Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stealing Home

Squeeze PlayI squealed when I got the email informing me that Coming Together: With Pride was a finalist in the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards' Anthology & Ebook Fiction categories. Then, a day later I got the news that Squeeze Play had taken top honors in the Erotica category (as well as being a finalist in the Ebook Fiction category). Can you say WOOT! ?

Winner - Erotica

Tasting HimAnd to add to the squee-worthy scoring, I have a story in one of Rachel Kramer Bussel's anthologies which took top honors in the Erotica category of the IPPYs!

37. Erotica
Gold (tie):
Tasting Him/Tasting Her: Oral Sex Stories, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Cleis Press)

Friday, May 22, 2009


BaltiCon 434
This weekend, I'm attending my very first sci-fi convention. This is odd, considering that I've been a huge (okay, not HUGE in the eat-sleep-breathe sense of some, but significant) fan of sci-fi since I learned to read. I didn't play "Cowboys & Indians" in the streets of my youth; I played "Kirk & Spock." (In case you were curious, I was always Kirk -- spewing my space seed into multi-colored, scantily-clad alien vixens across the galaxy.)

Growing up, my true "friends" were epic fictional characters in written form. Paul Atreides. Polgara. R. Daneel Olivaw. Hope & Spirit. Thomas Covenant. Arwen & Aragorn. Han Solo. Lessa of Pern. Lazarus Long and his long-lived, polyamorous family. They kept me company when I was just too weird for "normal" people. Actually, I preferred their company to that of "normal" people. Normal is boring.

I used to go to bed at night "praying" (in my atheistic fashion) to wake up in a world where Heinlein-esque "marriages" were accepted and encouraged. I fantasized many a time about being a Jondalar & Ayla sandwich. *fans self* I wanted Master Robinton to have been my music teacher, not the megalomaniac employed by my junior high.

And so, it is with great anticipation and no moderate amount of geek-squee that I head off to BaltiCon this weekend as an invited guest/panelist. While the con starts today, I won't roll into town until tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, camera in hand. My first panel is Saturday night:
Seducing the Editor - Getting Published in Erotic E-books
Kathryn Lively, J. M. Snyder, Nobilis, and me
Seducing the Editor. Heh. Then on Sunday night:
Promotion for the Smut Peddler
Kathryn Lively, J. M. Snyder, Nobilis, and me

Doing Good while Being Bad - the "Coming Together" anthology series
Alessia Brio (a/k/a me) with Will Belegon and Helen E.H. Madden
Everyone in attendance will receive a print galley of Coming Together: With Pride (while supplies last, of course)
And the Ghost of Honor? Edgar Allen Poe. Dude! Hope to see y'all there.

peace & passion,

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Friday, May 15, 2009

At First Whip Creamed

Whipped Cream Reviews had this to say about our Urban Phaze short, At First (which also appears in volume 1 of Coming Together: At Last):

What happens when a gentleman from Chile with old world manners collides with a modern day sexually liberated American woman? Plenty!

Eduardo and Vivian run into each other – quite literally on a busy street in Washington, DC. A huge crowd had gathered to listen to a young charismatic speaker and Eduardo was rushing through the crowd oblivious to the beautiful woman in the yellow dress…that is until he collided with her knocking her to the ground. Determined to make amends for his unchivalrous behavior Eduardo invites Vivian to a small café for some Cokes to quench their thirst on this steamy DC Afternoon. However, Eduardo is once again embarrassed by his behavior as he inadvertently spills a Coke on Vivian’s sundress.

Coming to the rescue is Lupe, the waitress at the café and Eduardo’s friend. Lupe suggests Vivian and Eduardo retreat to his apartment where Vivian can wash the sugary concoction off her dress. Arriving at Eduardo’s apartment the sexual tension mounts and Vivian finds herself orchestrating the pas de deux much to the amusement of Eduardo who is not used to the more open sexual mores of American women.

I was a bit befuddled about who the dynamic speaker was that Vivian found so enthralling. [HINT: MLK, Jr. ~ Alessia] The authors never explained. Could it be Malcolm X who Vivian casually mentions later in the story? I felt if the authors went to the trouble of setting this scene of dynamism, they could have let the reader in on who they were referring to. [Clues aplenty. We did everything but type his name. ~ Alessia]

I did learn a new Spanish word – chupadita - which was interesting and self-explanatory. I thought the sex scenes were hot and very well described. Eduardo and Vivian learn that love and sex are the same in all languages.

Their chance encounter leads them to discover they have much in common despite their disparate backgrounds. The language of sex, however, is universal which they both discover on a steamy Washington afternoon. A good story.

Rating: 4 Cherries
Review by: Azalea

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Butt at 5:12

Just in case you were interested...

Romantic Times Convention Recap on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Emperor Has No Clothes!

The cyclic RWA kerfuffle has resurfaced, this time on Twitter under the #RWAchange hashtag. Electronically published authors have their knickers in a twist again... or, rather, still... because RWA treats them like wannabes rather than the real deal. Nothing new there. A recap of the past iterations will suffice:
  1. Why should I support an organization that doesn't support me?
  2. RWA needs to wake-UP and join the 21st century.
  3. We have to change the organization from the inside.
  4. I only keep my membership because my chapter RAWKS.
And, my standard retort: Why should I CARE about RWA? The readers don't.

Yeah, I'm a member... at least until it expires. I joined, initially, for reason #3. I renewed for reason #4 (Passionate Ink). Last night, I was "this close" to joining ESPAN ('cause grassroots advocacy turns me on) before I came to my senses. My money is better spent elsewhere.

I wish the optimistic inside activists all the luck in the world in their quest. I have no energy for it, though, because I see it as moot. Even if proponents of change are successful in revamping RWA, what then? Is it going to result in a net gain for ebook authors? Kinda doubtful. I mean, does RWA influence sales numbers for the authors it already embraces? Why, then, would a digitally published author believe that RWA acceptance would make any difference whatsoever to her/his career?

The same amount of time and energy directed toward CONSUMERS of our work would have a far greater impact on our bottom lines, methinks.

This is about belonging to a club. That's all. RWA could just as easily stand for "Real Writers Association" (a legend in its own mind) and, as with other exclusive clubs, people will stomp and rant, kiss all forms of ass, pout, and even litigate in order to belong. Never mind that "belonging" doesn't DO much--if anything--to further an author's career.

RWA will teach aspiring authors how to woo an agent, you argue? First of all, if you're epublished, you're not an "aspiring author." You're already the real deal. Secondly, why do you WANT an agent? Epublished authors don't NEED agents. Why pay a middleman unless you're still convinced that to be a "real author" you must be New York published?

This is not intended to poke those authors whose goal is to be New York published. To each their own. No, it's intended to bitch slap those epublished authors who continue to allow RWA to dictate their legitimacy. Enablers! How about we just let our successes speak for themselves? RWA, as well as the traditional publishing industry, can embrace epublishing & POD... or eat its dust.

peace & passion,

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Ravenous Ranting

There is a big, honking blog post today by Jane of Dear Author entitled Why I'm Not Wild About Ravenous Romance. In it, she outlines her reasons -- clearly and concisely, as usual -- for her dislike. I started to leave a comment there, then decided that my thoughts were better placed in my own space, since I'm liable to ramble off topic and wax pseudo-philosophic and make precious little sense.

Since becoming a published author in 2005, I have never hidden the fact that I primarily write erotica. I write about people (or other sentient beings) and how sex changes/evolves them. I tell their stories. I have also made it abundantly clear that I don't like being "shelved" with the romance genre. Unfortunately, that's where the industry puts most erotic fiction, so I inhabit Romancelandia as a matter of necessity, and I certainly enjoy some aspects of it. But from a strictly artistic/creative perspective, I do not fit that mold. Yes, some of my work does fit the romance genre, albeit in non-traditional ways. Most does not.

Romance is plot-driven. It is about the developing relationship between hero & heroine. (Aside: I cannot STAND the use of those terms. They do as much to marginalize the romance genre as miscategorized erotica, in my opinion. Want to be taken seriously? Stop using fairy tale words.)

Erotica is character-driven. It is about the transformative power of sex. It can occur in any permutation, from solo to menage. It doesn't have to be, but often is, explicit. It doesn't have to, but often does, sexually arouse the reader. Erotica, therefore, is NOT porn. (Porn's primary focus -- okay, that was overly generous -- porn's sole focus is arousal. It works on primal reflex.)

Erotic romance is NOT erotica. It is romance that includes explicit sex and is fully intended to arouse the reader. (This is going to piss off some people, but...) Erotic romance IS porn, in that sense. It is porn with plot, with happily-ever-after icing to make it respectable -- or less reprehensible -- to those who are offended by explicit sex for the sake of explicit sex. Ideally, inclusion of the explicit sex is integral to the story rather than gratuitous. Note I said ideally. This idealism, I believe, is the source of the schism within the romance community.

Recently, at the Romantic Times BookLovers Convention, I overhead a prominent, multi-published romance author repeatedly proclaim how "filthy" her books are and how that made her less-than-worthy to the romance powers-that-be (whoever they be). Good on her, I thought! The world needs more filthy fiction. But her statements also made me realize that every "romance" author, regardless of their level of success, feels marginalized by the publishing industry in some way. We all yearn for acceptance. That, I believe, is the sand in the swimsuit when it comes to Ravenous Romance. It is perceived as an obstacle to acceptance.

(Aside: Personally, I believe that our best means of achieving acceptance and respect is to lead by example. Tarring those who do not adhere to our standards, whatever they may be, achieves nothing. Snark begats snark. Excellence begats excellence. So... begat, damn it!)

Sure, erotica can (and often does) qualify as romance -- and vice versa -- just as fantasy can qualify as YA or inspirational as sci-fi. Genre is merely a label, and books often carry multiple labels. That is a GOOD thing. However, since love and sex cross-pollinate, a great deal of confusion and controversy ensue over which label belongs where.

Love and sex have been butting heads since the dawn of relationships. That sex is necessary for procreation just complicates the recipe. Add organized religion, which uses sex to control people, and stir. Voila! We have controversy soup. The fuss within the publishing industry is but a wee mirror of this overarching theme.

Back to the case against Ravenous Romance. Jane makes some valid points about the quality of writing and editing. In the examples I've seen, there is room for much improvement. (Does poking fun at these mistakes have a positive result, or does it just serve to make the pokers feel superior to the pokees? Smells like Star-Bellied Sneetches to me.) However, I can say that about many publishers, especially in their infancies. As it grows and matures, as with all houses, the quality of its product will improve, or it will flounder. Survival of the fittest.

In the meantime, I doubt Ravenous Romance will significantly tarnish the shiny *snort* reputations of either romance or epublishing. Its ability to ruffle feathers with its hubris (and the PR money behind it), on the other hand, seems unbounded and will continue to provide much entertainment within the blogosphere.

peace & passion,

OF NOTE: I have a very short story in one of Rachel Kramer Bussel's anthologies published by Ravenous Romance. (It is erotica. Not romance. At all.) As an insider, my view of the publisher and its business practices differs, and I believe there is much to learn from its approach to epublishing -- both pro and con. Further, I have a great deal of respect for Rachel's work, and am delighted to be included in any collection she assembles -- especially *TOOT* Tasting Him, which is a finalist in the IPPYs!

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sapphistocated Review

Loving Venus - Loving Mars had this to say about Sapphistocated:

I’ve read a few anthologies now from Alessia Brio and to date, I haven’t been disappointed. There are always some very interesting and unique stories in them and Sapphistocated is no different. In this book, four authors whose names I’ve come to recognize as well known in f/f, lesbian romance and erotica, but not had the chance to read yet, are represented and it was a great chance to get a taste of each author’s writing.

What I liked with this book was the variety in stories. Each had a different flavor and ranged from very sweet, with characters who are soft and real, to gritty, in your face type characters who learn something about themselves. All the stories were well written and definitely grabbed my attention.

Double Decker by Alessia Brio- Tess is a very confident woman. She has her days, but then she has her SOL days, sex on legs days in which everything just falls into place. She’s participating in a karaoke contest in which the prize is a weekend trip to a resort and she really wants to win. It’s a quarterly contest held in a dyke bar, the Double Decker, and she knows she has a good chance to win. And she’s lucky because it just also happens to be an SOL day for her as well. She always manages to find someone to go home with after these karaoke contests, but on this night there is only one woman she wants. But that woman has no idea what Tess feels.

This story is one in which the over confident person get a little comeuppance. Tess as a character came across at very arrogant. She knows she’s hot and she’s sure she’s the best singer. She’s also very confident that she can seduce anyone in the audience to get who she wants when she wants. I had mixed feelings about her. She’s not someone I would normally like and the fact that she goes on and on and on about how great she is through most of the story got a bit tedious.

I wished there would have been more interactions with the woman she does want and less of the build up of Tess’ ego. I wanted more tension created between them. But Tess does get knocked down a few pegs when the one woman she does want seems to blow her off. Tess does then recognize that she got too cocky and that’s what turned the story around for me. Plus, there’s hawt sex. I’m shallow like that, what can I say. B+

I Know What I Want- Jolie du Pre- Allie is working as a waitress in a sucky job, but she’s gorgeous enough to eke out a small living modeling on the side, which is what she’d rather do. One day a friend of a photographer calls Allie and tells her she has a modeling job for her and will pay her 2k per hour to be a centerpiece at her party, but she needs to interview her first.

Vivian, the woman who hires her, is an older and very wealthy woman who comes onto Allie sexually but cuts Allie off before really doing anything. Allie is very intrigued by her and wants to be with her. Vivian then plays this game with her of making Allie feel that she is interested and yet blowing her off all the time, controlling the relationship totally. Even after they have sex and Vivian says she loves Allie, she never quite gives Allie the satisfaction that she will really be with her.

When Allie gets a call from a major fashion magazine that wants her to be their main model, she goes to NY and although Vivian has said she would come, she doesn’t. In the meantime, Allie gets with the assistant of the magazine editor and they fall in love. Then Vivian shows up.

I have to be honest; the end of this story was very abrupt and a bit disappointing. While I got that this is about Allie deciding what she wants, I felt that the stronger part of the story, or lets say the part that was the most developed and had the more interesting dynamics, petered out.

Vivian is such a delicious, mysterious character. She in total control of that relationship with Allie and had some really interesting Domme characteristics that made her exciting. She’s very cool and yet, very patient with Allie as Allie tries to figure out what the deal is with Vivian. Yes, Vivian is very manipulative, but the cool mystique around her made her the most compelling character in this story.

The beginning of the story is all about Allie and Vivian, but then it shifts to Allie and the assistant. Allie is just your normal type girl with no real outstanding qualities who’s enthralled with Vivian and wants her, but also gets really pissed off with being dicked around. She has a more normal, realistic relationship with the assistant, but is unfinished with Vivian. When Vivian comes back into town, she calls Allie acting like nothing is bad between them and Allie blows her off. Then it just ends. What? Wait… don’t stop.

Personally, as a reader, the focus of this story was on the wrong person, it should have been on Vivian who was the more complex character. What makes her tick, why she’s acting like she is, does she really love Allie or is it a game… so much about her I wanted to know. Not so much about Allie. And the D/s elements that were hinted at, but never really developed, were also way more intriguing than the story between Allie and the assistant.

So I’d have to say that on quite a few levels this was a really cool story, but there was disappointment in the ending, which left me wanting a lot more. B+

Better with Age by Beth Wylde- Olivia is a woman heading into middle age and alone. She has a grown daughter who’s in college and is coming home for a night for her birthday before going back. Olivia is lonely, suffering from empty nest syndrome, but gets by keeping busy with her job.

Aleesha is also an older woman who hasn’t really found that person with whom she can really love and settle down with. She’s come back to her home town and bought a small bakery and is just living life… that is until quite by coincidence, Olivia shows up to pay for a cake she ordered for her daughter’s birthday.

Olivia and Aleesha were lovers in high school until Olivia’s mom caught them together and forced Olivia to drop Aleesha or she and her father would cut all ties with her. Being young and naïve, she let go of Aleesha. Now meeting Aleesha after all these years, the sparks fly again between them and they find that they cannot resist each other.

Oh what a totally sweet story this is. I loved, loved it! Beth Wylde really captured that feeling between the characters of a love that never dies and that feeling of coming home and rightness that happens when you find and are in the presence your soul mate. Neither one of these women have found a person who could replace the other or give them what they had together and they get immediately that after all those years that they still feel the same with each other.

I also thought their fears and vulnerabilities about their much older bodies being desirable to the other to be very touching as well. Olivia and Aleesha are just two characters that are so easy to relate to and it’s a nicely written, very satisfying story. And it's always nice to read a story about two older characters who find love. A-

Drawn by Yeva Wiest- Sydney is a cartoon artist who gets a little too involved in her characters, is definitely a butch who has very specific tastes in what she likes in a woman’s looks, and… she’s a player. She hasn’t had any nookie for a while and while creating a character, she creates the perfect woman but with two heads that can be swapped. One head is for the character’s nice personality and the other for the evil one. When Sydney goes in to see her boss to show her the new character and story, she likes what she sees in Beth, her boss’ assistant. Beth is tall and willowy and just Sydney’s type. She asks Beth out and Beth agrees.

But wait… who also shows up in the office is Alice, the boss’ daughter. She’s round and voluptuous, has huge breasts and heavy thighs and Sydney has an immediate reaction against her thinking Alice is too fat for her. And yet, there’s something about Alice that Sydney finds herself attracted to. The next day when Sydney goes to meet Beth for a date, Alice just happens to be in the hall of the apartment building since she lives in a nearby apartment and again, Sydney finds against herself that she feels this intense attraction to Alice.

Alice gets that Sydney has judged her straight away as too fat and keeps cool with Sydney even though both of them are aware of some kind of attraction going on. After a while it becomes too much for Sydney when she finds herself thinking of Alice non-stop and getting all up in that soft, round, womanly body and she finds any excuse to meet with her.

First, all around, this was a very quirky story, which had a bizarre fantasy element going on with it. Sydney’s drawing, Kisha, messes with Sydney all the time, demanding her attention and doing awful spiteful things. Sydney also has sex with her. It’s written in an odd way so that I never quite knew what’s going on with that. It’s obvious that when Kisha is involved that it’s Sydney’s imagination and maybe even the two parts of herself being expressed, but it’s written as Kisha literally doing those things, so that part is a bit strange. Ultimately, I didn’t really get the point of that, why it was even there really.

What I really got off on in this story is how Yeva Wiest has Sydney all flustered about suddenly being attracted to a woman who is so not her usual taste and who changes the usual dynamic of her being butch who loves femmes. And Ok, I liked that she falls for a fat chick and that it’s Alice’s curves and fullness that turns her on. I just like stories in which a character finds themselves acting out of character and being totally turned on by that.

Then there was the weird night Sydney had with Beth. Truly, this story went into bizarro land a few times and it was very entertaining, like being in a lesbian erotica story written by Seinfeld. B+

Sapphistocated was a general, all around good read and I’m glad that I finally got a chance to read a few stories from some authors I’ve been meaning to get to. It’s definitely a nice collection of distinctly different stories, but all ending on a good note. And the sex in all of these stories was deliciously written and sizzling as well.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- very erotic and steamy f/f, some minor anal, strap on. Mostly vanilla.

Grade: B+

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