Friday, November 30, 2012

Sex Toys: The Early Years By Violetta Vane (GUEST POST)

Hello and welcome to the last week of Riptide Publishing’s Warriors of Rome month! We’re Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, and all week we’ll be posting across the web chatting about our heart-pounding new novel Mark of the Gladiator, Roman history in general, and dropping a few sexy gladiator-related surprises along the way! For a complete tour listing, please check out the Riptidewebsite, but first, read on for today’s post, and don’t forget to leave us a comment for today’s chance at winning our week-long contest!

Thank you so much to our hosts for having us, and to all of you for reading along!

Sex Toys: The Early Years
By Violetta Vane

There are some spoilers about Mark of the Gladiator we don’t want to give away on this blog tour—ask us privately and we’ll spill the beans!

However, it shouldn’t be giving away too much to mention that there’s a scene involving ancient Roman sex toys. It’s a very consensual and enjoyable-for-both-partners scene, and we had a lot of fun researching it.

There were most definitely dildos in those times. The Greeks called them olisbos, and there are dildo representations on ancient Greek vases. Women commonly used them to, umm, handle sexual needs. There’s a reference in Lysistrata:

And so, girls, when fucking time comes… not the faintest whiff of it anywhere, right? From the time those Milesians betrayed us, we can’t even find our eight-fingered leather dildos...

Our very word for dildo comes from the Latin dilatare, to dilate or spread. The ones made of polished stone have survived quite well. The more common ones made of leather (eww) have obviously not. Other materials included wood and potentially glass, since the Romans developed some advanced glass-blowing technologies. And as for lubricant, if you guessed olive oil, you’re right.

People must have used sex toys in much the same way back then as they do now. For auto-erotic pleasure. To spice up an existing relationship. To find a way around medical or psychological issues affecting sexual enjoyment.

One difference between the modern-day Anglo-European world and ancient Rome is that phallic representations also had an important religious aspect. So unlike in our society, where dildos are generally kept to pornographic videos and your bedside drawer, in Rome an artificial penis could be an intimate, private possession... or an object of public worship.

If you’d like to see some depictions of ancient sex toys, you can check out this website, which starts at the Stone Age.

Mark of the Gladiator is a fairly dark book, but it does have flashes of comedy, and we coudn’t resist one or two toy jokes. That sex scene we mentioned, though, ends up getting very serious—in fact, reverent—about the possibilities for pleasure and aesthetic enjoyment embodied in these clever, ancient things.

We hope you enjoy it!

Contest Info
All week, leave comments on our blog tour stops for a chance to win all three books in our M/M urban fantasy series Layers of the Otherworld. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email whenever you see us touring. One comment = one entry, so be sure to check us out every day! The more you comment, the better your odds! On December 3rd (that’s one week after Mark of the Gladiator’s release!), we’ll draw one lucky winner to receive Cruce de Caminos, The Druid Stone, and Galway Bound in the ebook format of their choice. Bonne chance!

About Heidi and Violetta
Two unlikely friends and co-writers, Heidi Belleau is a wholesome small-town history nerd from Northern Canada and Violetta Vane is a former academic with a sketchy past from the American South. Together, they write sex-soaked multicultural M/M romance and urban fantasy. You can visit them online at and, or reach them on twitter as @HeidiBelleau and @ViolettaVane.

About Mark of the Gladiator
After an inconvenient display of mercy in the arena, the gladiator Anazâr is pulled from the sands and contracted to nobleman Lucius Marianus to train his new stable of female gladiators. His charges are demoralized and untested, and they bear the marks of abuse. Anazâr has a scant two months to prepare them for the arena, and his new master demands perfection.

Anazâr is surprised by how eager he is to achieve it—far more eager than a man motivated only by self-preservation. Perhaps it’s because Marianus is truly remarkable: handsome, dignified, honorable, and seemingly as attracted to Anazâr as Anazâr is to him.

But a rivalry between Marianus and his brother sparks a murder conspiracy, with Anazâr and his gladiatrices caught in the middle. One brother might offer salvation . . . but which? And in a world where life is worth less than the pleasures of the crowd or the whims of a master, can there be any room for love? As a gladiator, Anazâr's defenses are near impenetrable. But as a man, he learns to his cost that no armor or shield can truly protect his heart.

Buy the entire Warriors of Rome Collection (including MotG) at a 20% discount

Also available on your favourite third party e-tailers!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Torn in Two by G.S. Wiley (GUEST POST)

Hi! I'm G.S. Wiley. I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and I've been publishing them since 2008. Most of my work is gay romance and gay romantic erotica. The Torn in Two anthology is my first time publishing with Storm Moon Press, and my first story with a bisexual protagonist.

Bisexual characters are sadly underrepresented in romantic fiction, and in the media in general. Too often, they're the punchline to a joke (as Woody Allen said, “The good thing about being bisexual is that it doubles your chance of a date on Saturday night.”) or their bisexuality is seen as an in-between stage, a step on the path of self-discovery that ends up with a character realizing they've been gay all along. Many would say female bisexuality is more visible and commonly accepted than male in western culture, but if you discount the “Girls Gone Wild”-style of bisexuality, in which female sexuality is promoted as entertainment for a straight male audience, I'd say both female and male bisexuals suffer from the same level of invisibility.

In my story, “Syncopation,” the main character, American singer Jonathan Tager, ends up in a committed, monogamous relationship, but that doesn't mean he sees himself as anything other than bisexual. Throughout the story, he has romantic and sexual relationships with both men and women. His longtime girlfriend Ruby, herself a bisexual woman, is a constant presence in Jon's life, even though they are no longer together. While on tour in Europe, Jon has an unexpectedly heated encounter with an otherwise icy Russian flautist, Valentina Verenskaya. At the same time, he finds himself drawn to the comfortable domesticity offered by English single dad Peter Merritt. Rather than doubling his chances for a date, Jon's bisexuality muddies the waters, as he struggles to figure out what exactly he wants from life and whom he wants it with.

Another important aspect of the story is how bisexuality is viewed by the general public. Jon is a celebrity, although he doesn't consider himself as such. At the beginning of the story, Jon is surprised when a paparazzo snaps a picture of him with another man, a picture which is spread across the tabloids and forces Jon into “coming out” as bisexual. He's frustrated when no one seems to understand what this means; even his mother believes he's come out as gay. The general public takes a black-or-white, straight-or-gay view of sexuality, which frustrates Jon as he feels forced to explain, over and over again, his less rigid bisexual identity.

The title of the story, “Syncopation,” is a musical term. The National Symphony Orchestra of the United States defines it on their website as “a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm... the placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn't normally occur.” Basically, it's a musical word for something unexpected. Bisexuality, even today, is something unexpected, as shown in the story by Jon's continual encounters with people who think he must really be gay, or straight. But syncopation also makes things more interesting. It's a technique which lends pizzazz to all genres and styles of music. At the beginning of the story, Jon sees his bisexuality as merely a part of him, something neither to be celebrated nor hidden. As the story progresses, he learns to embrace it as a unique attribute, as something not only different but special.

I'm very pleased to have this story published by Storm Moon Press. Most of the anthologies to which I submit my stories have very specific, well-defined themes, but this one was more nebulous. By being tasked to write something, anything, about bisexuality, I was able to really allow myself free rein. At the same time, my story is not standing alone, but rather beside two other fascinating explorations of bisexuality and what it means. I look forward to reading both of those stories, and to sharing “Syncopation” with the world.

The Torn in Two anthology will be available soon from Storm Moon Press. You're also welcome to visit my website, There, you can read more about my published works, enjoy several free stories, and learn about my upcoming projects. Thank you, and happy reading!

G.S. Wiley

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Velvet by Xavier Axelson (REVIEW)

Despite having multiple short stories and novellas to his name, including my review of The Incident that brought him by for an interview last year, Velvet marks the first full-length novel from Xavier Axelson. Although it didn't necessarily work for me on a romantic level, I did find it to be an extraordinarily erotic tale of sordid history, friendship, and betrayal.

From the heights of royalty to the depths of prostitution, the story carries us through a series of betrayals that prey upon poor, lovely Virago. In a world where homosexuality is forbidden, the young tailor finds himself falling in love with a singer, a man who was only dangled tantalizingly before him by Madame Therese in order to exact a measure of revenge against the King. Confusing lust with love, Virago finds himself falling under the spell of Seton, even as he struggles to craft the King's velvet coronation outfit.

The King is such a despicable, villainous character, you really have to wonder how Virago could have ever befriended him in the first place. His blind brother, Sylvain, is played perhaps a bit too sympathetically, but he is a lovely character. Seton is as much a victim as Virago, and probably the brightest spot in the entire novel. Like I said, I never quite bought into the romance between then, but the sexual relationship between Virago and Seton is hot, heavy, and gloriously sensual.

The intrigues here are almost as deep as the sexuality, creating an air of mystery and danger that keeps you reading. I had my suspicions as to how it would all turn out, but Axelson managed to toss in a few pleasant surprises that made for a conclusion that was as fascinating as it was satisfactory.

[Reviewed by Sally]

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Missing by Drake Braxton (REVIEW)

Let me start this review by saying that Missing, the debut novel of author Drake Braxton, is a book in a continual state of fluctuation.  The plot and the main characters are forever changing, and if you’re looking for a read that’s going to convey a sense of constancy in any way (physically, mentally or emotionally) then this might not be the book for you.  This story includes one of the starkest plot twists I’ve encountered, and it will throw you for a complete loop.  How you recover from that will greatly influence your experience with this book.

The story starts dramatically, with Blain Harrington, our protagonist, visiting his home town for his twenty year high school reunion accompanied by his husband, Manny.  Very soon thereafter, Manny goes missing.  There are signs of foul play, but rampant homophobia and slow-moving bureaucracy lead to a slow and excruciatingly frustrating experience for Blain as he tries to get anyone outside of his circle of friends to care about what might have happened to his husband.  Season this situation with the fact that Blain and Manny had been fighting before the reunion and that Blain had cheated on his husband two years earlier and they were still dealing with the aftershocks, and you’ve got the makings for a very emotional ride.  And it’s quite a ride, the situation well played out and planned.  We learn what we think is the truth, which is shocking enough in and of itself, and then…

Well.  Far be it from me to include the major spoiler of the book in this review, so suffice it to say things change in a major way.  From the midpoint on, it’s like we’re reading an entirely different book in some ways.  The story’s major emotional trial, which is the breakdown of Blain’s life beginning with the loss of his husband, continues, but the reasons for it change.  Blain takes actions that paint him in a very unsympathetic light, at times.  Don’t look here for sweet romance, easy affection or simple pleasure.  Drake Braxton isn’t afraid to have his characters make bad choices, or to make them face the consequences of those choices.  For me, this added to the realism of the situation, and after the twist he threw at me in the middle of the book, I appreciated that.  Others will not be so sanguine.

Apart from some small sections that I felt suffered from awkward dialogue and phrasing, Missing is a carefully planned and well executed thriller of a novel.  It is guaranteed to make you do a double-take at least once, so if you’re tired of smooth sailing, I recommend this book for a mental kick in the pants.

[Reviewed by Cari]

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - My New Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein

"Waiting On" Wednesday spotlights upcoming releases that everyone's excited about (created by Jill at Breaking The Spine).

My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity by Kate Bornstein

Cultural theorists have written loads of smart but difficult-to-fathom texts on gender theory, but most fail to provide a hands-on, accessible guide for those trying to sort out their own sexual identities. In My Gender Workbook, transgender activist Kate Bornstein brings theory down to Earth and provides a practical approach to living with or without a gender.

Bornstein starts from the premise that there are not just two genders performed in today's world, but countless genders lumped under the two-gender framework. Using a unique, deceptively simple and always entertaining workbook format, complete with quizzes, exercises, and puzzles, Bornstein gently but firmly guides readers toward discovering their own unique gender identity.

Since its first publication in 1997, My Gender Workbook has been challenging, encouraging, questionning, and handholding those trying to figure out how to become a "real man," a "real woman," or "something else entirely." In this updated edition of her classic text, Bornstein re-examines gender in light of issues like race and class. With new quizzes, new puzzles, new exercises, and plenty of Kate's over-the-top style, My Gender Workbook, 2e promises to help a new generation create their own unique place on the gender spectrum. [Feb 22, 2013]

Kate is an absolute legend, and her A Queer and Pleasant Danger was one of my favourite memoirs of 2012.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

After the First Taste of Love - The Process (GUEST POST)

However else we may characterize the experience of co-writing After the First Taste of Love, the first in a planned novella trilogy about young, gay, mixed-race hotties Nick and Angelo, it is first and foremost a labor of love. The novella testifies to the forever-after we wish for our main characters and everyone who puts their heart and soul into a relationship, including the deep and lusty friendship between its bi, female authors. To us, however, it reaches even further into a love of genderbending and multiracial queerness, a well from which we drink deeply and often as writers, especially as co-writers.

We could simplify this, confess to voyeurism and fetishization in our love for images of and words about beautiful young men in bed together. Certainly, the popularity of slash fiction, yaoi manga, and gay romance puts us in good company. And we could own up to our fantastic creation of mixed-raced lovers who blend golden-tan skin, almond eyes, and luscious black hair as they express their love with multilingual fluency. But that's not the whole truth.

When we create our characters, we use our imaginations to embody them—at least to feel the places where we connect with them. We envision and build ornate backgrounds we can "live in", and then pare down our epic mindscapes and detailed notes to just what we think the reader needs. Talon can answer just about any question asked about a character's entire life before she's written a word; Salome labors to draw her characters in anime-style digital art. And then we work together in as many ways as possible, from roleplay-style exchanges on instant messenger to in-character e-mail exchanges.

Much of our writerly foreplay, if you will, ends up on the cutting room floor. That's inevitable, even when we love an exchange so much we long for a scene it fits into. There's this tidbit, for example:

Nick: I'll just sit here and play with my big old cock.
Angelo: It's not big and it's not old.
Nick: You did not just call my dick small.
Angelo: I thought I was pretty funny.
Nick: Fine, I'll just play with my gherkin.
Angelo: [laughing] And I'll play with my Blue Ribbon-winning County Fair cucumber.
Nick: As long as it's not seedless.
Angelo: No, it's plenty seedy.
Nick: [laughing] That's wrong on so many levels.

That's not going to drive any plot forward, but it shows their playfulness... and our love of dick jokes. As we brought After the First Taste of Love together as our first co-written novella, we were determined to keep some of the process in the final product. Readers will find evidence in a chapter made up solely of an e-mail exchange, including functioning e-mail addresses for Nick and Angelo, for instance. (The boys can't wait for "fan mail"!) And we even commissioned the superbly talented digital artist Mistiqarts to create a page from Dark Crimson 3, the fictional yaoi manga (kinda like a gay comic) that Angelo loves, which we've included in the book.

This playfulness hits us at an even more personal level, though. While we're happy to discuss our co-writing process further in comments to this post (or at, we want to end by making as clear as we can what all this gives to us. Most essentially, we love our main characters (or we can't write them—though sometimes we love to hate aspects of them), and we love "being" them as we write. For us, writing gay romance is a kind of shared, idealized transgender experience. We know from experience that reading it can have that effect, too. And we're honored and thrilled to have readers take that ride with Nick and Angelo.

After the First Taste of Love – Now Available for $4.99 (e-book) and $9.99 (print)

Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde are the authors of After the First Taste of Love, their first novella, which is now available through Storm Moon Press. They can be found at their website, Sal & Tal Erotica.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Afflicted by Brandon Shire (REVIEW)

The worst part about having your e-reader die is losing access to your carefully managed queue of review titles. While I'm (barely) managing to muddle through with a cheap tablet, trying to reconstruct that queue from titles scattered across email, my laptop, my PC, and my cloud drive has proven to be a challenge. As a result, I am woefully behind with some titles . . . but persevering. :)

With my only experience of Brandon Shire being his starkly-realistic tales of sorrow and tragedy, I was quite excited when he told me he had a new story, one with a "HAPPY ending" to share. I already knew him as an exceptionally strong writer, one who can capture the human soul on the page, and one who could wring the most intense of emotions from a reader, so Afflicted went into my must-read pile.

A fresh take on the 'opposites attract' theme, Shire offers up a high-priced male escort with a difficult past, and a fiercely independent gentleman for whom blindness is a challenge rather than a disability. I don't want to say much more about the plot, because it is pretty straightforward, and largely what you would expect from an erotic m/m romance. What I do want to talk about, instead, is the actual writing of the tale, and the way Shire commands our senses.

For many authors, writing a character who is blind or deaf is a challenge, and one that never quite comes across as genuine. All too often a narrative voice is forced to intrude, letting us know what they would have otherwise seen, or could have otherwise heard. We're left outside that character's head, which only reinforces the sense of disability. Not so with Brandon Shire. He immerses us in his characters, and shows just how our other senses can not only compensate for the loss of one, but how they can be powerful and passionate all on their own.

The lust-cum-love between Dillon and Hunter is one of smells, sounds, and physical sensations. If you've ever made slow, passionate love in the dark, you have a sense of what that can be like - except, of course, you really don't, because that darkness is never absolutely, and never eternal. Even knowing what I did about his style and his love for poetic language, I was consistently amazed by how much Shire made me 'see' without seeing anything at all.

There is still some pain and sorrow to the tale, mostly buried in the past, but the prospect of love forces both characters to expose that pain. It's a traumatic, but ultimately cathartic experience, and the way in which the relationship develops will leave you breathless and hungry for more. If I were to have one complaint, it's that the pacing seemed to accelerate unnecessarily in the final chapters, with the end coming about much more suddenly than seemed fitting. That's a small complaint, though, and nothing that takes away from the beauty of Afflicted.

[Reviewed by Sally]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm From Driftwood by Nathan Manske (REVIEW)

The worst part about having your e-reader die is losing access to your carefully managed queue of review titles. While I'm (barely) managing to muddle through with a cheap tablet, trying to reconstruct that queue from titles scattered across email, my laptop, my PC, and my cloud drive has proven to be a challenge. As a result, I am woefully behind with some titles . . . but persevering. :)

With I'm From Driftwood, Nathan Manske collects 50-plus Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Stories From All Over The World. It's an admirable effort, with some really interesting stories to enjoy, but I have to be honest in that I found it rather heavily weighed on the 'gay' side, with few 'transgender' stories, and even fewer 'bisexual' stories, and somewhat uneven in terms of quality.

I know, life stories are just that - life stories, and not literature - and Manske is limited by those stories the community care to share. In terms of demographics, he may very well represent an accurate cross-section here, but I simply would have liked to see more balance. That's probably a personal complaint, coming as it does from one of the under-represented demographics, but it's a complaint all the same.

Some of the stories here were quite fascinating, containing moments of humour, sorrow, and anger. If there's a common them to them, it's this - while words and actions do indeed have power, even a quiet form of acceptance can be stronger than the most vocal rejection. There were a few stories in which I could see myself, moments and confrontations I too have shared, but for the most part I felt like a sympathetic ally, standing outside the story.

I don't mean for this to sound like a negative review, because this is an important collection, and I think it's wonderful that so many people have shared their stories with the i'm from driftwood project. It does reflect the individuality within our shared circumstances, and there's an authenticity to the words that you wouldn't otherwise find in a memoir that lifts, borrows, and edits the tale to fit a larger theme.

[Reviewed by Sally]

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Superheroes Union: Dynama by Ruth Diaz (REVIEW)

The worst part about having your e-reader die is losing access to your carefully managed queue of review titles. While I'm (barely) managing to muddle through with a cheap tablet, trying to reconstruct that queue from titles scattered across email, my laptop, my PC, and my cloud drive has proven to be a challenge. As a result, I am woefully behind with some titles . . . but persevering. :)

A romantic bisexual superhero adventure, The Superheroes Union: Dynama is a wonderfully fun piece of fiction from Ruth Diaz. The basic premise is as crazy as it is original - when her supervillian ex-husband escapes from prison, a retired superhero is forced to break out the spandex once again, leaving her kids with a nanny who specializes in superhero families . . . and with whom she falls in love.

What I loved most about the tale is the fact that Diaz doesn't try to recreate the feel of a superhero comic book adventure. Hers is very much a story of people, emotions, relationships, and (most importantly) consequences. She looks at the very human awkwardness of a messy divorce, and the equally human awkwardness of a new relationship, all within the context of a world where superpowers are a fact of life, not a driving force. There's are no grand schemes of world domination to thwart, just relationships to be resolved or mended.

TJ/Dynama is a wonderfully complex character, one who makes you believe that a woman can be a wife, a mother, and a superhero all rolled into one. She's neither perfect nor infallible, and makes the same bad kind of decisions any of us could make. As for Annemarie, the first word that comes to mind when I think of her is 'cute'. She is just such an adorable character, she actually comes across as less authentic than her superpowered lover, which may not have been an intentional twist, but one that I enjoyed.

Overall, this was a quick, fun, feel-good read, and one with a happy ending that still leaves room for more stories in Diaz's world.

[Reviewed by Sally]

All the Right Reasons by Damien Dsoul (REVIEW)

Although not my favourite offering from Damien DsoulAll the Right Reasons is a fun read that explores the blossoming and transformation of a middle-aged couple. What makes the story so much fun is the depth and extent of that transformation. Here we have a very average, very white, very boring, suburban couple. Ellen is prim and proper, a housewife/teacher whose most explicit act of self-expression is a skirt that falls 2 inches above the knee. Tim is tired and overworked, a loving husband whose most explicit sexual desire is a little fellatio.

Their transformation starts with an unusual job offer, one with some strange conditions attached to the application, and a staggering monthly salary attached to the job itself. Desperately curious about the money, Ellen soon finds herself relaxing her standards to match those of her boss, a commanding black man who will stop at nothing short of complete sexual domination. Her transformation from prim housewife to wanton hotwife is rough and reluctant, almost bordering on non-consensual at times, but all the more erotic for its intensity.

As for Tim's transformation, it begins with that most human of weaknesses - the lust for another woman. When his nosy neighbour stops by to comfort him during Ellen's absence, it is clear she knows far more about what is going on than she should, but the promise of long-denied fellatio pushes hubby over the edge. Before long, he finds himself handcuffed to chair and forced to watch as his wife takes on a series of black, well-hung lovers.

That is only half the story, however. Where it goes from there, and how these strange new relationships develop, demonstrates Damien's ability to carry a cuckolding tale through to its inevitable conclusion. A story with a happy ending for all, it does leave you wondering why all marriages cannot be so happy.

[Reviewed by Bobbi]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On by Christine Benvenuto (REVIEW)

Not since the response song, "I'll Save the Last Dance for You," or maybe it was "Dueling Banjos," have I experienced a feeling like the one I got while reading this memoir, the obvious answer to another recent memoir, penned by one particular transgender person who shall remain nameless.

However, if you've been reading memoirs of transgender people as I have, you can pretty easily guess who it is.

Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On is Christine Benvenuto's take, as an aggrieved spouse, on her husband's transition to a female gender role - and boy, did it ever eviscerate the ex-husband. I realize that there are three sides to every story, and I cannot blame the former wife for feeling hurt, angry, and deceived (as well as the myriad of other negative emotions she so deftly describes). But I CAN fault her for bringing out this book in the first place.

In my opinion, it was an unnecessary and hurtful thing to do. I found it to be an extremely skilled, yet underhanded and covert bit of retribution. Cleverly couched in some excellent writing, this literary diatribe also reminded me of the marital rancour of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," only from just the wife's side.

Read this book if you enjoy being a "fly on the wall" to witness a few hundred pages of unabashed insults.

Sally's Note: In the interests of fairness, and in order to ensure readers get both sides of the story, I feel it necessary to point out that the companion memoir to which Samuel refers is Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders by Joy Ladin.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

A Different Kind of Courage by Nancy Cole (REVIEW)

Book two of Nancy Cole's Newly Chronicles, "A Different Kind of Courage," begins by depicting a scenario that smacks of purging, an all too common practice in those who are transgender. In this novel, a young man struggles to find out who he really is, first taking steps to overcome the torment of his gender dysphoria by creating a macho persona that is common to those struggling with such issues, and then slowly, but inexorably, morphing into the attractive and charming young woman, Amanda. This is a long book about a young man coming to terms with his gender identity, but one that is so good, I didn't want it to end.

The lovely Amanda is a charming, emergent heroine who, like so many of us, is finding her niche in life.

Book one, Tips, was a novel that I also found to be quite enjoyable, but one that relied too heavily on the artificial premise of student/waiter Andy trying to win a bet by proving he can make more tips by successfully passing himself off as Amanda, a waitress. Book two offers a very interesting continuation of the first novel, featuring the return of Andy to college after a two-year hiatus of trying to find himself by becoming a Marine and fighting in Iraq. After he almost gets himself killed with his over-the-top heroics (an exciting and realistic piece of writing itself), he leaves the service and returns to college, the scene of his first venture into girlhood.

There, he becomes Amanda once more, proving that one can go home again - but this time we wonder if it just might be for keeps? As Andy/Amanda tests the waters of transition, he has the support of some wonderful and interesting people. There is abundant character development in this novel, and we get a pretty intimate glimpse into the lives of the supporting characters. We also find a plot that builds toward an exciting climax.

Fortunately, I believe book three, Inconvenient Truths, is coming to Kindle one of these days.

[Reviewed by Samuel]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shemale Lesbian Gangbang: Summer by Crystal Veeyant (REVIEW)

With Summer, Crystal Veeyant brings her Shemale Lesbian Gangbang series to an entirely satisfactory close. Following the events of the first two volumes, Darla and Robin, Crystal finally brings our favourite wannabe shemale porn stars to their destination . . . but not before having a few last moments of fun along the way.

This final volume is, by far, the most amusing work Crystal has written to date - and it is that sense of humorous self-awareness that really sets it apart. If having their RV end up in the path of a tornado is not a necessary cliché, then having our interracial gang of transsexuals stranded in the very rural heartland of America certainly is. Fortunately, all their fearful preparations against rampant sexist, homophobic, racism prove to be for naught, and they end up completing their last amateur porn shoot in the well-armed, well-outfitted, well-equipped underground bunker of a crotchety old woman . . . one with a very interesting secret career of her own.

Having fully - and I do mean fully! - explored the bounds of erotic adventure in the first two novels, deliciously overwhelming the reader with sexual exhibitionism, Crystal finally lets her soft spot shine. This is the most romantic tale she has written to date, with Darla finally ending up safely in Karen's arms. Watching the two of them enjoy their first off-camera moments of passionate is one of the greatest joys of her work. There are those authors who can't write erotica well, and those who can write romance well, but few who can combine the two so artfully as is done here.

All humour and romance aside, however, this is indeed the shining erotic gem of the series. Once again, Crystal demonstrates her flair for the erotic, carefully choreographing a Shemale Lesbian Gangbang so thoroughly complete, there is literally no room left for further sexual ingenuity. It's a prolonged scene that works so well because her characters are so well established. Rather than getting lost in a mess of body parts, the reader understands (and appreciates) precisely who is doing what to whom, and who is having what done to them.

While I, for one, hope this is not the last we will see of Karen, Lucy, Trixie, Darla, and Robin/Summer, I cannot argue with the perfect ending that Crystal offers us with Summer. Part of me wishes Summer's professional barely legal debut could have made it to the page, but that would have intruded on the story of Karen and Darla, and the closure they bring to the series.

[Reviewed by Bobbi]

Erotica’s Shame Problem by Crystal Veeyant (GUEST POST)

Erotica has a shame problem, a multi-faceted predicament with manifold repercussions. It’s a literary genre considered a “low” art form, regardless of the skill or exactitude of the author. Science Fiction formerly suffered a similar low regard and wasn’t considered true literature, an image it has since shed. I won’t hold my breath for that happening for erotica anytime soon.

Erotica is sequestered in its literary ghetto largely by a cultural squeamish about sex. Even among otherwise mature people the topic of S-E-X—don’t say it aloud!—turns them into blushing adolescents. This creates an intrinsic thorniness in writing sexual prose—even in tales of the most vanilla carnal exertions—we won’t even broach the kinky stuff—that hamstrings the author before she even writes, “Once upon a time.” With all that going against the storyteller, it may be tempting to declare, “Fuck it—why bother with a lot of structure and character development when nobody respects the effort?” That would be understandable, would it not?

Perhaps. But perhaps instead isn’t that just an excuse to be lazy, to put in as little work as possible? No, don’t be silly! After all, most of our readers just want minimal exposition, a hot fantasy and enough florid description to stroke off a seismic orgasm, right?


Surely some readers do. Just as there are legions of “filmmakers” with cheap camcorders shooting unscripted badly-lit pimply amateurs replete with cellulite, and selling it to wankers inured to digital dreck because if its pervasiveness, there are countless hacks spewing their jackoff fantasies onto Wordpad, uploading their rough draft to Kindle and calling it “erotica.” This is akin to coating a turd with golden spray paint, mounting it on a cheap walnut base and calling it an “award.” On free sites like Fictionmania or Literotica—where the Google description reads, “porn storys updated daily”—I don’t expect any better, and I certainly won’t waste my time sifting through all the “awards” to find a genuine piece of erotic prose. (I know there’s a little good writing on those sites but not a lot.)

However, when you’re paying it should be different. Nobody who pays for erotica should settle for amateur hour, yet sadly many do because of the dearth of quality erotica in the market. Why might this be? Again we should consider the chilling effect that shame and fear might have on many skilled writers that stays their hand from publishing erotica, ceding the market to countless horny typists with no credentials beyond a C+ in high school English and an almost charming ignorance of their own mediocrity.

Do I sound cynical and vexed? I hope so. Anyone who’s wasted their money and their precious time on slovenly prose should be. Anyone who enjoys literate erotica with actual storytelling, characterization and emotional content should resent all the crap out there. Every hamfingered typist with delusions of authorhood only serves to diminish the entire genre when they presume to sell their… er, “work.”

I’ve been writing professionally (i.e. getting paid) for over a decade and only recently forayed into erotica—under a nom de plume, regrettably—and I am shocked at what I’ve seen for sale. Crap tends to find its own level in the mainstream literary market, but in the erotica world its very anonymity and undeserved cloak of shame have given harbor to those with no business selling their scratchings.

What can you do? If you’re a literate consumer of erotica the first thing you can do is demand better. If you buy from Amazon Kindle and the story sucks—you’ll know after the first page or two—get a refund or at the very least leave an honest review. If a truly bad story gets even a couple of critical reviews, sometimes the writer has enough pride (or at least sense) to pull it down for a rewrite. Conversely, if an author has crafted a hot, edgy, entertaining title, encourage him or her with a positive review, click Like and tell other readers…

Of course, since it’s erotica, that ol’ “shame” thing might slow you down. Quel dommage.


Crystal Veeyant is the pseudonym of a professional journalist and published author who writes in the mainstream, both fiction and non-fiction. Behind closed doors she loves to craft intense, graphic “literary porn” with gender transgressing characters - transsexuals, crossdressers, “shemales” and so on - that unflinching explores kinky themes such as BDSM.

Her website may be found at

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lakebridge: Spring & Summer by Natasha Troop (REVIEW)

The first book in the Lakebridge Cycle from Natasha Troop, Lakebridge: Spring, is an old-fashioned thriller. It's the kind of book that understands it takes more than just blood and gore to make a great story - it takes an interesting premise to hook readers, a unique setting to orient them within the story, well-developed characters to make them care about what happens next, and an author who truly enjoys spinning a tale to bring it all together.

This is a story where everybody, including the moose wandering by the bridge in question, has a story to tell. Natasha certainly is not afraid to spread out her viewpoints and experiment with some unusual narrative choices. It's a bit of a quirky approach, in a David Lynch kind of way, but it really works. To continue along that vein for a moment, this is a story to become lost in, to immerse yourself in, to really 'hear' inside your head. Yes, there are some exceptionally long passages, but if you read them to yourself, even silently, rather than just scanning them for key words (as so many of us are prone to do), you'll quickly come to appreciate that Natasha isn't just writing a book . . . she's telling you a story.

The balance of emotions represented in the story is almost perfect. Natasha offers up plenty of tension here, and some scenes of high drama, but she smartly uses moments of humour (both subtle and absurd) to give the reader time to breathe.

With the second book in the Cycle, Lakebridge: Summer, Natasha continues precisely where she left us. As we enjoy our second tour of Stansbury, we really get a sense of what a clever tale she has woven. All of the elements were there in the first book, but the significance of many lay hidden, waiting for their turn to be exposed. If you thought the roots history and mythology were deep in this the town, you may just be surprised at how twisted and interwoven they truly are.

When I read Spring, my first thought was that Natasha had put together an almost-perfect, self-contained story of horror, set in a small town. While there were enough lingering questions to compel me towards the sequel, it didn't feel as if we'd been intentionally left hanging. As odd as it may sound, I could say the exact same thing about Summer. Sure, it assumes some familiarity with the town and its inhabitants, and certainly extends many of the storylines of the first book, but it took works as a self-contained slice of small town horror.

The element of the supernatural really comes to the forefront here, revealing many of the truths that were hinted at the first time around. It's as if, with the characters and the history established, Natasha allowed herself to let the story expand. She's still very much in control, and that same mixture of wonderful language and careful pacing is present here, but it feels as if we're really moving towards something larger. There's more history here, more mythology, and more story. That's not to say she neglects her characters - you'll come to love or loathe the characters you merely liked or disliked - but she blends them a bit more into the overall mythology.

Ultimately, though, what I think I liked most about the transition from Spring to Summer was the sense of consequence. It often seems like books in a longer series have a hidden reset button, one that allows the author and the reader to start fresh, with no lingering obligations. I loved how Natasha ensured that neither words nor deeds were forgotten in moving through the seasons, and demonstrated precisely how the smallest actions can have the largest, lingering consequences. I suspect that's a theme we'll continue to see explored, with elements of the final book hearkening brilliantly back to the first.

If you're in the mood for something to read and enjoy, the kind of book to linger over all evening, and then think about all the next day, then give the world of the Lakebridge a try.



Natasha grew up in Southern California and received her Bachelor’s degree from UCLA in Comparative Literature. She also holds Masters Degrees in both Secondary Education and Creative Writing. Natasha currently lives in the Phoenix area with her spouse, son, daughter and menagerie of pets, including a Basset named Moose and a very overprotective collie dog. Aside from writing and teaching high school students to love theatre.

Be sure to visit her at to learn more about the mysterious town of Stansbury, Vermont, and then pop over to to learn more about the woman behind the mystery, Natasha herself!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How I Choose to Genre-Bend by Joshua Skye (GUEST POST)

I absolutely love to twist the elements of genres and even combine them, whatever best suits my vision. I find it all so fascinating, so thrilling. You can do anything when you write. Why stick to the rules? I choose to believe there really are no rules. Why stifle your art based on someone else’s ideology?  

A writer shouldn’t hesitate, should never question the path, and should always just go with it. The story will always suffer if the writer adheres to fear and self-censorship. I believe audiences, especially readers, are intelligent, open-minded, and ready for journeys that can not be found in any other medium. Movies aren’t quite as bold as novels and short stories. Written storytelling offers freedom, not just for the writer, but for the reader as well.

My favorite authors are Shirley MacLaine, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Anne Rice… they are all fearless, and in that they are also pioneers. Everything I’ve read by them is innovative, courageous, and absolutely brilliant. From their real-life adventures to their fictional explorations, I find everything they do completely mesmerizing. For me, as a writer, they are inspirations and I would even dare say heroes! They have all twisted genres, mixing them, and created masterpieces in the process.   

The Angels of Autumn is certainly an amalgamation of genres … thriller, drama, horror, fantasy, and erotica. The story begins as a classic hometown thriller, the rebellious son returns home to settle a score. He wants revenge. Why shouldn’t he? Someone murdered his brother, after all.

Incorporating traditional elements of drama, I reveal the internal and external struggles of my main character, Kincaid. He’s emotional, he’s angry, he’s damaged, and he’s beautiful. Every flaw is there. He’s an open wound. He’s a human being.

There’s a dash or two of fantasy with oceanic dreams and angelic visions. And there is a heaping tablespoon of erotica. The final ingredient is horror. When it reveals itself, it’s hardcore and intense. It’s all there and I pull no punches in my exploration of each of these elements. It’s a great ride.

The Angels of Autumn was an absolute joy to write. It was so much fun. I can’t wait for people to read it.        


The Angels of Autumn
A Profound and Powerful Gay Erotic Thriller


From Chapter Five…
The Lombardi Funeral Home was among the oldest of buildings in Wren, constructed in the late 1800s as both a business and a residence by the Lombardi family, immigrants from Italy, of course.

They conducted the bulk of their unusual profession on the shadowy, beautifully decorated, meticulously maintained first level while the untidy dealings with body preparation were carried out in the basement. The second and third levels were where they actually lived. Kept in the family for well over a hundred years by strict legal clauses in every will and testament down the Lombardi line it was now owned and operated by the widow Mary Anne Lombardi and her only son, Angelo.

Kincaid felt queasy as he looked around the parlor. The furnishings were ancient, most assuredly antiques, perhaps even the original Italian décor, all aglow in the flickering light of electric candles. Aside from what little daylight filtered in through the dark sheers, there were no other light sources. A little bell had announced his arrival several minutes before but he’d yet to be greeted.

There was a musty smell and a pungent chemical odor beneath it. Someone, somewhere deep in the house turned on a hissing record player and after a few scratchy seconds a low, somber sonata began to play over unseen speakers. A curtain parted and a tall shadowy figure emerged. He said, “How may I help?”

Angelo was a handsome man with typically Italian features. He was dressed in a nice, solemn suit and had his hair combed strictly back. His large hazel eyes fell on his guest and there was an audible sound of shock, a sigh and then a deep intake of air. He said, “Kincaid. Wow, I thought you’d never come back to this place especially when you didn’t attend your brother’s funeral. Everyone thought it was pretty scandalous. So, how’s it going?”

Ignoring the crude judgment, Kincaid detected a genuine surprise in Angelo’s voice. He was the same age and had been in many of the very same classes as the Kingsley twins, he’d even been one of the disapproving assholes who had put them through hell. Angelo had been one of the popular kids, one of the over-exulted Wren Dragons, a dumb jock destined to forever mourn his golden high school days. As an adult, Angelo didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. He was just a man in his late twenties, wasting away in the family business, no longer taut, tan and toned, no longer important, no longer a Dragon…the toast of the town. He had a beer belly which alone made Kincaid happy. “I’m okay,” he replied. “How have you been?”

Angelo’s lips quivered when he forced a smile and answered, “Good. Thank you. How’s your mother?”

“As good as can be expected, I guess.”

Angelo said, “Right. Well, how can I help you?” He was stiff, formal. The fingers of his hands were entwined and resting at his waist. He cocked his head to one side, the sympathy in his eyes was counterfeit, a professional automation.

“I wanted to talk to you about my brother’s funeral, actually.” Kincaid found he couldn’t look at Angelo when he said ‘funeral,’ and so he diverted his gaze across the room to nothing in particular. Everything about the place was so old.

Angelo’s voice got deeper and there was a hint of umbrage to it. “I imagine you would. Your mother expressed her disappointment in your brother’s restoration. We’re very sorry she was so displeased. I assure you we pro-rated our fees accordingly.”

Kincaid slowly brought his attention back to his host and said, “Yeah well, do you do the restoration?”

“No. My mother does.” Angelo’s stance changed, he was getting defensive both vocally and physically.

“May I speak with her, please?”


“I’m not here to cause a scene or anything. I just want to talk to her. That’s all, Angelo. I’m not going to berate your mother.”

The Italian man just stood there for several tedious and silent moments assessing the guest’s intentions. Kincaid refused to look away this time no matter how nerve-racking or unsettling the situation slowly became. He wasn’t in high school anymore, he wasn’t the frightened and belittled teenager who shied away from everyone and Angelo wasn’t the pompous cock-of-the-walk anymore. They were adults and far more equal now than Angelo was probably even aware of.

Kincaid prepared himself for a physical altercation. Being picked on mercilessly had prompted him to take quite a few self-defense classes over the years. Angelo might have been able to beat the shit out of him once, long ago, but his glory days were long over. He was out of shape and didn’t have his buddies around to back him up. Kincaid put on a confident little grin and stated, “I said please.
Angelo’s shoulders slouched ever so slightly. He swallowed hard and his eyes turned down as his voice became professional, disengaged. He said, “Of course. If you’ll excuse me I’ll see if she’s available. Please, take a seat.”

“Thank you, Angelo,” Kincaid said lowly.

Angelo nodded and disappeared behind the curtain.

Kincaid turned and meandered into the small, dismal sitting room and over to a stiff, uncomfortable sofa and sat down. A spider crawled over the surface of the weathered coffee table. Not particularly squeamish about such things, Kincaid watched it with a distracting fascination, the way it moved, the legs click, click, clicking along. He frowned as he realized that this spider was malformed. It had nine legs instead of eight and yet the added appendage didn’t seem to impede it in the slightest. He found himself leaning down, close, to get a better view of the little creepy crawly. The spider stopped. Perhaps it was now quite aware of its audience. It was perfectly still, frozen.

“Mr. Kingsley.” The voice was soft.

Kincaid flinched. The spider lurched into motion and scurried over the edge of the table and vanished. Being polite, Kincaid stood and turned his attention to the petite woman standing in the entranceway. She clutched a leather-bound portfolio to her bosom. Her salt and pepper hair was pulled into a tight bun on her head. She had modest make-up on and was dressed in a long, conservative black dress. There was a beautifully crocheted shawl draped over her shoulders perhaps utilized to hide the slight curvature of her upper spine. Kincaid said, “Ms. Lombardi, thank you for seeing me.”

She smiled courtly and entered the room, moved gracefully around the back of the sofa and sat down next to her guest. Kincaid sat down as well. Her eyes were down. He wondered what she was thinking. He imagined she thought he was there to complain. He wanted to reassure her he was not and so he said, “I didn’t come here to…”

Without looking at him, she shoved the portfolio at him. Sheepishly, he accepted it and took a deep breath before opening it. For a moment he expected to see pictures of his dead brother, before and after. It wasn’t something he was even remotely interested in. They were pictures of the dead and indeed they were before and after shots, instamatic snapshots, many of them yellowed with age. The first was an old man whose face had practically been pulled off in some horrible accident. After the restoration he simply appeared as though he were napping. The second was a woman whose forehead had been cleaved open and again the after picture was perfect. On and on the pictures went, each turn of the page revealing flawless transformations.

She said demurely, “My work. As you can see, I am very good at it.”

“It’s immaculate, you’d never know, but my mother said she could…” Kincaid paused as a realization hit him. He turned his eyes away from the Polaroid snapshots in the photo album. The widow Lombardi looked sad and afraid at the same time. His voice was shaky, hesitant. He said, “You did it on purpose.”

Mary Anne nodded and took the album back from him, she closed it and pressed it, embraced it, to her breast. Her eyes moved downward until she stared at the floor and there she focused for a long time, barely breathing, silent and still. She was contemplating something. Kincaid’s mind raced with what those thoughts might be. His heart fluttered nervously. What secret was she about to reveal?