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!
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.
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!
What a pleasure to see that Jerry Wheeler has reviewed Blue Water Dreams! He’s an excellent author and editor, and I think very highly of his opinion. It’s lovely to read that he thinks that I “made some interesting choices that pay off in a big way” and “whatever her next project is, it’ll be on the TBR pile”.
Read it yourself and see if you agree with him: Blue Water Dreams at Bold Strokes Books.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Elliott Deline’s new book, $how Trans, reads like a journal that has been edited to read like narrative. It’s a rollercoaster of a read. Deline interprets his own and others’ behaviors inconsistently – one minute flagellating himself for his desires and choices, another minute reporting them with eerie detachment, still another minute blaming all his problems on other people.
As the author of a romance book with a trans protagonist, I chose to write a world where things are a little bit better, go a little bit smoother than is usual in real life. I felt that folks could use a feel-good book where a trans man finds love and the conflict has nothing to do with his gender. It is a realistic trans* story in the same way that most romance is realistic, and important only if it succeeds in providing warmth and hope.
Happy possibilities and best-case-scenarios aside, there are other important trans* stories. This one doesn’t waste any time on how being trans* can be a blessing (not even in disguise) or what amazing lessons and perspectives a trans* person is given. Deline is handing over his experiences, edited and shaped but remarkably honest, and they are frequently painful. Banal or hypersensitized, his responses to events vary according to a complicated chemistry of anger and exhaustion, awareness and blockage, disgust and need.
The use of first person memoir to tell stories in which the person frequently blacks out – not passes out, but has memory blackouts – is both compelling and severely restricted. Deline remembers at least one instance of rape, but questionable consent is a constant thread throughout the book, and some crucial moments when consent might have happened are erased by Deline’s dark memory. Moments of decision, moments of pressure. These disappear into a shrug, Deline’s admission that he doesn’t remember what came next.
On the other hand, there are plenty of stories told in great detail that carry a similar weight of indecision, with Deline often bowing to pressure in ways that don’t feel like decision-making. Another thread through the book is that things just happen – sex, love, rejection – with Deline barely paddling either with or against the flow. In this tone, I hear the voice of an addict, and Deline uses the word himself about his relationship with sex. His struggle to exert his will over his life is as painful to read as it is chillingly realistic for so many.
There is no truth in this book but the author’s truth. No attempt has been made to balance or flesh out Deline’s understanding of events, except with his own changing perspective through time. In the scenes with Grindr hookups or the more regular sex trade partners, this doesn’t seem to matter. I’m only interested in what Deline is feeling and how he is experiencing his own desires and those of others. His descriptions of wanting something more nebulous than sex from them are compelling. Some of his strongest voice, moments when I can practically hear him speaking, is in the agonizing confusion of being inadequately gendered by sex partners who simplify him, deny him, or just use him and ignore his need for someone to understand his maleness and blend of masculinity and femininity.
The relationship he has with the object-of-love is beautiful and empty, formed of feelings and denied by them, as unwanted by the object as it is impossible to give up. In some of the most intimate description in the book, the object is brought only into soft focus. Deline doesn’t give us a well-rounded, complex character in the person. It is the image of love and of the lover that we see in the book. The person is specific only in that no one else affects Deline the same way. We don’t get to know this person at all and have no idea whether or not we would sympathize with their version of this situation.
It’s not about that, though. It’s about Deline’s experience of love and loss, love and rejection, love and hate. While the object-of-love is vague, Deline’s response to him is not. He feels his way through the relationship, his desire and yearning the strongest impressions provided us. This is where Deline’s authorial voice is given the reins and allowed to speak. He provides a little context with some nice descriptions of Santa Cruz, for example, but focuses on the feeling of being in yet another situation he doesn’t control. The hope he holds for this situation doesn’t outweigh the sense of doom I have as the reader. His hope is tenuous and depends far too much on other people. His pursuit and eventual loss use the same personal and interpersonal tools he’s been using in the rest of his life – assumption, unwarranted hope, and blind pushing. There is no way that this love will be the growth experience that changes everything for him. This is not a romance.
I sense that there is a lot of truth to the idea that Deline’s life has been made harder by some of the people in it. On the other hand, the way he moves toward a mode of blaming others makes me think of people I know who’ve gone into therapy and started looking for “causes” for their behavior or experience of the world. More than a reliable indictment of the people involved, I got the image of a person struggling to change. He admits to self-diagnosing his sex addiction and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which I find telling as a search for explanation more than a convincing diagnosis.
His desire to understand his own choices grows through the book and provides the bulk of the narrative continuity. I’m not certain he comes to a place of great self-knowledge, but he does find support from outside that helps him feel better about himself. Perhaps self-love will open the door to self-knowledge.
$how Trans was provided to me free for an unbiased review. I’m a tough grader.
I am touring the Pacific Northwest to promote my upcoming Seattle-set queer/trans* romance, Blue Water Dreams, published by Bold Strokes Books and available now for preorder. The tour mixes book readings, discussions, erotica workshops, and visits to interested groups. I am available for interviews and welcome requests for review copies.
Publishers Weekly has this to say about Blue Water Dreams: “Seattleites Lania Marchiol, a cisgender woman, and Oly Rasmussen, a transgender man, meet by chance and quickly bond over shared interests…and when Lania and Oly set their differences aside and embrace their sexual chemistry, the scenes are graceful, sure, and spicy.”
Gender Alliance of the South Sound, Reading and Discussion, 9/12/14, 7pm
Art of Loving, Reading and Discussion, 9/15/14, 7:30pm
Orca Books, Group Reading, 9/21/14, 3pm
In Other Words Feminist Community Center, Erotica Workshop, 9/23/14, 6pm
About me: Dena Hankins writes aboard her boat, wherever she has sailed it. After eight years as a sex educator, she turned to writing dirty tales with far-flung settings and a queer/trans* romance novel, Blue Water Dreams, about magnetism and self-sufficiency. Read more: www.denahankins.net.