Wednesday 9 July 2014

In the running

Sometimes stuff happens and you have no idea why. But sometimes, that's a good thing.

Last week I had an email asking if I knew a bdsm story collection is a finalist in the 'best erotica' category of the 2014 eFestival of Words Best of Independent eBook Awards.

No, I didn't. I have no clue how that happened. But it sounds good to me.

My 'Best Erotica' nomination is for The Museum of Deviant Desires, published by 1001 Nights Press.

See the full nominations list (lots of categories) on the eFestival of Words website - and remember to vote. You have to register on the site, but it's free. And if erotica isn't the only thing you like reading, you can of course vote in around 20 categories covering everything from children's literature to self-help to science fiction. Voting is now live, with the winner announced on 24 August.

If The Museum of Deviant Desires sounds like something you might want to vote for, but you've never read it, you can find it from several courses including and, Smashwords, and B&N. You'll also find it on iTunes.

Actually, you have plenty of reasons to vote in the awards even if you don't vote for me. The e-book market as a whole has suffered like every other market from the economic downturn in recent years, while the 'big boys' have been taking increasingly large slices of the market - so several of the smaller independent ebook marketplaces have closed. Diesel shut down earlier this year, though there's an antitrust lawsuit still pending against the same publishing companies the US Department of Justice investigated and prosecuted for their pricing strategies. And Sony shut down its own ebook store and transferred the titles to Kobo, while B&N's Nook website has reported huge year-on-year losses on ebook sales. While the awards celebrate the authors and independent publishers of ebooks, the concentration on a few major marketplaces for ebook sales has put pressure on independent ebook publishers (and independent print publishers) with allegedly 'bullying' tactics that cut publisher's margins - plus of course periodic arguments about how indie books are ranked, withdrawing content that is deemed morally unacceptable even if it's legal, and so on.

So anything you can do to support indie ebook publishers, even just voting in their awards, is a contribution to keeping the market vibrant.

Monday 17 March 2014

Just a thought

Okay, so the last post on here was almost six months ago - time flies when you're having fun. Or, actually, in this case when you're not. The last few months have been pretty hard going with members of the extended family being ill and suffering various other misfortunes, plus working very hard on the kind of writing that pays the bills. Which erotica broadly doesn't, at the moment, as you may know if you've been following these things.
Never mind.
I don't normally read the Daily Star, which is the kind of 'newspaper' that makes headlines out of things like whether an actress I've never heard of might or might not have flashed some sideboob on a 'reality show' I've never watched. However, it also recently decided it was news that 'Porn movie filmed at uni campus in BROAD DAYLIGHT racks up thousands of views'.
The movie in question is 'Johnny Rockard at University of West of England in Bristol. Student pick up, and public sex with horny Xzena', which has apparently had 41,000 views on a sex website. The title's easy enough to google so I'm guessing it's the site of 'porn babe Xzena', though it's also now on a bunch of other places.
The UWE has called in the police to investigate how this happened - erm, they walked on campus and just did it? Yes, most campuses now make staff and students wear ID tags but it's never been well policed. It's gonzo film-making. It happens. It's mildly amusing. Just get real about it.
What amused me most about all this was the ill-considered reaction of the university vice-chancellor: 'I am appalled that the university should be subject to such behaviour from someone with no connection to the university, resulting in a false and misleading representation of the university.'
To which my thoughts were
(a) this is a corporatist autopilot reaction, which is understandable but maybe not very well considered. 'Some of the parents of next year's applicants will think we're letting people film porn while pretending to be students, ohmygod ohmygod our corporate image will slip and they'll apply somewhere else.' I don't think so. In a way the best outcome would be a parallel to the 2013 'wrecking ball' problem at Grand Valley State University in the US - if you don't know what that was, here's a Huffington Post piece about it. And they reinstated the ball a couple of months later when the fuss died down.
(b) no one in their right mind is likely to assume the film gives any 'representation' of the university, any more than the couple caught doing a porn shoot in a Healthrow carpark a couple of years ago were offering any 'representation' of the airport. Okay, so Zxena apparently identifies herself on the video as a third-year psychology student. So what? And would it be a 'false and misleading representation' if they were doing anything else - reciting poetry or staging an impromptu Pussy Riot-style gig, for example? Universities are supposed to be above making the chilling assumption that anything and everything that happens is a 'representation' of the institution as a whole. They're supposed to be liberal organisations, not corporate control freaks.
(c) would it have been better if the film participants had a connection to the university so that their actions wouldn't be 'false and misleading' representations? Erm... I'm pretty sure if anyone checked video footage on students' mobile phones they'd find equally explicit material. They would in my day, if we'd had mobile phones back then.
Call me old. And cynical. And over-liberal. But in my university days no one would have raised an eyebrow at this. The student union, far from co-operating with the police inquiry, would probably have invited the 'performers' to a public meeting at which they'd be asked to expound on the revolutionary and liberating potential of porn in relation to, or as a commentary on, the crisis of capitalism and the rise of the police state.
Which isn't as daft as it sounds. I'm still rather partial to the Frankfurt School analyses of such things (Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilisation, and so on). And I may be in the minority here but I still think Susan Sontag's essay 'The Pornographic Imagination' from 1967 has a lot going for it. Pornography reveals knowledge and truth that may be dangerous - because often it's knowledge about how repressive current morality has become.

Saturday 5 October 2013

The red room

The door is plain varnished wood, the kind of cheap fire retardant door used in low-rent housing and offices. It has a chrome handle and a deadlock. The room beyond it is about twelve by twelve feet, but has no window. It’s too large to have been intended as a cupboard, suggesting that either a window has been boarded over, or the room has been created by partitioning a larger space. Illumination comes from a single florescent strip light on the ceiling. Depressions in the ceiling paper, however, suggest that there was a previous circular light fitment. The vent of an air conditioning unit is positioned high in the far right corner as viewed from the door. The controls are fitted to the wall below – a small white box with two knobs, one marked with an off position and five fan speeds, the other marked ‘Temp’ and with nine graduations of which only ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ are labelled. The controls are off and the temperature control is set to ‘Min’.

The ceiling and walls are papered with a woodchip paper, emulsioned in red. The skirting boards have been painted the same way.

Some areas of wall have a different treatment. A section from the skirting board to about four feet high and seven feet wide, behind the bed, has a tiger-print paper. A section from floor to ceiling and about four feet wide, on the left-hand wall as one enters the room, is padded in black faux leather. It is held in place with two lengths of timber, one either side, each with an eye bolt at the top and bottom. Directly opposite, on the right-hand wall, is a cheap floor-to-ceiling mirror, silvered behind a slightly fogged acrylic or plastic. In the ceiling, between this mirror and the door, there is an eye bolt. There is another similar, but smaller, mirror behind the bed above the tiger-print paper.

A similar mirror is attached to the ceiling above the bed.

Electric sockets are to either side of the bed.

The carpet comprises red carpet tiles, the kind that might be used in an office or shop. The four carpet tiles under the ceiling eye bolt, and those next to the lower of the bolts on the timbers next to the faux leather, are significantly more worn than the others. The floor has not been recently vacuumed: there is a small amount of visible hair and fabric lint.

The bed is a standard double in size, four and a half by seven feet. It is of robust, probably handmade, construction: the four corner posts are waist high and could easily have been made from recycled telegraph poles; the sides and headboard are joist timbers, lengths of five by two inch wood. The timber has been planed and varnished to make it smooth. The mattress is slightly concave. It is either old or has seen a great deal of use. The sheet is red, a shade brighter than the walls and a little rumpled. There is one pillow with a red cover.

The corner posts of the bed each have an anchor point set into them – a metal D-ring welded to a small square plate and secured to flattened areas of the posts with four screws. The D-rings all have chains padlocked to them, about eighteen inches in length; and the other ends of the chains have heavy cuffs attached, again with padlocks. The cuffs are similar in style to those used in some custodial settings – brown padded leather, closing with buckles but with a design that enables the leather tongue, once fed through the buckle, to be secured also with a smaller padlock.

The keys to all the padlocks are on a keyring which lies on the carpet under the foot of the bed. With them are four additional padlocks and three lengths of chain, each of around thirty inches. Also under the bed is a small grey plastic waste basket. This is empty and therefore condom wrappers, used condoms, tissues and, perhaps, other waste such as pill bottles or the wrappings and packaging of other stimulants are entirely absent.

The pillow has traces of pink lipstick, streaks of black mascara and a saliva stain that is still slightly damp. The bedsheet has several small stains, three of them seminal fluid from two different men and two of them vaginal secretions, both from the same woman. Three others are from perspiration, situated underneath where a person’s shoulders and buttocks would lie if they had been spread-eagled on the bed. There are in total eight hairs on the sheet of which four are black, probably dyed, and eight to twelve inches in length; two are grey and one inch in length; one is brown and about three inches; and one blonde, six inches long.
Analysis of residual auditory impressions on the walls reveal the following:

– a series of muffled moans and shrieks, probably from a female.

– a series of impact sounds that could be either clapping, or slapping or spanking of bare flesh.

– the words ‘What’s Britney going to do now?’, probably from a male voice.

– the words ‘You worked hard to get punished, bitch. Now enjoy it!’. The voice is male and deeper than the previous one.

– metallic sounds that could have come from the chains, with soft grunts and what are probably footsteps.

– the words ‘Oh fuck. Ohhh… fuck. Fuck!’ spoken slightly breathlessly and ascending in pitch.

Analysis of residual light retention in the mirrors reveals the following:

– in the full-length wall mirror, the nude body of a woman standing. The view is of her front and runs from mid-thigh to just above her mouth, which appears to be filled with a ball-gag. Her age could be anything from late teens to a woman in her late thirties who has retained her figure. The position suggests she may be chained by the wrists to the overhead eye bolt but this cannot be confirmed. An undetermined event causes her to shudder, a sideways movement of her hips followed by the muscles tensing around her stomach and then a slight bounce of her breasts.

– in the full-length wall mirror, an image of a woman seen from behind. She is on her knees. She has shoulder-length black hair. She faces a stocky figure dressed in black, presumably a man. He is out of focus and the image, as with the previous one, does not include his face. The position of the two figures is suggestive of oral sex but this cannot be confirmed from the image.

– in the mirror above the bed: a complex image that may be a composite of several time periods. It shows one person, from the physique presumably female, cuffed and spread-eagled to the bed but not much of her apart from the limbs is visible. There are two superimposed figures, from the back and their physiques presumably male, lying on top of her in what, in a sexual context, would be a missionary position. One has short grey hair and the other brown hair. There is a fourth figure visible only as the top of a head with blonde hair, shoulders and breasts, kneeling in the position that would place her on the face of the woman tied to the bed. And there are five others in the room, standing three on one side of the bed and two on the other. Whether these are the same figures at a different point in time, or observers of a scene being played out on the bed, is open to question. At least one of the male figures on the bed could easily also be one of those situated to one side of the bed but this can only be speculation based on hair colour and breadth of shoulders.


Those of you who have a literary background may have come across something known as 'thick description'. Those of you who haven't come across it in that context probably know something about it from the postmortem scenes in TV crime series, which often give detailed descriptive detail of bodies. Those of you who have any interest in narratology are probably aware that the discipline makes a distinction between description and narrative, among other literary forms, but also recognises that the distinction can be fluid. But then I guess most people who read newspapers or watch TV would be aware of that, because the choice of words used in news reports that 'only give the facts' are often intended to convey information that links the story to a wider context and to the media's beliefs, values or preferred narratives. And TV crime series, again, offer the idea of a detectives constructing a narrative out of physical and other evidence.

So here you have some thick description that is also, through the use of a retrospective and 'evidence based' perspective, offering a narrative of 'what happened' - though it relies on some science-fictional techniques that, oddly enough, may soon be feasible and are currently being investigated by physicists.

If you're interested, the description is based on a room that used to exist, though probably no longer does. It was in the chambers of a pro domme I used to know, which took up the upper floors of an office building. Because it was close to the city's business district, most of the clients came on weekdays at lunchtimes or early in the evening. Hence she sometimes used it to host fetish events at weekends. And the description could have been even thicker - if I remember rightly there was also a small CCTV camera in the room so someone at reception could see what was going on in there.

And I haven't bothered to describe the corridor leading to the room (white and green tiles on the walls up to waist height, I believe, and then painted cream), the staining on the woodwork from hands clutching at it or running along it, the epithelial traces on the walls and carpet, or the streaks on the ceiling left by the use of whips. Or maybe I'm misremembering that last bit. The marks were more likely those I left on the ceiling in a studio flat I used to live in, which wasn't quite big enough for the 7-foot bullwhip I occasionally employed in play sessions.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Prevalence, origins and habits of post-decease animates ('vampires')

'Discovered' document sheds light on government involvement in managing the vampire population.

Weird enough stuff that it could be the basis of a story. Given the mention of sexuality and sado-masochism it could be an erotic story. Like this one (also on

Sunday 28 July 2013

The Innocent Schoolgirl Test, Revisited

I thought the title might get your attention. And there is an innocent schoolgirl test involved in this post, but that's because it's a post about obscenity, moral standards and censorship.

If you live in the UK you will no doubt be aware the government is doing things about preventing pedophiles from searching for images of children online. Among other things it's getting search engines to block certain searches.

David Cameron has stated search engines should stop results from 'depraved and disgusting' search terms, and entered into discussions with Google and others. Bing has already introduced warning pop-ups to tell you if you use search terms or phrases that are on a blacklist prepared by CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency. Other search engines seem likely to introduce these in the near future - possibly they will already have been introduced by the time you read this post.

But this is all rather sad and familiar territory. CEOP of course is unlikely to publish a list of those search terms any time soon. We can concede that a few pedophiles do start their exploration of the internet by using the major search engines, especially if they don't have other resources at their disposal - though it appears the majority of file-sharing of objectionable material is via private peer-to-peer networks. We also know that some pedophiles groom potential victims online in a range of ways, and that major social networks have become much more savvy about how that happens and how to help prevent it.

But we also know that many if not most parents don't use content filters on their own computers to prevent children from seeing pornographic images online.

And we know the wider culture, including advertising and fashion, has sought to sexualise young people in problematic ways. My own small example of this comes from being in a queue at an airport behind a couple whose young daughter, maybe 5 or 6 years old, was wearing a T-shirt that stated she was a 'Porn Star in Training'. What??

And we know that young people are affected my this in all kinds of ways, including pressure on girls to sext and send explicit 'selfies' to boys they know, some of which end up being shared around or wind up on the internet.

But there's also a wider reaction to the prevalence of sexual material that isn't problematic. Amazon, as you may know, has been messing with its own search engine and effectively now hides a lot of erotica from searches on its own site. Those of us who write erotica found out about this in April when we found our sales had dropped overnight by over 50%.

While this has spawned a new genre - books about how to find erotica on Amazon and elsewhere - my point is that there's a reaction to the extent of sexual/erotic/pornographic material available on the internet, and it goes beyond specific concerns about the kinds of sex almost all of us are shocked by. It is, I think, a new prudery.

[Updated to add - another example of this, though not internet based, came today in the form of a demand by a major retailer that 'lads' mags' such as Loaded, Nuts and Zoo should now be sealed into modesty bags so as not to offend customers. Loaded has been on sale without modesty bags since 1994.]

And this is where the innocent schoolgirl test comes in.

A legal case in 1868, R v Hicklin (LR 3 QB 360 if you're interested) began with the prosecution of one Henry Scott for selling copies of an anti-Catholic pamphlet titled 'The Confessional Unmasked: Shewing the depravity of the Romish Priesthood, the iniquity of the Confessional, and the questions put to females in confession'. The pamphlets were determined to be obscene and ordered to be destroyed. Scott appealed to to the Court of Quarter Sessions, where the Recorder (i.e. judge), Benjamin Hickling, revoked the decision. Hickling's decision in turn was appealed by the authorities to the Court of Queen's Bench were it was heard by Chief Justice Cockburn.

Cockburn's view was that an appropriate test of whether material had a 'tendency to deprave and corrupt' should consider those whose minds were open to immoral influences - such as an innocent schoolgirl.

Remember this was 1868. Education was not compulsory, many girls never even became 'schoolgirls' and there were quite different standards then in relation to sexual morals anyway. So the interpretation of this test proved repeatedly problematic right the way up to 1959 and the Obscene Publications Act which tried to clarify the situation.

The idea that anything that could offend 'innocent schoolgirls' was obscene remained in popular culture, though, as exemplified by the 'Oz' trial of 1971, an obscenity prosecution related to Issue 28 (May 1970) described as the 'Schoolkids issue' and guest-edited by readers aged 15-18. At one point the defendants arrived at court dressed as 'innocent schoolgirls'.

As a side note - those who appeared for the defence, and thus as advocates of freedom of expression, included DJ John Peel, comedian Marty Feldman and jazz musician George Melly - all well-known figures of the time.

It seems to me that despite, or maybe because of, various laws on the publication of sexual material since then, and a widespread desire to protect children from material that could 'deprave and corrupt' them, we're moving back to applying a newly constructed 'innocent schoolgirl' test for the internet [and ebooks, and probably in print as well].

And that creates three problems.

Firstly, it may create a stereotyped 'innocent schoolgirl' that doesn't actually exist and can't exist in today's society for reasons including our awareness of pedophilia and the need for education about it; and because of the sexualisation of so many aspects of society in ways that aren't explicit.

Secondly, it creates problems for anyone who wants to use the internet for purposes that are appropriate to their own adult sexuality - which at various points is probably why most us do use the internet.

And thirdly, it creates the possibility of a 'slippery slope' in which government agencies can decide what we should be able to see on the internet and not tell us what they've tried to stop us seeing. It's a case of 'OK, they have a reason for doing this now - but what might they want to ban by secret means tomorrow?'

I'm not sure what the answer is. More public debate? More explicit recognition that adults need a space to be themselves? More openness about what the policies are and how they're being implemented? Probably all of these.

But in the meantime I'd guess that those who find their interests are being blocked by internet searches will start to develop new vocabularies and search terms pretty quickly, so that there will be a cat-and-mouse game of blocking new search terms and a quickly-evolving vocabulary of sexual terms.

I don't know if all of this makes much sense. Or if any of it makes sense. But I'd be interested to hear your views.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Free until 28 July: Voodoo Fetish

Voodoo Fetish is free on Amazon until 28 July, on and

It's the second novella in my Vodou Trilogy. The first book, Ridden (or go here for the UK version), details Eloise’s experiences in the Caribbean. A car accident near a cemetery in which she's possessed by the lwa and Baron Cimiti─Śre. Their use of her as a channel for supernatural healing. The discovery that these powers require her to undergo bdsm sex so that her pain and orgasm can channel away another person’s illness. That's the backstory.

Voodoo Fetish is set in London - a world city that's home to members of the vodou diaspora. She’s called upon by the lwa to carry out a healing ceremony for the daughter of a work colleague. Among other things this involves supernatural sex, discussions with crows and a dead witch, sex with a pagan couple she meets who are recruited to her healing project, a relationship with a houngan (male priest) who comes from the slightly different New Orleans tradition of vodou, a bass guitar with interesting properties, and discussion of the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid dynamics.

There will be a third novella in due course, which explains how the various people she’s healed are connected together and what the longer-term project of the lwa was. And, yes, bdsm and sex are involved. Extensively involved.

For now, though, you can download the second novella, Voodoo Fetish, for free. Hope you enjoy it.

Monday 8 July 2013

Catching up with myself

First Day at Work - new cover
I haven't been on here for a few weeks, because life doesn't only happen online. Among other things I've had to do a lot of running around on behalf of a relative who's not particularly well. I've also been earning money writing stuff that isn't remotely erotic, because since Amazon messed with their tags, search settings and ranking algorithm earlier this year, stuff hasn't sold as well as it used to - and a lot of other erotica authors have found the same thing. If you're interested in reading erotica, you probably need to get more creative about how you search for it. And those of us who write it increasingly need to see it as a hobby rather than a livelihood. Such is life...

However, while I've been gone, Xcite have won a prize: ETO Best Erotic Book Brand 2013. The ETO is Erotic Trade Only, the UK's magazine and annual exhibition/event for all erotic trades. They award prizes at their annual event, and the complete list is here.
Vampire's New Plaything - new cover

In recognition of this (or something like that - I'm making assumptions here) Xcite have been redesigning some of their book covers. So my First Day at Work and Vampire's New Plaything short stories, and the Tricks For Kicks collection that has my story 'Filthy White Dress' in it all now look like the pics in this post (the other links to these scattered around this blog that show the old covers also still work, of course).

Meanwhile, I've managed to do a short story - it's a bit longer than flash fiction at a shade under 1500 words - that I've posted on my other blog, It's inspired in part by reading some stuff on narratology - don't laugh, it's a proper academic subject that's part of a wider cultural studies subject area, and I do take the craft of writing seriously enough to read academic papers on things like literary structure.

Tricks for Kicks new cover
The story is a rough cut of a couple of ideas about ageing and sex - the character is in her sixties and remembering her hippie youth - and about how it's possible to interpret a list of a character's reactions to something as telling a story. Or alternatively, to tell a story in the format of an apparently stream-of-consciousness set of reactions to a single event in the narrative present.

It's also, I guess, an acknowledgement that the 1960s were culturally and socially an important period in England, and probably most other countries: it was the beginning of the hippie period, the sexual revolution that began with the contraceptive pill, a widespread drug culture, and of course a range of other things the story doesn't reference. And those who were young at that time have become the new generation of retired and elderly people.

Have a read of the story on the other blog, see what you think. I may revisit the theme and indeed that story, rewrite it, and maybe include it in a collection of 60s-inspired erotica at some point later in the year.