By Valerie, May 17 2016 2:00PM
Want a weird little piece of flash today? My story "Alice" came out in the May issue of Cafe Irreal. You can read it here.
By Valerie, May 8 2016 10:09PM
Have you read Behrouz Gets Lucky yet? If not, go pick it up; I'll wait. The book is a love story, a kink story, a discovery story and a celebration of language. I really loved it, for reasons that will probably be clear in my questions below. Yes, author Avery Cassell was generous enough to talk to me about the book.
Behrouz Gets Lucky is such a unique novel. Not just in its subject matter, but in its lushness of description which is at odds with the sparse language of so much modern lit. It often seems we're in the era of Rules Writing, where everyone aspires to have similar minimalist tones. Have you gotten any push back on that front from publishers or reviewers - in any project?
This is the first novel that I’ve written and it’s only been out for a little over a month, so I don’t have much experience with either rejection or acceptance of my writing style. People that listen to me read, comment extremely favorably on how visual my work is, how it invites them into a special world. Cleis Press has been fine with my style. Many of my reviewers have focused on the gender and age of the protagonists, rather then my style. I had one reviewer, however, that was insulted by what they called my
pretentiousness, excessive use of adjectives, and obscure book or movie references.
Have you found that people automatically expect erotic writing to be subpar in quality, that literary erotic fiction is an oxymoron?
I think that people expect erotic fiction to get directly to the point in a fairly cheerless and nonsensual manner. They do not expect much in the way of ordinary life to intrude upon their erotica, whereas I think domesticity should mingle with erotica. We are a remarkably prudish country, compartmentalizing sex away from the rest of our lives, our “real” life. I dream of the day when comparing our weekends on Monday morning with our co-workers, we excitedly mention the great orgasm we had on Sunday night, along a movie we saw Saturday, and the terrific brunch that we cooked. I don’t think that we can have a rich culture of literary erotica until sex is incorporated into our domestic lives. Secrecy and shame are a creative buzz-kill.
Who would you cite as your influences?
I was directly influenced by the Swedish mystery writer, Henning Georg Mankell, while I was writing Behrouz Gets Lucky; I loved the attention to mundane domestic and natural details that Mankell included in his Wallander series, even having Kurt retire due to the most ordinary of reasons, early-onset Alzheimers. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes is another favorite book that I reread. I adore its overblown prose, the constant ruminating, the doctor’s beautiful rant about the nature of the night in the chapter “Watchman, What of the Night”, and the ending with Robin and the dog circling one another in an abandoned chapel. My favorite poet is Stevie Smith, for her dry wit, silliness, and her secrets. My favorite smut and sex writer is the ever brilliant, Pat Califia, whose books Macho Sluts and Public Sex helped me leave the farmhouse in the mid-80s. No, that was not a euphemism.
Characters over a certain age are usually absent from erotic depictions. Have you gotten any appreciation, surprise or other reactions from readers? Do you think we're headed culturally for an expansion of recognition on that front - that we're moving (in literature or movies/TV) away from the equation of sex with youth?
I do think we’re heading towards an expansion of recognition of the power that sexuality has in our lives, and believe that this will not only include middle-aged and older people, but that they will be instrumental in driving this cultural change. As we age, we become more outspoken, including becoming louder about the importance of desire and passion.
I’ve gotten a ton of support and appreciation from middle-aged straight women for my depiction of lust and love between older people. One of my readers when I was writing Behrouz Gets Lucky was a pal who was 50-year- old gay man, and he was completely enamored with the romance and passion in my book. Middle-aged and older gay men seem to love my book. My aunt, a lesbian in her 80s who used to be a separatist in the 1970s, copy edited my book and wrote, “But my liking the story is about how good it is. And that is more valid because I'm not the ideal audience for this material. I know and practice only vanilla sex and read only vanilla erotica. My liking you made me want to read your work and the power of the story made me keep reading. I didn't find it distasteful or politically offensive as I might have.”
Similarly, do you think readers are ready for an expansion of what we consider to be a successful relationship or love story? Used to be that characters had to follow a certain trajectory that ended in permanence and monogamy, - or it didn't count as a "healthy" relationship. Even as real-life people have begun shattering those limitations, many publishers seem to think readers need that kind of convention in their books. Have you found that to be the case or do you think readers are more open that they're given credit for?
We need to break conventions in our books! I believe that many more people are practicing more diverse relationship configurations, than are talking about them publicly, although that is changing. There is so much cultural shame around not being in a stable monogamous relationship where your partner fills all your needs that folks prefer to remain closeted rather than have to defend unorthodox choices. Folks are hungry to read about other relationship styles and other gender expressions; reading about them gives readers permission to follow different relationship and gender paths, presents creative relationship choices, and gives them role models.
I remember when Dykes to Watch Out For came out in 1983, and what an enormous relief it was to see the diversity of our community reflected publicly with love and humor. When I see the New York Times featuring US Senator Harris Wofford coming out in a bisexual intergenerational relationship with his male fiancé, Matthew Charlton, and Mollena Williams-Haas and Georg Friedrich Haas coming out as a couple in a D/s marriage, I have enormous hope that relationship models are expanding.
It used to be that there was LGBT and then everyone else. As sexual and gender politics have become more complex, the community has become fractured along identity and ideological lines to the point where many question if there is still a cohesive LGBTQAI+ community or if that's no longer a useful category. What do you see as the future of what used to be called "gay" lit? Do you think there is still such a thing or that we're moving into a future where we need different publishing categories that are more intersectional - or just less of an emphasis on categories in general?
I love “gay lit!”, but then I also have a great deal of affection for cataloguing and a dusty degree in library science. I don’t think there has ever been a cohesive LGB community, let alone a cohesive LGBTQAI+ community. Here in San Francisco, the Castro is becoming a more diverse neighborhood, no longer the bastion of gay culture. Some sociologists think that gayborhoods are disappearing, and if so, does this mean that there will also be less of a need for LGBTQ literature too? Will assimilation and acceptance homogenize LGBTQ culture? Marriage equality is happening at the same time that we’re
fighting public bathroom wars and hate crimes against transgender people are rising.
What does this mean for living as LGBTQ people in this country? What does it mean for publishing? Damned if I know. We need to stand together, but I don’t think we stand a chance of creating a strong cohesive community unless we stop emphasizing our differences and start emphasizing our similarities. This needs to happen on all levels, including how we categorize our culture and our literature. Having said all this, I’m a Libra and I waffle. Not like breakfast, but like changing my mind. We need to be cognizant of inclusion, and it may be that the only way we can do this is by becoming
more intersectional. As a postscript, perhaps we need a variation of the Bechdel Test for queers in literature.
What can you tell us about your next book?
I’m actively working on another book of Behrouz and Lucky’s adventures, with their friends and family playing much stronger parts, and have joked that I should write a dystopian science fiction novel starring my favorite crafty flâneurs, Behrouz and Lucky; I think they’d be handy to have around during an apocalypse. I have a few other projects at various stages of incompletion including an illustrated early reader children’s book about a young transboy and the transcription of an archive of aerograms that my parents mailed from Iran to their parents in Virginia in the early 1960s. You can keep in touch with me
By Valerie, Feb 21 2016 8:00AM
Today I'm up in the Best Lesbian Erotica blog tour. And that means traveling back in time to 1955 Times Square, where my story "Grindhouse" is set.
I've always been fascinated by the world of pin-up girls and burlesque dancers from the 1940's-1960's, especially those years when mass-produced pornography was first being - very carefully - created. The "fighting girl" films of Irving Klaw and his obscenity trial are especially interesting, given that we now live in a world where people can schedule bondage dates through FetLife and buy leather dog masks on Amazon. Was it a more innocent time back then or was it actually naughtier, since so much was still taboo? Hard to say.
My story "Grindhouse" centers around a burlesque dancer taking her first steps into the world of BDSM, courtesy of forbidden magazines, Times Square theatres and eventually, acting in bondage films herself.
Back on the street, the Elysium Theatre entrance waits like an open, grinning mouth. Cat Fight Confidential! the marquee promises. Pyromania! The Elysium is one of the sleaziest theatres on the Deuce, crawling with hustlers and their scores in the balcony and plainclothes vice prowling the rows of seats. Supposedly a man got mugged in the restroom last week. But that doesn't stop me from handing my money to the girl behind the ticket booth glass.
I settle in near the back. A black and white film set on a beach is playing, what they call a low-budget roughie. But just a few minutes later, a new film starts – these seems to be mostly brief film clips - and a flickering, black and white screen spells out Cat Fight Confidential.
This film has no dialogue, just a merry instrumental tune. A blonde society girl is brushing her hair at the mirror. A maid sweeps in and they argue. The hairbrush is snatched back and forth a few times, and then the girls are pushing each other and wrestling all over the floor.
I lean forward in my seat, scarcely able to breathe. The girls tumble energetically around the room until the maid gets fed up and pins the society girl on the bed, pulling off her dress while the society girls kicks and screams. I wait for them to grind against each other, for the maid to strip her naked. But she only brings the blonde down to the floor and pulls off her slip. The society girl twists and pouts in her bra and panties.
The door flies open and a tall black-haired woman strolls into the scene. She moves with a swagger, a jungle cat with a menacing smile. She scolds them both with much finger wagging, then holds up a length of clothesline. I cross my legs, flushed and excited. She's going to strip them naked and tie them up. All my life I’ve burned with dreams like this, secret shameful fever dreams of naked girls in bondage, women who knew how to take charge.
But the tall black-haired actress doesn’t pull off their clothes. Instead she swiftly bends the maid over the table - still in her uniform - and ties her hands to its legs, so the maid is stuck with her bottom sticking out. She ties the society girl to the other end of the table in the same position, then takes the hairbrush and begins spanking both of them with a smirk.
A shivery thrill snakes down my spine. She's so dominant. So authoritative. My cunt feels hot and wet and swollen under my skirt.
Best Lesbian Erotica is out now - and it's the 20th anniversary edition. Don't miss it.
By Valerie, Feb 15 2016 4:18AM
Best Lesbian Erotica - 20th Anniversary Edition - is out, with a special giveaway and blog tour. How you can win a copy: comment on any of the below posts and you'll be eligible.
The drawing will be held February 28 and the winner announced by March 5.
Feb 10: Sacchi Green-Introduction
Feb. 11: Rose de Fer-“Dust”
Feb. 12: Louise Blaydon-“Ascension”
Feb 13: MeganMc Ferren-“The Royalty Underground”
Feb. 14: Harper Bliss-“Reunion Tour”
Feb 15: D.L. King-“Hot Blood”
Feb 16: Jean Roberta-“Tears from Heaven”
Feb 17: Sinclair Sexsmith-“Luscious and Wild”
Feb 18: R.G. Emanuelle-“Smorgasbord”
Feb 19: Rose P. Lethe-“A Professional”
Feb 20: Anna Watson-“Easy”
Feb 21: Me -“Grindhouse”
Feb 22: Annabeth Leong-“Give and Take”
Feb 23: Frankie Grayson-“Mirror Mirror”
Feb 24: Cheyenne Blue-“The Road to Hell”
Feb 25: Emily L. Byrne-“The Further Adventures of Miss Scarlet”
Feb 26: Sossity Chiricuzio-“Make them Shine”
Feb 27: Teresa Noelle Roberts-“Tomato Bondage”
By Valerie, Feb 11 2016 3:18AM
Guess what's ready to steam up your Valentine's Day weekend? Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year is out. AND it's the 20th anniversary edition.
I just got my author copies today so I haven't read it yet - but the official description says...
Cleis Press' most lauded editor, Sacchi Green assumes the helm of one the most-heralded and best-selling series, Best Lesbian Erotica. This match made in book publishing heaven is also a fan fave whose readers range from 18 to 80 and who can't get enough of the Lambda Award–winning Sacchi Green's scorching hot stories of lesbian sex. From lust-at-first sight quickies to long-time companions, this voracious volume is the stuff of every woman's fantasy. With secret desires, coming-out, and coming-of-age stories and deeper explorations of what Green describes as "the fiercer shores of sex," Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year 20th Anniversary Edition aims to please and leave you satisfied.
Like my BWE story "Demimonde," my story here is a historical one - albeit not quite so far back in time. "Grindhouse" is set in 1955 and covers the sleazy world of Times Square, from burlesque dancers to grindhouse theatres to bondage films. Check back for an excerpt on the 21st, when I'll be up in the BLE blog tour.
By Valerie, Jan 29 2016 10:51PM
Did you get your copy of Best Women's Erotica of the Year yet? If not, you might want to hop over to Girl on the Net and read another great review, one that includes an excerpt of my story "Demimonde." So far the collection has gotten great 5-star reviews on Amazon and reviews from Romancing the Book and Cara Sutra and Dangerous Lilly just to name a few.
For those of you looking forward to Best Lesbian Erotica (out in a few weeks!) we're launching a blog tour throughout February; stayed tuned for more details, including an excerpt from my 1950's burlesque story "Grindhouse."
By Valerie, Jan 13 2016 3:11AM
It's the magical date of 12 January, and that means
In case you didn't know, there's a big Best Women's Erotica reading Tuesday night, 19 January, in San Francisco with authors like Amy Butcher, Dorothy Freed, Jade Waters, Rose Caraway and of course legendary editor Rachel Kramer Bussel. Swing by and you can hear some of the hottest erotica writers today read aloud from their stories. I actually planned on attending this one, but as always my insane schedule wouldn't allow it.
Anyhow, here's an excerpt from my story "Demimonde." If you've read a few of my stories, you might think this doesn't sound like me. Set in 1899 New York, it's the story of a young society widow who meets a charming hustler at a Spiritualist seance and goes on an adventure, exploring the naughtier side of the Gilded Age.
On the night of the séance, my cousin Ora lays on my bedroom chaise and tells me that we are about to be visited from beyond the grave. “They say Celeste Clair saw her dead mother appear right there in the dark - and Miss Greenbow was told she'd marry by summer.”
I wind my long black hair into a rope and pin it up. “You’ll be told of your future husband too. These traveling mediums deal in flim-flam, Ora. Pure nonsense.”
Ora sits up, indignant. “Elizabeth! Why are we going to the spirit parlor tonight if you’re going to be gloomy?”
I check my reflection in the looking glass. The seance will be held at Lady Wentworth's and all of her Fifth Avenue friends will be there; it’s important my deep blue evening dress with the open neckline is respectable for a widow of thirty-one. “How else am I to amuse myself?”
Down the oak staircase we go, electric lights burning dimly from hallway sconces. The house is quiet, my infirm mother-in-law asleep upstairs for the night. The butler opens the heavy front door to a snowy 72nd Street.
“Mother says these table-tappers are a wicked blasphemy,” Ora says happily as we climb into the hansom. “She will be so livid that we’ve gone.”
My cousin is quivering with excitement - at twenty-four, she rarely goes out unescorted at night. Despite it being 1899 and New York perched on the edge of a new century, my aunt is terribly strict about Ora’s freedoms. A member of the temperance movement, she is scandalized when we ride bicycles in Riverside Park and frowns on my uncle’s cognac and cigars. She is desperate for Ora to marry soon and considers me a bad example for refusing to remarry in the six years since my husband’s death.
Like everyone else, she thinks I’m waiting for a wealthy railroad magnate, maybe, or a banker from an old family. Or that possibly I’m waiting for my sweet bedridden mother-in-law to pass on before I choose a new husband to replace her son. It never occurs to anyone that I’m waiting for passion. But I know I could meet someone; I could meet the devil himself, handsome and tall, with a beautiful mouth like the doorway to the doom where all fallen women go.
Fallen women. It's the worst fate that can happen to women like Ora and I, but the idea of the falling itself sounds like a swoon in a dream.
I could meet someone like that. I could meet him tonight.
The book has gotten some very fabulous reviews, so check it out. And if you're in SF, don't miss that reading!
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