiday diaries to draw upon for notes (Always keep a diary when on holiday!), and rather a lot of photos (I have 65 photo-albums so far, and now I've got a digital camera I'm taking more and better pictures). I've been looking through them all.

I don't actually like big cities as a rule, but Istanbul is something else. Magical.

Now I've got anti-home-sickness. I want to go abroad, desperately. I want to amble round museums and buy postcards. I want to explore Roman ruins and learn the histories of places I've never heard of. I want to wake up at 6am to the sound of the muezzin's call to prayer, and fall asleep again with a big happy smile on my face. I want that curious mix of insecurity and anticipation, and that feeling of connecting to a wider world. I want to experience the unfamiliar.

Holidays are really important to me. Hey: I spend almost no money on new clothes, shoes or make-up throughout the year, so I don't feel bad about what I do spend my earnings upon. We have a few dedicated holiday buddies that we often travel with, who have similar interests and stamina levels. That's really important!

And when I look back, these trips abroad are some of my greatest memories. And the memories go into my stories.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Old Flame

I've just finished a story for my WIP (see right) which is set in, ahem, pre-revolutionary America. I had a lovely time researching it: Wikipedia of course(All Hail Wikipedia!), but I also re-read the early chapters of Bill Bryson's Made in America and Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown and read for the first time Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - which believe me is not much like the film. Plus books on costume and tree magic and a set of postcards I bought at Plimoth Plantation * some years ago.

I was much vexed over the question of vocabulary to start with - do I use American words/spellings (which the copyeditor will instantly switch back to the British versions)? How do I cope with the fact that my male narrator is of Dutch stock? Would the local priest be a Reverend, a Pastor or a Preacher? Is the mountain ash known as a rowan over there too? Are there rooks in New England? Oh the perils of writing about an unfamiliar time and place...

(The answer to the last question is No, by the way, but there are flocking crows that can be ominous in the same way.)

All this paled as I was struck by the horrible thought: Will sex-with-the-devil be considered too uncomfortable a subject for US erotica readers? For about an hour I was in the grip of visions of my editor refusing to publish anything so contentious.

Then Mr Asbless said, "Like The Witches of Eastwick, you mean?" And suddenly everything was okay. I never thought I'd say it, but Thank Goodness for Jack Nicholson.

* NB: "Plymouth" the original English port is pronounced "Plimuth", while "Plimoth" the Amercian historical site is pronounced "PLYmouth". The English Language is a strange beast.