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.
My hair’s growing out a little, getting thick and wavy. My warm winter layers have been washed and stowed in the compartment under the forepeak berth.
As my body comes out from hiding from the cold, I go through a metamorphosis. My female marked body begins to lead me toward sexy, fitted clothing that makes me look like the people I’m attracted to, while my agender core bucks against letting people think they know me by my tits and ass.
The result? This year, it seems, will be the summer of boi.
Tank tops over sports bras. Hairy legs under swimming trunks. Messy hair, sweat, and sunscreen.
Some of it is queer signaling (hello? do you see me?), but mostly I realize what I’ve done after the fact, with reflection from the people around me and the swiftly moving reflections in shop windows.
And the timing is perfect. My story, Teamwork, in Sacchi Green’s excellent book, Me and My Boi, features college sailors, prepping for the racing season. Their genders are touch-and-feel, want-and-wonder, see-and-be-seen.
Here’s hoping you find them as endearing as I do now, several years after I wrote them.
Sun baked the concrete pier and heat seeped into the boat shed, abandoned and echoing on Labor Day. Tilly shifted the wide straps of her sports bra. They cut into the muscle she’d put on for the racing season.
“Come on, Tilly, don’t just stand there.” Spin stood next to her, legs spread.
“Yeah, yeah. Hold your horses. We’re supposed to stretch between sets.”
“You weren’t stretching. You were playing with your bra.” Spin nudged Tilly with a sweaty elbow.
Tilly rolled her eyes and set up for the two-person rope pull. She leaned back against Spin’s pull, letting the rope out slowly, and watched Spin’s triceps flex at each push backward. She increased the resistance to make Spin work harder and sighed at the shifting muscles in Spin’s arms. Envy and desire, and nothing to do about either one.
When Tilly reached the end of the rope, they switched jobs. Tilly pulled against Spin’s resistance and her upper lip rose in a sneer of effort. The forward arm had the easy job. It was the push backward that fucked her up every time. Sweated ran down her temples and her shirt clung to her back. Her stroke shortened and Spin barked, “All the way back.” Tilly pushed harder and her sneer turned into grunts of effort. After ten sets each, with a different arm forward each time, Spin pulled the rope free with a flourish. She walked to the ceiling beam with as much swagger as ever, but Tilly was gratified to see that her shirt was soaked in sweat.
Tilly hooked her fingers on the pillar and stretched out her chest, watching Spin toss the line over the ceiling beam and pull into her own stretch. Arms flung wide and eyes closed, Spin leaned forward, pulling both arms back. Tilly’s mouth went dry at the sight of her bunched shoulders, lean arms, and the slight curve under the front of her shirt. When Spin twisted her hips to stretch her back and sides and belly, Tilly’s mouth was the only dry part of her body.
Here’s the list of links to all the posts in this Blog Tour, and details on how to enter the drawing for a free copy of the book.
Me and My Boi Blog Tour Links
June 12—Sacchi Green— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 13—Annabeth Leong– http://annabethleong.blogspot.com/2016/06/me-and-my-boi-not-just-hair.html
June 14—Anna Watson— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 15—Sinclair Sexsmith– www.sugarbutch.net
June 16—Jove Belle– https://jovebelle.com/
June 17—Tamsin Flowers– www.tamsinflowers.com
June 18—Victoria Villasenor— https://breywillows.com
June 19—J, Caladine— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 20—Victoria Janssen– http://victoriajanssen.com
June 21—Dena Hankins– http://denahankins.net/my-summer-of-boi/
June 22—D. Orchid— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 23—Pavini Moray– https://emancipatingsexuality.com/
June 24—Melissa Mayhew—www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 25—Jen Cross— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 26—Kyle Jones– www.butchtastic.net
June 27—Gigi Frost–www.facebook.com/gigifrost
June 28—Aimee Hermann— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
June 29—Sommer Marsden— http://sommermarsden.blogspot.com
June 30—Axa Lee— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
July 1— Kathleen Bradean— www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com
Anyone who comments on any of the posts will be entered in a drawing for one free copy of the anthology. You can comment on more than one post and be entered more than once. The winner will be announced and notified by July 5, if not sooner.
The last few months have been a flurry of travel and writing. After spending the summer sailing north, James and I spent the fall sailing south. The winter, to date, has been more southing, without the snow and depressing low temps we’d feared.
On the writing front, I have rewritten and sculpted Lysistrata Cove, the first draft of which I completed in 11 days while at anchor in Somes Harbor, Maine.
Today, I turned in my manuscript. It’s now on my editor’s desk and not mine (on pain of torture and death if I pick it up and work on it while she has possession of it).
The book is good. It’s an adventure romance with characters who are like my real-life friends in one or more of these ways: queer, trans, kinky, poly, passionate, activist, sailor, pirate…Yep, excellent friend-group!
I’m excited to say that I already have a cover. With Blue Water Dreams, every step in the process added a bit of weight to the reality that I was going to be a published author. This time, every step just makes me that much more excited to hold the final version in my hands.
I’ll be doing readings and signings again this year in Provincetown, MA. Women’s Week is a lively, fabulous bundle of events which take advantage of the beach atmosphere to offer a little bit of everything. Raucous dance parties, teeming crowds of women holding hands, and packed houses for concerts and shows alternate with quiet time on the sand, gentle music at the cafes around midday, and dozens of readings hosted by a handful of LGBTQ publishers.
I’ll be in my element at the sex scene reading. I know the audience will enjoy Kerala and Ravi’s electric attraction. I’ll be a bit more nervous at the other, titled “It’s a Zoo in Here: Four Legged Heroes”. I’ve had cats most of my life and a couple dogs that touched me deeply. But I wouldn’t say it’s a natural, enduring aspect of my writing for the leads to be bonded with animal companions.
Bogart, Kerala’s dog in Heart of the Lilikoi, is a window into her capacity to love and an important creature for her ability to cope with the terrible things that happen to her. He is bright and loyal, well-trained and choosey about who he warms to. It’s lucky that Bogart likes Ravi, and Ravi knows it!
My schedule for the week of October 12-:
Monday, 12th, 2pm: Signing at Recovering Hearts with other Bold Strokes Books authors Radclyffe, Missouri Vaun, Franci McMahon, Laydin Michaels, MJ Williamz, and Jo Victor
Wednesday, 14th, 1pm: Reading at the Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s in “It’s a Zoo in Here: Four Legged Heroes” with moderator Barbara Ann Wright and readers D. Jackson Leigh, Franci McMahon, CA Popovich, Radclyffe, and Jo Victor
Wednesday, 14th, 3:15pm: Signing at Recovering Hearts with D. Jackson Leigh, Franci McMahon, CA Popovich, Radclyffe, and Jo Victor
Thursday, 15th, 1pm: Reading at the Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s in “Between the Sheets: Erotic Readings” with moderator Missouri Vaun and readers Tina Michele, Nell Stark, Ali Vali, D. Jackson Leigh, and MJ Williamz
Thursday, 15th, 3:15pm: Signing at Recovering Hearts with Tina Michele, Nell Stark, Ali Vali, D. Jackson Leigh, and MJ Williamz
Saturday, 17th, 2pm: Moderating at the Provincetown Public Library for “Readings that Define the Author’s Voice” with readers Franci McMahon, Ali Vali, Justine Saracen, Jo Victor, Melissa Brayden, Missouri Vaun
When I thought of an image to represent Heart of the Lilikoʻi, I imagined the west side of the Island of Hawaiʻi. Unlike the lush jungle of the Hilo side, the Kona side is dry down by the water. It’s a black rubble desert, except for the small plants, so green it hurts the eye, that begin the process of turning lava rock into soil.
I imagined the black rock and a lilikoʻi flower, a dirty work boot crushing the flower.
I imagined black rock in a cutaway view that showed a human heart (anatomical, not romantic) with lilikoʻi rootlets growing into and through it.
I imagined black rock and the koa tree, a broken open, slightly rotten passion fruit at the base.
But I left Hawaiʻi for the last time in 2007. I wouldn’t be able to set up a photo shoot to get exactly the look I wanted. I’d be working with clip art and photo licensing website images.
Searching on Hawaiʻi got me a lot of exactly what I didn’t want, tourism-oriented images of grass skirts and surfboards. Stereotyping is hard to get away from.
Finally, I found a few images I liked. I pulled the links together and all my requests, my hopes, and my concise list of what I didn’t want to see in the cover, and sent it to my publisher.
Several possible versions came back, and oh, was I happy to see this.
The cover for Heart of the Lilikoʻi.
I just finished a first draft in 11 days.
And I’m not even exhausted!
The complete first draft of Lysistrata Cove represents a change in my understanding of novel-writing. After two books that took me years to write and edit, I know now that I’m, first and foremost, telling a story, and that I work best when I know what the story is, how it got started and how it ends. I tried to leave things open, so that I could do what authors talk about all the time and learn from my characters, but it just left me floundering eventually, hunting and pecking for the impetus to throw them over the cliff or the strength they’ll need to figure out they have wings and can fly.
James and I developed a story, capable of being told in a handful of paragraphs. Then I mapped the story to the dramatic arc, the three-act play, Campbell’s hero cycle, Hauge’s six stage plot structure, using all to some degree and some quite carefully. Using Scrivener, I broke the story into sections (folders): Enemies, Softening, The Fall, Point of No Return, Major Setback, Dark Night of the Soul, and Epiphany and HEA (Happily Ever After). I wrote a synopsis for each scene (individual documents), with 4-6 scenes in each section.
Only at that point, when I had exported all that into MS Word and had a detailed, 10-page synopsis, did I go back and start doing character sketches.
Then I sat down, after several months of thinking over all that, getting to know these people in my head, and started writing. In writing, I didn’t linger on setting descriptions. Lots of scenes take place in amorphous surroundings, which I’m fleshing out in the second draft. But I got the thrust of it down. It’s tight, spare, and plain, but it drives.
Now I’ll go back and add some lushness. I’ll bring the sensual aspects into flower and consider where (not whether) to add more sex. After all, all the best reviews of my work praise the erotic bits.
Blue Water Dreams
First word to completed first draft: 1 year
First word to publication: 9 years, 3 months
Heart of the Lilikoi
First word to completed first draft: 6 years, 2 months
First word to publication: 6 years, 11 months
First word to completed first draft: 11 days
First word to projected publication: 10 months
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.