Now for attaining escape velocity!
I’m getting feedback already, some of which is exciting, some of which is absolutely thrilling.
Sally Bend reviewed Lysistrata Cove on her review blog Bending the Bookshelf, and she pinpointed some things I’m truly proud of.
First, who wouldn’t love seeing this:
Honestly, this is one of the most remarkable erotic romances I have had the luxury to enjoy in quite some time. There is a lot going on, both on an emotional and an intellectual level, but it all meshes together in a queer, kinky, seamless fashion.
Second, I was worried that this part wouldn’t translate, so this got a full fist-pump:
…what Eve is after is a really fascinating idea, and one that is sure to make readers think about creative freedoms, copyright laws, and piracy.
Lysistrata Cove is also mentioned in The Pleasure Lab podcast #22. It’s about a third of the way through and is more about my lifestyle (sailory, not sexuality) that my writing, though I get good props there too.
All right, Lysistrata Cove – go, be free! Fly into many many hands!
Fantasy is, as others have said, a realm of its own. When I saw that Rachel Kramer Bussel wanted erotic stories of female fantasies, my brain starting pinging like a geiger counter.
This idea was hot.
Written communication can exist in the littoral zone, neither shore nor sea. Does she want me to write a real person living a fantasy? Fantasizing? Or perhaps she wants the fantasy-me, a character whose very being exists only in fantasy?
In Symphony, I did my best to write all of that – the fantasy character who is also not beyond the edge of realism, experiencing what can be read as either a deep masturbatory fantasy or a fantastic reality.
I hope I’ll hear from readers on how they read the story, who they think she is, and what fantasy she’s living.
But what about that other story? Well, it’s called Lipstick, and M. Bird drew me into the tension of fantasy, the balancing point where it’s necessary to evaluate which is more attractive…thought or deed. I tripped over this sentence, and never completely got my footing back. “Hannah bets she smokes, bets she tastes like whiskey, bets she closes her eyes like she’s grieving when she comes.”
That’s far from the only excellent story that got my heart talking to my cunt. I like the lead of Tabitha the Cat – Lauren Marie Flemming wrote someone I’d enjoy hanging with.
Orcas cracked me up – Regina Kammer playing with the line between types of fantasy again – and played on my ties to the Pacific Northwest. (Yes, I was married on Orcas Island.)
Dollymop made me want to hug that girl, but Malin James also stretched my caring into her imaginary sexual future…a great trick. I want her to be happy, and I would love to be one of her fucks as she figures it all out.
I enjoyed the others as well, and Rachel’s usual high standards make it a good book throughout.
Now it’s time to go read some of these aloud…
Date of Publication: July 12, 2016
What would you give – or give up – to fulfill your most cherished sex fantasy? In this Cleis Press collection, erotica editor Rachel Kramer Bussel brings us femme fatales and shy women, women on a mission and women opening up to new worlds of discovery: women who know what they want and are not afraid to beg for it! Let yourself go with these twenty-one tantalizing tales of tortuous longing and release.
Find Begging For It on social media!
Rachel Kramer Bussel regularly contributes to Refinery 29, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan, and hosts readings around the country. A prolific erotica editor, as well as a much-in-demand sex educator, her titls include Come Agaon: Sex Toy Erotica, Spanked, He’s on Top, She’s on Top, Passion and Do Not Disturb. She lives in New Jersey.
Rachel Kramer Bussel puts together punchy stories every single time she edits an anthology. This one, as usual, weighed in firmly on the “hot” side, with only a few stories that left me cold, had me skimming the ends, or turned me off. Even some that had irritating aspects—like the heavy doses of womanly perfection, narrowly defined—were enjoyable in the main.
Common themes include obedience (far more D/s than strictly sensation play), public exhibition, name calling, and using kink as a mechanism for sexual pleasure. Fetish items and toys abound in pleasingly realistic use.
Whenever I read kinky erotica, I’m looking for stories that explore not just what we do, but why we do it, how we feel about it, and why we pant to do it again as soon as possible. Plenty of these stories go the distance. Among the stories I enjoyed:
“Slow Burn” by Morgan Sierra is lovely story about adoration and fear, the desire to please and the body’s limits. The lead is so sympathetic that I really want him to have his love returned.
My favorite aspect of “The Rabbit Trap” by Nik Havert was the nice turnaround where the sub does the scene planning. We s-types can get complacent, figuring the top is supposed to create the scene. This shows a really funny turn-about that surprises and pleases the top, without usurping the role they both want him to play.
Speaking of who plans the scene, “A Thousand Miles Apart” by Tilly Hunter is a great story from the top’s perspective, with everything planned out…almost perfectly…and real affection from both sides.
One of my favorite experiences reading erotica is grokking the heat of something that doesn’t turn me on at all. “Magic Words” by Emily Bingham lets me feel Daddy/girl play from the point of view of someone it works for, deep and real enough that I really think I get it…even if I’m not about to go looking for it myself.
“Baby Steps” by Justine Elyot got me too. I’m not a parent, but I’ve been through enough life changes during my nearly twenty-year relationship that I recognize this moment. The stakes are high, and I love how this shows the very real way we bring ourselves into the sex we have. This one is a favorite more for the story than the kink and/or sex, though.
“On Location” by D. L. King is fun and flirty, with an absolutely fabulous glimpse into the lives of lovers who don’t share a home. I very much enjoy erotica depicting warm, non-traditional relationships. And the set-up is hot!
“Recipe for Punishment” by Jacqueline Brocker is a-fucking-dorable. The punishment is brutal and glorious, a quick and effective mid-scene check-in is heartwarming, the achievement is his to own, and the love fills them both.
In “Admitting It Is the First Step” by Rachel Kramer Bussel, Bussel focuses on the mental and emotional aspect of power play by having no graphic sex and little pain play. This is another one where it’s not my kink, but I enjoyed rolling with the emotional peaks created when trust lets the character fly.
If you have a voice and a following, especially among trans and genderqueer, lesbian, environmentalist, and anti-colonial communities, I’d love to send you a copy of Heart of the Lilikoʻi for your strings-free perusal. Publishers Weekly has called it “strong and satisfying” and picked out the “intensely vivid erotic encounters”.
Human remains tangled in lilikoʻi roots bring the authorities to Kerala’s construction site. Native Hawaiians say the passsion fruit vine marks an ancient burial ground protected by guardian spirits, the ʻaumakua. But these aren’t ancestral bones. The fractured skull points to murder.
Secrets, sabotage, and indigenous sovereignty campaigns hinder the project Kerala leads: building an eco-dream vacation home for Ravi, CEO of a solar power company. Proud to be a tough dyke in the trades, Kerala can’t believe she’s so hot for the masculine genderqueer scientist. Their sexual connection is volcanic but Ravi’s craving for love and family aggravates burn scars from Kerala’s past. As the lovers pursue justice for Hawaiʻi and its people, Ravi turns his gift for harnessing the sun’s strength toward cultivating his own power and Kerala wonders if building deep, lasting love could be even more satisfying than constructing a home to last the ages.
Heart of the Lilikoʻi will officially be released on October 13th, but advance copies (e-book or paperback) are available now for folks who would like to weigh in on it.
Write me at email@example.com or tweet me @DenaWrites. Tell me who you talk to, what venues you use (blogs, websites, magazines, groups, etc) and why you think the book could be a good fit for your friends and followers. I’m traveling Maine on my sailboat and my internet access is spotty, at best, so don’t despair if I fail to respond promptly. I will reply to every request.
With almost a month yet to go before Heart of the Lilikoʻi becomes widely available, Publishers Weekly has weighed in on the book and found it good. The online review is not yet available [Update: Publishers Weekly reviews Heart of the Liliko’i], but the print edition has this to say:
Hankins (Blue Water Dreams) tackles weighty political and personal subjects in this intriguing contemporary. Kerala is the construction project manager on an experimental, environmentally-conscious vacation home, and comes under increasing pressure as progress is delayed by sabotage and threats. She’s usually only interested in women, so she’s surprised to fall for the home’s financial backer, Ravi, who’s transmasculine and genderqueer. The two suss out the boundaries of their newfound relationship as they get to the heart of the project’s troubles, but everything is further disrupted when they discover a corpse on the property. Hankins constructs a heartfelt relationship between her leads. Mutual lust and the contrast between the no-nonsense Kerala and starry-eyed Ravi lead to some intensely vivid erotic encounters. In constructing artificial-sounding dialogues about Hawaiian independence, green technology, and nonbinary gender, Hankins borders on the preachy, but the core romantic story is strong and satisfying.
While not without its caveats, this review thrills me. The most important part of a romance is the growth of interest, respect, and love between the leads (which, by the way, is a great way to pare down the clunky phrase “main characters”). And as I’ve said before, I believe that we reveal more than our bodies through sexual intimacy. I’m so glad that the reviewer saw that the character of these people was so crucial to the sex they had.
“a heartfelt relationship”
“intensely vivid erotic encounters”
“strong and satisfying”
While I honestly enjoyed each story in Come Again, I truly loved, and was even moved by, a select few. My favorite story in the collection was Gift by Dena Hankins. Gift features two women in their 60’s and 70’s exploring lesbian sex for the first time. They have been sleeping together for a few weeks, but the story focuses on a new toy they test together, leading to a new level of pleasure neither woman has ever experienced. Gift not only turned me on, but deeply moved me as well. In the story, one of the women deals with physical disability and mobility issues. With the introduction of the new toy, she is able to reclaim her sexuality in spite of her limited mobility and engage fully with her lover for the first time. For the first time, my eyes welled with tears while reading erotica – a true testament to the undeniable beauty of Gift and Dena Hankins’ talent as an author. –Formidable Femme
I’m the opposite of speechless – I want to chatter about my excitement without pausing for breath!
What a, well, gift to be read by someone who engaged with my writing on this level. No lie, I brought tears to my own eyes writing this story, but that’s me and my very own textured imaginary version of this story. To read that this Femme was right there with me…
Floating, flying happiness.
Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica is doing so well out in the world. I’m tickled to be singled out for appreciation among a strong group of stories.
I found an even better version of one review of “Gift”, in Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, on Goodreads:
The Gift, by Dina Hankins is a remarkably tender, sexy story of senior lovers, Helen and Margaret. As a senior woman this one resonates with me, for sure. It’s gratifying to see stories of senior sex included in erotica anthologies. After all just because the packaging has changed doesn’t mean the fires within aren’t still burning.
Love this stuff!
It’s tempting to spend all one’s time on Amazon’s author pages, refreshing the reviews page. Has anyone talked about my work?
I stayed away a while and, what do you know, when I went back on, I saw some great mentions of my story in Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica!
I always go for the sexual references. Not that this is news to me or anyone who’s been friends with/followed/slept with me over the years.
The American Library Association has a sub-group called the GLBT Round Table, which has published a review of Blue Water Dreams. Its tone reminds me strongly of the librarian in Moses Lake, where I went to high school. She took her job seriously and gauged each book almost dispassionately. The same tone is clear in the review, even with multiple references to sexy-times.
The reviewer finds it “refreshing to read a love story where there is no jealous triangle” and notes that Lania and Oly are both “fairly free of hang-ups” (which made me smile).
The wrap-up has the tone that I referenced above. It’s so wonderfully librarianish that I’m going to quote the whole last paragraph.
Blue Water Dreams falls well within the expectations of the romance genre, albeit with an atypical male lead. It may appeal to romance readers who are willing to try something a little different. It may also find a readership among trans men for the ways it affirms their sexuality and desirability.
One of ten books chosen, it seems to be the only romance on the list and one of three published by Bold Strokes Books.
How cute is this? “In fact, it has some extremely hot sex–something I neglected to mention in the original review because I was so blown away by how well-drawn its characters are and how naturally they interact.”
What a thrill!