Wednesday, 30 December 2009

2009 in the rearview mirror

Wow - 2009 is nearly over. How did that happen? Time for a quick look back over the year...

I watched 29 movies over the year, and the best one was social-comment SF goo-fest District 9. It wasn't inside my comfort zone, and I loved it for that. Honourable mention also goes to:

2009 was for me the Year of the Vampires. Remember me saying I didn't much like vampires? I don't, I really don't - Oh what the hell, I give in. As with everything else, it depends how you do it. The two best shows on TV this year both featured vampires.

Trying to decide which I like better, True Blood or Being Human, makes me dizzy! True Blood has much more sex and more cool, and the series is twice as long. Being Human (now to be found on BBC America, I'm told) is funnier and more moving, and you get more attached to the characters.  In the end Being Human wins my vote on the grounds that although the characters in TB are not unattractive, not one of them really floats my boat. Whereas I totally fell in love with vampire Mitchell, played by Irishman Aidan Turner:

Let's have another picture of him:

Me want.
Series 2 airing soon in the UK.

Best song I heard all year? This one, by Bowling for Soup.

What an awesome video. The first time I saw this I laughed my socks offf. Now it nearly brings me to tears. And that is my age showing.

Bye-bye to the Noughties! Onward with 2010!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Eyecandy Monday

Struggling to stay awake these last couple of days...

Once upon a time, though, I wrote a short story called Sleep Tight, which was a contemporary spin on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. I sold it to Kristina Wright for her Fairy Tale Lust anthology (out from Cleis in July 2010). Now, reprinted from her blog, here is the whole line-up for that anthology. It looks awesome!

Foreword by Angela Knight ,
Introduction: Once Upon a Time…
The Obedient Wife by Delilah Devlin
How the Little Mermaid Got Her Tail Back by Andrea Dale
Ducking by Craig Sorensen
Three Times by Justine Elyot
Ellie and the Shoemaker by Louisa Harte
The Pub Owner’s Daughter by Alegra Verde
Sleep Tight by Janine Ashbless
Her Hair is a Net, Woven by Shanna Germain
Mind Your Peas and Qs by Allison Wonderland
Demon Muse by Kristina Wright
Gildi and the Unwieldy, Ineffectual Committee of Bears by Jeremy Edwards
Frosted Glass by Aurelia T. Evans
Gingerbread Man by Carol Hassler
All In a Day’s Work by Saskia Walker
Big Bad Wolf (An Excerpt) by Alana Noël Voth
The Kiss by Michelle Augello-Page
The Return by Charlotte Stein
The Stone Room by A.D.R. Forte

And here's the official blurb from Amazon:

"Award-winning novelist and top erotica writer Kristina Wright goes over the river and through the woods to find the sexiest fairy tales ever written. Playfully seductive, supernaturally sensual, and darkly erotic, Fairy Tale Lust showcases clever twists to classic tales and introduces new stories inspired by the ever-popular genre. Here, a walk in the forest is likely to lead to an erotic encounter with a mysterious stranger and the silver light of a full moon might illuminate an orgy of sensual delights! Highly imaginative and downright stimulating, these stories take fairy tale erotica to the next level. Top erotica contributors deliver sizzling work, including Janine Ashbless, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Delilah Devlin, Shanna Germaine, and Saskia Walker."

I get cover mention! Yay!

You can pre-order at:
Amazon US : Amazon UK

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Snow had fallen...

I took this picture while out walking the dogs. D'you know, I've never seen a White Christmas before this year? - usually it's just drizzle.

Isn't it beautiful?

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Xmas, everyone!

He was supposed to flash...

Anyway, I'm wishing all of you out there in blogland a very happy holiday! Here's hoping you have a warm house, the companionship of those you love (whether family or friends) and something tasty to eat. Like Mr Fairylights above.

Or if he's not to your taste ... how about this recipe for Chestnut Bourguignon, one of the dishes I'm cooking for Xmas dinner? It's vegetarian, but so rich that most meat-eaters don't notice. A great winter meal, which can be served with rice or used as a pie-filling. And no, it's not low-carb, but hell: it's only one day!

  • 25g butter
  • 8 small onions or shallots, sliced
  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 125g button mushrooms
  • 150g carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery heart, finely sliced
  • 200g cooked chestnuts, halved or chopped to taste
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
  • bouquet garni, or 2 bayleaves and a sprig of rosemary
  • 300ml red wine
  • 300ml stock
  • 2-3 teaspoons soy sauce.

Fry the shallots in the butter for 5 minutes or so, until soft. Add the mushrooms, chestnuts, celery and carrot and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the mustard, garlic, herbs, wine and stock.
Bring to the boil in a saucepan. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

Before serving turn the heat up, add the soy sauce and boil to thicken slightly. Don't forget to remove the bouquet garni before dishing up.
Serves 4, with rice.

Merry Xmas!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

When I was 42, it was a very good year...

... though not for this poor little bugger, who will have ended up as deep-fried snackfood.

It's a bit belated, but every year I try to log what I have done that's new since my previous birthday. This is to stop me getting middle-aged and lazy.

So when I was 42, for the first time ever I:

  • Had short stories accepted by Harlequin Spice, Ravenous Romance, Racy Pages and Xcite.
  • Travelled to 4 new countries: Poland, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
  • Visited 2 genocide sites (Auschwitz and the Killing Fields). Which is quite enough.
  • Swam in a mountain river:

  • Attended a fetish party. In fact it was this one, and it was enormous fun. It had a Wild West theme, so this was my costume:

  • Was asked to write a vampire novel. 
  • Watched my publisher go down the toilet.
  • Found a diet that works. Got my weight down to the point where I actually quite like my naked body (132lb, fyi).
  • Went swinging through the trees for 4 hours one evening.
  • Saw the amazing plastinated cadavers and some giant animated dinosaurs.
  • Saw my first 3D film. It was Up and it was awesome: 3D is the way forward.
  • Went to the ballet. Didn't like it. Accepted that I don't like Shakespeare or opera either, and don't feel guilty anymore.
  • Spent an hour getting a workover in a Thai massage parlour. (My FEET!)
  • Engaged an architect to design an extension to the house. Oh damn damn damn - that really is middle-aged, isn't it?

There is no escape...

Monday, 21 December 2009

Eyecandy Monday - now with added schadenfreude

While I was away, Borders UK bookstore chain went bust.

Borders was the first of a new breed of bookstore in this country: the first one I'd ever come across that included a coffee store and magazine section inside and tried to pretend it was public library. Now it's gone -  or nearly so. In our local branch it's like a rugby scrum as books are sold off at 70% discount, and even the shelving is for sale.

Forgive me for not feeling sorry.

Back when Black Lace decided to rebrand itself as erotic romance, Borders duly moved all its BL books into the Romance section, and for a few heady months - Wow! Ordinary female readers could find us easily! We could be browsed!   Then we vanished again: someone at head office had made the decision to return us to where they thought we belonged - back in the cubby-hole beneath the stairs, next to the forensic pathology books with the pictures of mutilated corpses. And when I went in to ask what had happened, the assistant in charge of the romance section didn't even have the courtesy to come down from the staff room and explain what had gone on.

So, I weep not.

In Bearskin my heroine works in a bookstore and hates it:

Our chain is the sort that pays minimum wage yet only employs graduates, so that they can bring their years of education to bear on the challenge of shelving books in alphabetical order and coping politely with customers who are "Looking for a book, it was talked about on the radio last week, it’s by Patricia someone and it’s about this woman who goes to America - I think there’s something about flowers in the title, but it might be fireworks or something like that, you know?" This job was driving me out of my mind, all right.

Which is based squarely on the reportage of one of my friends who was in the biz.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

RGtR update

I've been moving the goalposts.

When I first started writing Red Grow the Roses I was aiming for 75K words. That became 80K. It's now set at 85K. I've one chapter and an epilogue to do to finish off, probably early in the New Year. I currently feel like I'm running a marathon in lead boots. This is, I fear, the Book With No Market - too bleak for romance, too dirty for horror, too pretentious for modern fast-paced erotica. *sigh*

Not helping my mood is the weather. Which is absolutely beautiful: brilliant sunlight shining on inches of pristine fresh snow.  But our boiler broke down this morning, leaving us with no heating or warm water.

Anyone know a good plumber?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Laos #2

(click on pictures to enlarge)

I thought I'd start this off with some Laos food photos. Above, a market fruit-stall. Oh the fruit! I must have eaten my own bodyweight in papaya, longans and rambutans.

This is a vegetarian speciality of Luang Prabang: river-algae, dried and seasoned and deep-fried to make big crisps. It's delicious (and supposed to put lead in your pencil, guys)!

Slightly less palatable: bamboo worms, sold live and wriggling. And I'm not even go to show you the rat/bat/squirrel-on-a-stick picture.

Okay, back to nice safe pictures of scenery...

This is the Mekong seen from inside the Pak Ou Buddha caves, which is where statues of the Buddha go when they retire.

There are thousands of them.

A whole lot of Laos is made up of hills, which makes for bad farming and good tourism. This is the waterfall at Koung Si.

And this is the pool, in the river below the falls, that I went swimming in. Wonderful experience. The water really is that weird blue colour, but it can't be too poisonous because there are lots of little fish.

Some of the mountains, like around the tiny town of Vang Viang, are limestone, which makes for caves, sheer cliffs, and bizarrely tumescent hills.

Vang Viang is a weird place - the natural beauty of the scenery is beyond belief, but for some reason it is full of stoned backpackers who can barely summon the ability to stagger out of their huts and go tubing down the river. I guess they're just soaking up the atmosphere, man. (I'm bitter about backpackers because they're young and thin and beautiful and irresponsible. Yes, jealous.) Anyway, we climbed a hill, because we are middle-aged and a bit dumb like that. The rocks are really jagged, close up.

I'd love to go back to Vang Viang. This is a picture I took while on an evening walk across farmland near the town. The rice has all been harvested by hand.

And below - some traditional heavy lifting machinery at work logging.

To be honest, we were reluctant to leave Laos and head into Cambodia! Those pictures next week.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Laos #1

(click on photos to expand)

What can I say about the Lao People's Democratic Republic*? Well, I can say: "Go there, if you get the chance." Go there right now, before mass tourism and globalisation ruin it. It is an absolute gem of a country, with some of the most amazing scenery I've ever seen, dense forests, beautiful temples and - as a local brochure put it - a people whose national character is "shy, reserved and gentle."** You just feel like you could just kick off your shoes and stay there forever.

This is the mighty Mekong river, at dawn. (It seems compulsory to call it the "mighty" in all the guide books, at every opportunity. Like there's some other Mekong you might get it confused with. The Unimpressive Mekong in Surrey, perhaps.) We spent two days sailing down it . The sands glitter with gold dust.

This is the sort of house most rural people live in - it's not a rich country at all. What you can't see from this angle is the 6ft satellite dish out the back. They want their MTV!

This is a shot of Luang Prabang, the town we reached by boat. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits on a penninsula in the river. It's known for its colonial French architecture and is just a gorgeous, laid-back place.

This is a view upriver from Luang Prabang town. It's weirdly reminsicent of Durham in the UK ... which is also, coincidentally, a world heritage site.

These are monks collecting their breakfast. Every morning at dawn the locals go out with pots of cooked rice and bananas and other foods, and kneel at the side of the road. Hundreds of monks process out from their temples and the townspeople put food in their pots. The monks aren't allowed to eat anything except gifted food, and not even that after midday.

This is Mr Ashbless crossing a seriously rickety bamboo bridge over the Khan river. There's no point in building a better one because it'll just get washed away when the rains come! It's a good job you can't see fear in a photo.

This is the temple of Wat Xian Thong, which is the oldest in the country (1560). It's small but elaborately decorated with mirrorwork and paintings.

And a temple doorway I really liked.

And this is some blasted tourist posing next to the elephant-head holy-water dispenser ... Oh hold on: it's me.

More Laos coming up - OMG those mountains!

* rule of thumb: any country with the word "Democratic" in its name, isn't. Laos is technically a communist dictatorship, although as tourists we didn't see any sign of that (no obvious military or police presence) and they've certainly, in recent years, been letting local private enterprise flourish. Oh, hold on ... there's a restaurant/bar curfew set at 11pm. Is that oppression? It helps keep the backpackers quiet, anyway.
** This is despite Laos being the most-bombed country per capita in the history of the world. And the US hadn't even declared war on the place when they did it.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Eyecandy Monday

Ooh! Surprise!

Other surprise news ... In Real Life, the story I was frantically writing before going off on holiday last month, has been accepted  (along with a 100-word flash) in a forthcoming Surprise anthology, edited by Tinder James and published by Racy Pages in Spring next year:

"Nearly everyone loves surprises—especially sexy ones. A surprise can make you feel special, cared for, and if it includes anticipation, tingly in all the right places. Surprises can be planned and carefully executed or completely unexpected, but the irresistible thing they all have in common is that split-second jolt of adrenaline when you realize things are not what they seemed."

 More details as they appear...


Elsewhere, Playing with Fire has been named by Violet Blue as one of her top 10 sexy books of 2009 - in fact it's top of the list -  so it's an honour to be included in that. Yay for editor Alison Tyler!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Oglaf online

(click to enlarge)

Sorry: I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons this weekend instead of sorting out my travel photos. Laos next week, I promise. In the meantime, you have heard about Oglaf, haven't you? Since I was sent the link it's become my new favourite website! An online comic in the swords-and-sorcery genre, its little stories manage to pull off the trick of being dirty, beautifully drawn, titilating and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time. I like the "adverts" and the little comments in the headings too. 

Here's the full archive - some of the stories are interconnected so it's best to start top left and just "next page" through the lot.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Law Abiding Citizen: movie review

I was worried about this movie. Worried because I thought I'd miss it while I was on holiday. Worried because the trailer implies a really nasty torture scene, and I can't cope with torture scenes in movies. Violence yes: torture no.

Luckily neither of my fears came true. Despite a slew of  reviews claiming that "nothing is left to the imagination", they don't show the torture. At least not in the version I saw, which makes me think reviewers must make stuff up out of their asses - or maybe it was a completely different cut everywhere else in the world. The torture is gleefully described by the perpetrator in advance, and you do see the corpse afterwards (at some distance) but THEY DON'T SHOW ANYTHING, which is what matters to me. (There is at least one spectacularly bloody murder later on, btw, but it's so fast it doesn't count as torture.)

Anyway, the plot: This film starts as a courtroom drama and turns into a revenge thriller with a theme of Law versus Justice. Extremely punitive justice...

Clyde Shelton (Butler) is stabbed and sees his wife and daughter killed when burglers invade his home. The perps are arrested but the forensic evidence is ruled inadmissable due to police foulup and the prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) cuts a deal: the (less culpable) burgler gets the death penalty and the worse one gets a few years in prison after turning state witness. Rice does this rather than risk a trial because he doesn't want to ruin his 96% sucess rate at prosecution. Shelton is betrayed and furious. Cut to 10 years later when Shelton's slow-matured and very elaborate plans for revenge come to fruition, and both burglers die horrible deaths. Shelton is arrested. But then the others involved start dying: the judge, the defence council, the junior lawyers. How is Shelton carrying out the murders from inside prison? And since Rice is clearly being saved up for last, how can he stop Shelton, short of commiting murder himself?

I've got to say,  I enjoyed the film, and not just because of the totally gratuitous strip scene (Huzzah!). It's shallow as a puddle really, with only one message ("Don't compromise with evil") but the fact that the anti-hero is a smart bloke outwitting the "hero" keeps you interested. There's never going to be a happy ending - although you are clearly supposed to sympathise with Shelton (if not his methods), he is already damned and living in his own hell; there can't be any redemption for him except death. It's just a question  of whether Rice is redeemed or killed.

I was a bit disappointed he got off the hook.

Sadly, once Shelton's secrets are revealed the film flags a bit - at the climax he is about to blow up the mayor, the police chiefs and legal bigwigs at once, in a final blow against the corrupt justice system that failed his family. I really couldn't bring myself  to feel even slightly anxious on behalf of that lot.

But it was a fun ride that far. Don't watch it if the sight of blood scares you.


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

One Night in Bangkok

Here come the holiday snaps!

Actually we spent about 3 days in Bangkok, and that's pretty much all I saw of Thailand on my holiday before moving on to other countries, but I thought I'd start with those photos. Above, some Christmas lights and dayglo taxis. It is so weird seeing tropical countries put on the Xmas trappings, complete wih Santas and snowscapes.

Bangkok is bloody huge. I mean, enormous. It's a rising financial centre and boy does it show: high-tech new buildings are bursting out of the grimy lo-rise wherever you look. They've got a skytrain, which slightly mitigates the worst traffic jams in human history. Just being there is weirdly exciting: you can see them rushing forward into the new millennium at breakneck speed. Think Blade Runner. In fact, it's a salutory lesson that the future is not British: it's not even going to be White, lol.

But most of my photos are of the Old Stuff. Here's the gigantic Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho.

We saw a lot of Buddhas in all three countries we visited! And a lot of monks. The way it works is that most men become monks in their teens, for a minimum of 3 months, in order to earn merit for their parents. This allows the boys to learn meditation and discipline (and is a bloody good idea, in my opinion - we should introduce it here). They also get an education (and avoid military service!). Our tour guides in Thailand and Laos had been monks for years.

Here's a shot of one of the buildings in the Royal Palace, but honestly the picture does not do it justice: this structure is so bright and colourful it is physically painful to look at: the painted walls are studded with multi-coloured glass tiles and gilded, and under the midday sun it makes your eyes bleed. The most bling place I've ever seen!

Here's one of  the many mythological subjects used in statuary: half-woman, half-bird, and completely kinky.

Coming up ... Laos.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Eyecandy Monday

I'm back from holiday!
Yes, I had a brilliant time and took hundreds of photos, which I need to sort through before I show you any. I watched the sunset over Angkor Wat on my birthday, and still can't quite believe it. I'm a bit sunburnt. No dietary upsets his time round (if you don't count the lard I piled on by eating fruit and noodles), although I did put my back out for 3 days, resulting in me having to crawl on hands on knees, like a Japanese ghost, to the bathroom one night, lol. I still went hill-climbing though - with a bad back, in 32 degrees C of heat. Mad dogs and Englishmen, as they say...

Bloody hell, it's cold and wet back here in the UK!

P.S - the eyecandy at the top is one of the few available on creative commons licence from Quemas, but you can see more of his work here on Flickr. He's hot.