Monday, 31 May 2010

Eyecandy Monday

I'm visiting my parents at the moment, which is why I've not been online much. And this [REDACTED] is not the sort of picture they would approve of posting from their computer, oh no, not at all...

And okay, I am too old to be cocking a snook at parental disapproval. But cut me some slack: I never did it as a teenager.

Yes, this is what happens to good girls, everyone.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sale! - The Grief of the Bond-Maid

Some good news! - My short story The Grief of the Bond-Maid has been accepted for publication in the upcoming Storm Moon Press anthology Cast the Cards, and will be on sale for Hallowe'en this year!

Storm Moon Press is a LGBT imprint and the rules for this anthology were: 1) it had to be a romance; 2) it couldn't be a straight het couple; and ... 3) it had to be themed on one of the Major Arcana of the Tarot. I ended up setting my story in Viking-era Norway, so it's actually themed around the Runes too, and my heroine is a shaman-witch ... (There is no such thing as overkill, is there?) The Grief of the Bond-Maid is a gritty magical fantasy about a slave woman who falls in with a hot m/m couple and begs their help killing off her owner, who is particularly nasty rune-priest of Odin.

I loved writing this story. It was a joy to be able to pull out all the magical stops instead of just writing "realistic" contemporary erotica. And although I worked for years on a living-history Viking site, this is the first time I've put any of that stuff into a story. Wierd, huh?

So anyway, I'm pleased as Punch!

Friday, 28 May 2010

Heart of Flame - an update at last

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while may be wondering what was happening to my Arabian Nights romance novel Heart of Flame, which was finished over a year ago, had the advance paid, was approved by the publisher .... and then did not appear.

Yeah, I was wondering too. In the end I felt I had to act.

Yesterday, after the legal processes were completed, rights to Heart of Flame reverted to me. And I received a very nice note from the editor wishing me luck in placing it elsewhere. So I'm back - not to square one - but to looking for a publisher for it. Hey ho:- the joys of writing.

I would like to apologise. To everyone who was looking forward to reading it. To the people who entered the cover-art competition back in December. To the editor - whom I know was going through all sorts of personal difficulties which meant she just couldn't give my book the attention needed. I feel sad it didn't work out.

But relieved to make a fresh start now.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Movie review: Prince of Persia


This film should so have been perfect for me, as I am just the biggest fan of Arabian Nights romance/adventures. And to be fair there were bits I found impressive - the glorious scenery, the costumes, the moral ambiguity of the three brothers, the bit where the Prince kills hmself...

But some bits were embarrassingly baaad ... like the hamfisted attempts to play certain scenes for laughs. WHY? Why couldn't they take themselves seriously? And if they did have to dump a rogueish comedy bandit into the movie, couldn't they have afforded to cast Omid Djalili, who is the god of such roles? Oh hold on, he's actually Iranian - silly me.  Straying perilously close to ethnic authenticity there.

The real reason I feel "meh" though is the Prince himself. He jumps around the scenery like bloody Tigger, but that's better than when he slows down enough that you can focus on his face. You know me: stick long dark hair and a leetle beard on almost any bloke and my estimation of his sexiness will rise 200%. But I still could not bring myself to fancy Jake Gyllenhaal, who has the expression of a gormless haddock and a concomitant level of charisma. And yes, it doesn't help that I'm still pissed off that they didn't cast John Abraham instead, who is rather more attractive (and of Persian extraction, incidentally). I thought I'd get over my humungous attack of the sulks once I saw the movie, but I haven't.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Eyecandy Monday

Beware - owchies!

This picture was sent to me by a friend who "accidentally" found it on someone else's PC.
You can't trust anyone these days, can you?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Story review: Waiting in Vain

I don't usually review the work of other erotica writers, but I had to tell y'all about how much I enjoyed this story: Waiting in Vain by Charlotte Stein.  It's a fun, bubbly, ultimately romantic story about an ugly duckling who turns out to be a red-hot swan, given the right circumstances.

"When Nancy is invited to her sister-in-law's Christmas get-together so that she won't be alone over the holidays, she doesn't have the heart to refuse. But Nancy isn't counting on just how much fun it's going to be this year. Sexy, sultry Mick Hennessey is on the prowl, and he isn't about to stop at a sly hand on her thigh under the dining room table." No - he climbs into her bed, the git. And there then follows the most dirty and farcical scene as Nancy desperately tries not to disturb Gran, who is sleeping next door, while Mick tries to make her really really loud ...

Hands up here - I first met Charlotte through this blog, and I am a FAN. Her erotica is fresh, funny, hot and deeply idiosyncratic. She has this voice ... Well, what can I say?  Her narrators are almost the only female voices in erotica that I actually identify with - me, not Janine the Writer or Janine the Person I'd Like to Be: me. They are not sophisticated or jaded or wise or self-confident. They come from sheltered English backgrounds. A Charlotte Stein heroine is a horny, self-deprecating, over-analysing young woman with abominable fashion sense, who stares longingly after sexy guys but knows she hasn't a feckin' chance of being noticed. Her reaction when someone actually pays any attention to her is normally to fall over in shock and then protest that it can't be happening. She is the poster-girl for frustration.

Jeez Charlotte, get out of my head!

And a Charlotte Stein internal monologue will have me stitches. Her stories are just so witty, and the characters so undignified.

"Though it could be that he didn’t intend to put his hand on my thigh. Maybe he has some sort of inner ear problem, and thinks he has his hand on his own thigh."


"She’s so elderly that I’m sure she was alive before sex was invented. She conceived Mick’s Dad by shaking hands with a stork.

I don’t think Mick wants to do anything with a stork."

But most of all I gaze in longing envy at Charlotte's prose:

“Are you wet?” he asks, and I almost laugh at so foolish a question. But then he follows those words with these, “Because I just need to fuck you right now.”

And I forget anything was ever funny at all.

“Fuck me,” I tell him. “Just fuck me.”

The scrabbling around on the floor he has to do to get a condom out of his pocket is almost too much for me to bear. I think I actually grind my teeth, and it takes a lot of restraint to keep my own hands away from my slick and aching pussy. It also takes a lot to keep my hands away from his heavy cock when he stands back up again, all harried and pink cheeked and fumbling with foil.

Grudamn. Why haven't I ever used "harried"?

 You can download Waiting in Vain from Total-E-Bound. And you should, you know.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Things That are Doing It

Finding the lolcats too intellectually taxing and just not rude enough? Then you need Things That are Doing It (from the same stable): a truly silly cornucopia of deformed vegetables,

unfortunate art,

  tree pr0n ,

and painfully bad product design.

Hey, it makes me laugh!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Sweet Love: great news

Whoop! - the Sweet Love anthology has won GOLD PRIZE at the Independent Publisher Book Awards, for BEST EROTICA COLLECTION 2010! Champagne and spankings all round, guys!

And just to ice the celebration cake, it is now on sale in the UK.  In fact it's not officially out until tomorrow, but Amazon is shipping it already and there's only a single copy left in stock at time of writing ... though more on the way so, like, don't panic, Brits.

Sweet Love: an anthology of couples trying some very kinky, scary, sexy things, edited by Violet Blue. My story Jump or Fall?: ideal for people who like sexy gymnnasts, first-time nerves, and dangerous secrets.

There's a review of the anthology over on Erotica Revealed, and it singles out Jump or Fall? for special mention:

"In another exceptional story, "Jump or Fall?" by Janine Ashbless, the female narrator is far from bored with her fellow-performer in an acrobatics act. On the contrary, she finds him intriguingly hard to read:       

Blayne is a locked box and I don't have the key.
Izzy the narrator pushes Blayne for a closer relationship until he tries to warn her away from him:

He grins without any amusement.  "There's this thing I do. It's. . . a part of my life. It doesn't come as an optional extra. And it's not something you'd be at all happy with."
Izzy is still intrigued. She can't be sure she would enjoy the same kinks that Blayne can't live without, but she also knows she is interested enough to "jump" into a new act which enables her to discover a side of herself she has been afraid to acknowledge. These two characters seem made for each other, and their performances together are integral to their relationship."

Wohoo! I'm in an award-winning collection! And Violet included me in her list of "legendary erotica heavy-hitters," - lol!
(Don't worry, I'm not taking that seriously.)

Buy at Amazon US : Buy at Amazon UK

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Mumford and Sons

Do you get that thing where you hear a snatch of song on the radio, something you've never heard before - and you have to stop dead in your tracks and listen, wide-eyed? That happened to me this week, with the song above. I listened, I looked 'em up on Youtube, I rushed into town and bought the CD Sigh No More - and I've been playing it obsessively all week.

And lo it turned out, Mumford & Sons were at No.3 in the charts when I bought their CD. This is a folk group, mind. It must be a cold day in Hell indeed, when a folk group has its very first album in the Top 5!

What are they like? "Coldplay does folk" someone said. A lot of bluegrass, a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, a bit of Dylan. Their vocabulary is strongly Christian, so I'm guessing they come out of a Church background, but the feel of the album Sigh No More is not any sort of Christian triumphalism, but pessimistic and angst-ridden: there is a vein of self-recrimination through the lyrics that borders on the genuinely worrying. Like, what has he done?

Love it, love, love it. Would kill to hear them live.

And now I wander round the supermarket singing

It was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?
(Dingley dingley dingly, banjo bit)

Friday, 14 May 2010

King Cophetua

 King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid, by Edward Burne-Jones, 1884

Let's have some romance! I'm writing a romantic story so I'm in the mood for something sweet, like the painting above. It happens to be one of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite pictures. The story is very simple: King Cophetua is looks out of the window one day and sees a pretty beggar woman, Penelophon, in the streets. He's famous for not being much of a one for the ladies, but falls in love at first sight and so hard that he brings her into the palace, makes her the queen and they live happily ever after.

That's it. Very simple, very sweet, nobody dies or suffers horribly. Nothing like the story I'm writing then, in fact...

Actually one of the reasons I really like this picture is because of the bloke. There are comparitively few male subjects in Victorian mythological painting, which is heavily focused on the female form. This is, off the top of my head, the only one where I look at the man and think "Oh - he's hot." Also I like the thought of him sitting round on the steps in field-plate.

Another (and sadly blander)Victorian treatment of the same story, by Edmund Blair Leighton:

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gladiators - ready!

Janine feeds her muse.

Some more pictures from my awesome weekend in the Netherlands - not from the Elf Fair this time, but from Archeon, the living history theme park, which we visited the next day.

Believe me, I know living history sites: I worked at one for 5 years. Archeon is bloody impressive and way better than anything we have in the UK. With replica buildings from Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Medieval times, it is staffed with loads of costumed re-enactors throughout the summer. They stage a gladiator show every day in the arena, which is how I ended up with the picture above.

As I grow older, I am becoming more shameless, I know.
Here are the guys in action, making me very happy:

You know, as I thanked them for the photo, one told me "Now we are going in the shower." I assumed he was obliquely apologising for the smell of fresh sweat. No need to worry, guys - I was high as a kite on the pheromones, and half an hour later my friend pointed out that I had "still got a big, stupid grin on."

Now it occurs to me in retrospect that just maybe it was some sort of deadpan Dutch come-on.
Which I missed.
Because I am stupid.
In which case, somebody shoot me now.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Eyecandy Monday

Urh ... I just had 10 hours sleep. What an exhausting weekend!
I must be getting old...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Dogs Don't Bake

My greyhound Caspian has a cut foot and can't go out for walks. So on Friday morning (it would have to be a day I was rushed off my feet, wouldn't it?) I walked the others and left him at home. When I got back this is what I found.

That's a bag of caster sugar, a bag of self-raising flour and a bag of chopped dates. I think he got bored all by himself and decided to raid the pantry and bake a cake. He clearly had some idea of the ingredients he wanted, but his technique let him down.

Here he is looking depressed by his lack of cooking prowess:

Friday, 7 May 2010

A Faire Tarte

I actually like cooking so long as it is something special, and for an appreciative audience (And nothing goes horribly wrong!). Tomorrow, I'm producing a LARP meal for 14. That means lots of courses and medievalish recipes, and today will be spent largely in the kitchen. I say "ish" because LARPers don't fuss much about historical accuracy, so long as it gives the right feeling. The menu goes:

The First Remove:
Pottage of Barley yseethed
Brede and sweet butter
The Seconde Remove:
A faire Tarte of Brie Cheese and Saffron
Salat of Herbes

The Third Remove:
A Grete Pye of Beeff and good Beer
A Coffyn Pye with Rootes laid thereto
Sweet Apple Rapeye

The Fourth Remove:
Hony Cake
A white rosewater Leche

Faire Cheeses shall be served thereafter

The most inaccurate thing on the menu, btw, is the vegetable pie.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the recipe for Brie and Saffron Tart, which is quite easy to make for a special meal. It's not cheap, it's not low-carb and it's not low calorie, but it's well worth it, I promise! And you'll be hooked on saffron forever...

  • 1 teaspoon saffron stems (that's the expensive bit!)
  • Flakey/puff pastry (you can buy it in packs - you need a 400g lump or approx 3/4lb)
  • 3/4 pint (400ml) of double cream
  • 1/2lb (225g) Brie cheese (can you get that in the US? I hear it is a cheese wilderness over there...)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs + two extra yolks

1) Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use it to line a 10-inch flan dish, discarding excess pastry. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 minutes. It'll expand like a pastry shoggoth balloon, but collapse once you get it out to cool, so don't worry. Turn the oven right down to 200 degrees F (100 degrees C)

2) Put the cream, saffron and chopped cheese (including rind) in a covered bowl in the oven for 20-30 minutes: the cheese should melt and the saffron should dissolve into the cream, colouring it yellow.

3) Transfer mix to a blender and blend briefly - a few lumps add character. Add the ginger and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

4) In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Then whip them into the cheese mixture.

5) Pour into the pastry case, and bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 30 minutes, until set firm and golden. Eat hot or cold.

I bet you'll want seconds!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Sweet moderation, heart of this nation

We've got a general election tomorrow - so what better time for a bit of Billy Bragg?

(Mr Bragg is a singer-songwriter and political activist who is, by UK standards, a sweetly old-fashioned idealistic leftie. By US standards this puts him somewhere south of Satan, I believe.)

Me? I'm hoping for a hung parliament that ushers in proportional representation. I'd like my vote to count, for once in my life.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Eyecandy Monday

Oh, to be sat on the edge of that bed!

A small aside - with not even the most tenuous link to the picture, alas:
Advance copies of the forthcoming Fairy Tale Lust anthology have gone out to reviewers, including members of Amazon Vine. The idea is that positive advance reviews will help get the book moving when it is officially released. Vine members are ordinary people who volunteer to put up reviews on Amazon in exchange for free books, and frankly - given that they are not as a group erotica fans, as evinced by their collective bafflement when faced with the books of other fine authors in the past - I'm cringing at the thought of how they will react to an anthology I'm in. But then, lookie here at this paragraph from Michelle R's (5-star!) review:

"Sleep Tight by Janine Ashbless. I very much liked the way this read, the narrative voice, and was drawn in from the first paragraph. The author did a terrific job writing a story that engaged the senses and would have been interesting even without the erotica. I know this, because after two pages and before the actually Sleeping Beauty theme kicked in full force, I'd all ready purchased three more titles by this author. Thank you, Kindle."

Holy peer-reviewed literature, Batman! After two pages?! Three more books?!

Which (besides leaving me gobsmacked with delight) points out one of the reasons, if you're a writer, that you should be getting short stories out there, not just concentrating on novels.

(Michelle's whole story-by-story review)
Pre-order Fairy Tale Lust on Amazon US : Amazon UK

Sunday, 2 May 2010

La Cage aux Folles

Yesterday we watched a production of La Cage aux Folles at the Newcastle theatre. The action, if you don't know, is set in a transvestite caberet on the French Riviera and it's all about contrasting sorts of love: young and middle-aged, romantic and parental. It is a flashy, sentimental, farcical musical - and also a really moving one. It was one of the first Mr Ashbless and I ever saw together, many years ago, and I think it had a surprisingly profound effect on us.  Do go see it if you ever get the chance.

In the clip above, drag queen Albin as just been told that his 'son' regards him as too embarrassing to be round when the (very right-wing) prospective in-laws pay a visit. Albin is hurt and angry, of course. Watching this last night made all the hair stand up on my skin!