Monday, 30 March 2009

Eyecandy Monday

This splendid* Eyecandy is dedicated to Carrie White of Four Star Rating, who has a fantastic review up of Dark Enchantment. She seems particularly taken by my ghost story Cold Hands: Warm Heart, but says of the whole collection: "it does enchant but it also gives a lot more to its readers. It brings the power of raw imagination and pure unadulterated lust to the forefront."

Read the whole review here.
Thanks Carrie!

*and very wet. There's a lot of water slopping round in Cold Hands: Warm Heart.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Cool of Cthulhu

Mr Ashbless recently discovered Ebay, and has filled the entire spare bedroom with leeetle plastic Warhammer goblins. How I mocked ... until he found this fabulous posable Cthulhu figure for me. Wicked Mr Ashbless made me click the "bid" button myself, so I am, alas, no longer an innocent Ebay virgin.

But isn't he gorgeous? He even has tentacley suckered feet!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Fat and Grumpy

Okay, so after nearly 2 weeks of the Wii fit, exercising regularly and sticking to my core diet, I have ... gained 2lbs.

Feckin hell. I must be photosynthesising. Where else is the bloody weight coming from?

On days like this I need something to cheer me up:

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Roman by any other name...

There is a reason for me posting a picture of Titus "Phwoar" Pullo and Lucius Vorenus from Rome. It's not just random lechery ... Oh look, here they are again in wet tunics:

I wrote my first historical erotic short last week and it had an ancient Roman setting. Nor was this merely an excuse to watch the boxed set of Rome over from the beginning, even though I was very grateful for the excuse. The DVD has a special geek option that gives you extra historical information as you watch!

To write the story I had to come up with some character names: easy, huh? NOOOO. Roman names (at least among the upper echelons of society) were governed very strict rules. You can't just go round calling somebody Naughtius Maximus or whatever you like.

Here's Naughtius Maximus by the way. Actually its Michael Fassbender modeling for my escaped slave.

Roman names go like this (and bear in mind this is the simplified version). First for blokes: you start with a family name, which comes from your father and is your clan or gens. For example Julius would be a man of the Julii, Antonius would be a man of the Antonii etc. You get this when you're born. If you survive the first 9 days you're given a personal name such as Marcus, but this comes from a very very limited list - 98% of men had one of 17 personal names. Which means that the same bloody names were repeated throughout Roman history and modern researchers end up tearing their hair out trying to distinguish all the different people called Marcus Julius.

To back up the official names you might also get a cognomen, which is sort of a nickname - Caesar means "hairy", Tacitus means "silent", Cicero means "chickpea". As these nicknames eventually became hereditary (after all, sons would be named after their fathers), yet another nickname was added. In fact pretty much all the famous Roman names we know now are actually nicknames.

For women, it was a bit simplier. They didn't have personal names or nicknames, just family ones. So if your father was called Marcus Octavius Africanus you would be called Octavia. So would all your sisters. To distinguish girls they were given numbers: Octavia Prima, Octavia Secunda, Octavia Tertia etc. If anyone outside the family cared, you might also be known as Octavia Africana.

Why am I burbling on about this? Well, first to make the point that all this had to be looked into just to come up with a heroine, her father and her husband. And that pre-internet none of this would have been possible to find out without enormous research effort, and I simply wouldn't have bothered. Not for a short story. Praise Wikipedia, eh?

Standards do rise.

Last word on Roman Names goes, though, to Life of Brian:

Monday, 23 March 2009

Eyecandy Monday

Gosh, this breaks so many food hygiene laws. How awful...

This should be a quiet week, with no mad deadlines or irritating appointments. I do have a new foster-dog, but he's pretty quiet.Hopefully I'll get quite a bit of writing done.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Ting Ting - the penny drops

You know, it took me quite a while to work out why I found this video to the Ting Tings' catchy-but-just- another-bit-of-Europop single That's Not My Name so sexy. Not sexy as in "Oh, they're both sorta cute I suppose." Sexy as in DIRTY.

Then I twigged. It's the hot spanking action.

Seriously. There she is, young and pretty and getting more and more worked up throughout the song. He's cool and emotionless, his eyes hidden behind shades as he leans down and slams that drum over and over again. He must have some muscle power in those shoulders. And the more hysterical she becomes the harder he ... beats the drum.

Gosh, I've come over all unnecessary.

I'm not making it up, am I? I mean, look at that last pose of the video. Are you telling me that's innocent? Or do I just have a mucky mind?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Please can I have some Moore?

So what's the connection between Watchmen (movie reviewed last week) and erotica? No, not just Dr Manhattan's big blue cock. Nor the fact that I'm rather keen on both.

Bear with me...

The writer of the Watchmen graphic novel is Alan Moore, who happens to be the single living author* I admire the most . "Admire" is an understatement here. Most of his prose has been published in the graphic novel genre. He's individualistic**, deeply principled, and possibly the most stubborn man on the planet. He's also very hairy. And he writes stuff that turns my brain inside out and makes me weep with envy. Here he is on finishing a novel:

The last words of the previous chapter, written in grey light, stand there upon the monitor's dark stage, beneath the Help menu that's lettered up on the proscenium arch. The cursor winks, a visible slow handclap in the black deserted auditorium.

(from Voice of the Fire, Moore's only prose novel to date)

The first time I read that I wanted to get down on my knees in praise. Then bang my head off the desk in despair of writing anything that good. Moore seems to think in allusion and metaphor - the province of the poet and the ritual magician. His work is literally mind-expanding:

We are insensate molecules, assembled from the accidental code engraved on our genes. Mud that sat up. We reproduce, mathematically predictable as spores within a petri dish. We function briefly, then subside once more into the unknowing silt. We are a blind contingency, an unimportant restlessness of dirt - and yet Rosetti paints his dead Elizabeth, head tilted back on her impossibly slim throat, eyes closed against the golden light surrounding her. Clay looks on clay, and understands that it is beautiful. Through us, the cosmos gazes on itself, adores itself, breaks its own heart. Through us, matter stares slack-jawed at its own star-dusted countenance and knows, incredulously, that it knows.

(from Snakes and Ladders)

Now in 2006 Moore, along with artist Melinda Gebbie (whom he later married) published an enormous erotic novel called Lost Girls, which is all about how great he thinks porn is. Here they are, by the way:

Told you he was hairy.

Lost Girls is a 3-volume hardback about Dorothy (from Oz), Wendy (of Peter Pan fame) and Alice (of Wonderland) meeting up when grown, on the eve of WW1, in a hotel in Switzerland. They have lots of sex and discuss their secrets and come to terms with their pasts. The book promptly got banned by a whole load of retail bookshops. I'm not going to recommend you buy it blind because it is a tad on the expensive side (I borrowed it from a friend!). But it's pertinent and fascinating because here is a greatly respected and fairly mainstream author stepping out from the shadows to say "porn is wonderful".

Moore is immensely articulate and intelligent and I am not going to attempt to reproduce his argument here***. But he did do a long and fascinating interview on the subject which has been archived by Comic Book Resources. Here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

And if you want to read some of his non-smut work you could start as I did with the collected Swamp Thing - it's an easy in for horror/fantasy or mainstream comics fans. Or maybe try the denser and more downbeat From Hell if you like historic settings, or Promethea if you are into magic and philosophy and beautiful artwork. Voice of the Fire is very English. Watchmen, of course, is set in America.

*the single deceased author being Angela Carter.
** as Wikipedia succinctly puts it: 'He is a vegetarian, an anarchist, a practicing magician and occultist, and he worships a Roman snake-deity named Glycon, which he acknowledges to be a "complete hoax".'
***Nor do I unreservedly agree with everything he has to say.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Eyecandy Monday

Well, we went and bought a Wii Fit this weekend. It's going to be some time before I reach the standard of suppleness above, but I do intend to get some exercise done. Dogwalking isn't enough!

Mr Ashbless is of course a natural at nearly everything, and I'm crap (my balance is beyond awful - I can't even "ski" downhill in a straight line.) so I hate him. But he can't jog because his ankles are weak. I'm off for a "run"!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Fire warning

As April approaches, hyper-efficient editor Alison Tyler has given the upcoming anthology Playing with Fire its very own blog. If you drop in over there you'll be able to see the full line-up of talented contributors and red-hot titles (including me with my threesome story Scorched). Notice a theme? 

Also out in the US in April will be the Black Lace anthology Seduction (already available in the UK, including my story Honey Trap - excerpt here). Ecata romance has just given it a 4* review, saying "this collection is sure to tickle your fancy." And we know where that leads, don't we?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Watchmen: movie review

"Who watches the Watchmen?" (Juvenal, 1st Century) Well, I do. I've been waiting 20 years for this movie.

For those not old enough to remember*, Alan Moore's Watchmen was (along with Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) one of two graphic novels published in the 1980s that completely changed the way we looked at superhero comics. At the time it was an extraordinary shock: they took a medium that catered to adolescent fantasies and rewrote the genre as an adult one. They dared to go dark. They dared to state that violence can actually kill. They dared to suggest that if you have a propensity for putting on skin-tight fetish costume and going out to beat people up, then you probably have some serious psycho-sexual issues.

The Watchmen movie in 2009 cannot possibly have the same impact, because these issues have become mainstream now. What we have got is a densely-plotted, visually stunning superhero-noir film combined with Zak "300" Snyder's balletic vision of combat violence. But it's actually extremely faithful to the original comic (there were points I thought too faithful: why keep the lynx in? What does it add except confusion?).

The action is set in an alternate 1980s where America won in Vietnam, Nixon is still President and the Cold War has brought us teetering on the brink of worldwide annihilation. In the middle of this are a group of retired American costumed heroes known as The Watchmen. One of them, the Comedian (and what a mind-boggling shit he is: spot-on portrayal there) is murdered by an unknown assailant. Another, the creepy and deranged Rorschach (another superb performance), takes it upon himself to find out why someone has started bumping off "masks". And from there the plot thickens and the body-count starts to build...

And oh boy are there a lot of dead people by the end of this film.

Being so true to the 12-part graphic novel means that the film is long (nearly 3 hours) and complex and multi-layered, with lots of flashbacks. It doesn't have a lot of forward momentum. I'm glad though: the alternative would have been to simplify it beyond recognition.

Incidently, I've read a number of reviews in which much is made of Dr Manhattan (who is the only one of the "heroes" with genuine superpowers, and not actually human anymore) and his penis: how he grows to giant size and strides naked about the battlefield. There's no giant penis in the version I saw; although you do see Dr Manhattan full-frontal a lot, it's only when he's human sized. They've cut the colossal cock, the bastards.

Watchmen is an 18 certificate ('R' in the USA) and deservedly so. The fight scenes are bullet-time kung-fu but brutal: these are superheroes who kill (and in the case of the Comedian, attempt violent rape). Broken bones burst out through skin, there is one dismemberment scene where gore is literally flung around the set, and a flashback to a child's kidnapping is, though comparatively understated, really unpleasant.

This is a movie about the ways we respond to human evil, about saving the world, about whether the ends justifies the means. The small-scale violence practiced by the costumed vigilantes "for the greater good", whether it is directed against criminals or enemies of the state, finds its true apotheosis in the climax.

If Watchmen does have a problem, it's that its vision of humanity is so bleak that by the time the final twist comes, in the last few seconds, you just don't care. This is a film where the single most engaging and sympathetic character, Rorschach, is a twisted miserable right-wing sociopath who hates literally everyone in the world. However much one enjoys the ride, the movie-goer is led to conclude, along with Dr Manhattan, that humankind isn't actually worth saving.

"And all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'Save us!' And I'll look down and whisper 'No'."

*in which case you might have problems appreciating the "appearances" by Kissinger, Warhol etc in the film. Not to mention the dread of nuclear war and Communism.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Racing Greyhounds

Don't mind me, I'm just experimenting with uploading my own video footage to Blogger. This means, I suppose, that I could video-blog ... except that I can't stand the sound of my own recorded voice.

It's fairly old footage: Forest the yellow dog is no longer alive these days. We were on holiday in the Lake District at a lovely farm that had a dog-exercising field. They're not chasing anything, by the way - they just love to run.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Eyecandy Monday

Just to redress the headless torso balance. Isn't he cute?

Wow, where has the time gone? For a week I've done nothing but walk the dogs and eat and stick photos (700 of them) into albums. And the days have shot by.

Time to do some work, I think.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Victorian Kinkery pilgrimage

So, a week or so back I met up with the very wonderful Madelynne Ellis and Charlotte Stein for chat and chocolate, and I dragged them to Manchester Art Gallery because I wanted to see their Pre-Raphaelite collection. And oh boy did they have a great example of Victorian kink on show!

This is The Sirens and Ulysses by William Etty (1837). Dear oh dear... At the time the critics called it obscene, and even today it's in gloriously poor taste. There's the sirens, see, waving their boobies and singing to Ulysses across the water while his men (who've got their ears stopped with wax) are holding him back from leaping overboard. All around the sirens are the decaying bodies of those sailors who succumbed in the past to their lure, some reduced to bones and some just yucky. Sex 'n' death, eh? Bear in mind that this picture is enormous (and actually really brightly coloured in real life). It's currently being restored in public (it has its own exhibit) and I think it's just wonderfully, embarrassingly grim and pervy.

Here's another - rather more famous - picture they have on display: Sappho by Charles-August Mengin (1877). I actually have a print of this behind me as I type, because it's been one of my favourites for years: for some reason I'd imagined the original as being quite small. In fact it's well above life-size and truly dominating.

On the other hand this picture: Silver Favourites by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1903), which I'd always imagined to be huge, is only about A2 size.

And this one (Astarte Syriaca, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)? In the flesh, quite powerfully ugly.

Art, it's a funny old thing...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The News This Week...

Lots of news ...

The biggest bit is that my short story collection Dark Enchantment is out TODAY west of the Atlantic. So if your appetite was whetted by all those excerpts in January and you've been seething with frustration, you can buy it now on Amazon US. Yippee! (And if you missed the excerpts, just scroll down the right-hand bar on this blog and click on the January archive.)

Next, I've had a couple of short stories accepted for future Black Lace anthologies. My story "Michelanglo's Men" is going to be in Sexy Little Numbers. The BL editor said: "I loved the female narrator. You do positively evil minxes so well."

Evil minxes? Moi? ;-)

And my story "The Icing on the Cake" is going to appear in the anthology Misbehaviour. It's a very messy story indeed: the editor describes it as "probably the closest Black Lace has come to splodge." Yeah ... we're talking icing and and anal!

And last but not least, Jade magazine (who named me their Writer of the Year) have asked to do a feature on me for a future issue. Isn't that great?


Monday, 2 March 2009

Eyecandy Monday

I particularly like this picture because it reminds me of the scene in Burning Bright where I had Veraine tied up in prison by the Tiger Lords. Although I'm sure Veraine didn't have an underpants shadow ... He never could keep his pants on that long, after all, heh heh.

I'm going to be (un)fairly constrained myself this week, at least on the web-surfing front. I'm abandonning Mr Ashbless and taking off to visit my parents, and they are (1) Christians who Do Not Approve Of Porn and (2) professional housesitters* since their retirement, so their computer actually belongs to their employer. I wouldn't want to cause problems, so although I hope to get onto this blog I won't be looking at anyone else's for 7 days. I'm setting up Blogger to post automatically here, which means if you're reading this on RSS (sorry Eloise!) you're going to get them all at once.
Argh. How will I manage without the smutoverse?

* house, 2 dogs, a dozen enormous koi carp and - wait for it - a buzzard, in fact.