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Guest Post: Corbin Grace (Under the Mistletoe Author)

Today we welcome Corbin Grace, author of one of my favorite poems in Under the Mistletoe–Frosty.

Let me tell you about how I came to love my lizard. This isn’t a story about reptiles. It’s about craft. It has to do self-perception and creation.

I’m a dabbler. I have a lot of interests: photography; drawing; writing; painting; photo retouching and creating book covers. I have an intense focus but it flits from interest to interest, emptying my wallet but filling my days.

So yeah, back to the lizard.

My wife and I have taken a number of metalsmithing courses: specifically making jewelry from copper, silver and titanium. In one class, we learned the process of etching copper in a salt water solution. I don’t want pretend I’m Mr. Science, and I certainly don’t want to scare you into desperately clicking on the exit button. Basically, the process involves photocopying a black and white design onto a sheet of acetate. Then an iron is used to transfer the image from the acetate onto sheet copper.  Trying not to get electrocuted, you run an electric current through the salt water. The bare copper gets slowly eaten away while the parts covered in black, a resist, remain unchanged. After I’d etched the pattern onto the copper, making certain parts raised while others were recessed, I cut out the shape of the gecko that I had used as my image.

Then, I used another process: enameling. I covered my jewelry piece with green powdered glass which I melted at very hot temperature in a kiln. The melted glass coated the copper. Next, I used a girding stone over the entire jewelry piece. The raised parts returned to bare copper, the recessed parts retained the green color. Then, as a last step, I melted a second layer of clear enamel to seal the piece, preventing tarnishing and protecting the skin of those who might have a copper allergy.

Here’s the finished lizard:

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I’ve struggled for years—and to tell the truth, it’s been decades—with depression and anxiety. When I make jewelry, or engage in any of my hobbies, I focus on entirely on the process. I forget all else for a time. It’s almost magical.

But then, the difficult part: Am I happy with what I’ve created. Do others like it? With my lizard, I wasn’t happy. It looked okay, but I hated the shade of green. But everyone else in the class loved my piece, as did others I showed it to. Many said that it was their favorite of all my jewelry pieces. I got over myself and learned to love it.

So in the end, what lesson did I learn? That I’m too self-critical? Or that I value my work on how well or poorly it’s received? Maybe the lesson is that I should leave the “terrible lizards” to Michael Crichton (RIP), who made a mint off of them.

In any event, as I’d mentioned, I also enjoy writing. I have my first published poem in the new Christmas charity anthology: Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe. It’s available in print and eBook formats. I hope that you’ll support the charity Project Linus by purchasing it.

As for my contribution, I like a poem with a bit of humor, and that’s what I deliver in Under the Mistletoe. Here—to give you an idea of my sense of humor—is a little rhyme of mine:

The Riddle by Corbin A. Grace ©2016

Oh Elfin maiden! lithe and fair,

Let not my riddle cause despair:

 

A giant’s handful, all aflame,

The tip is warm, the shaft the same.

‘Tis used in darkest cavern deep,

In blackest night, whilst others sleep.

 

“A torch,” my lord, “to light the way;”

He doffed his pants: “Sweet lady, nay”

 

So what’s next for me? I’ve just learned that a short story of mine has been accepted for publication. I’m also revising a vampire/detective hybrid called Gunmetal Grey Sky that I’ve designed a cover for:

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(The crime scene tape portion of the image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license by Tex Texin)

I hope that everyone has a great holiday season. Merry Christmas!

– Corbin

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Guest Post: Sonni deSoto (Under the Mistletoe–Tugging Reins)

Have Yourself a Kinky, Little Christmas!

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I love holiday stories. From The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to the corny Hallmark made-for-TV movies, nothing feels more like the season than when every story you see comes complete with jingle bells and snow. Every story seems filled to the brim with love and endless miracles. Those stories, sappy or corny or mushy as they are, seem to showcase the best of the world. In a culture obsessed with the grittiness of stories that tell you how it is, they are shining beacons of what could be.

And, I think particularly for kinky people, Christmas just lends itself to really fun encounters. From being obsessed with getting our hands on the latest, greatest toys to, as my story “Tugging Reins” explores, all the fun pervertable toys that can be made out of the many, omnipresent yuletide decorations, there’s just unlimited merriment to be had for a kinkster with a creative mind. From tinsel whips to jingling restraints, Christmas really knows how to dress-up a scene! I defy you read my story and look at an oversized candy cane decoration the same again. Can’t be done.

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This time of year makes everything feel wondrous and possible and can’t help but inspire the undeniably seasonal wish to get what you really want. So often, we’re afraid to ask for or go for the things we desire. We worry about what people will think or how it’ll change our lives or even fear that we don’t deserve our own desires. I wanted my characters, Chris and Danielle, to embrace their own personal Christmas miracle of turning what seems like impossible fantasy into a sexy-as-hell reality.

Especially, with BDSM, it often seems daunting to make our kinky dreams come true—we can’t all expect suave, broody billionaires under our trees. But there are definitely safe, sane, and consensual ways to explore hidden desires that feel possible and fun. When you’re just starting out, it can feel awkward trying to navigate a way into this world. There are so many rules and norms that people in the community just seem to know. Made worse by the fact that, outside the pages of books and in reality, the kink community tends to attract…well, the nerds of the world. The overthinkers and the often socially odd; how is it that so many of our fictional stories are executed flawlessly? We’re normal people; we make missteps and mistakes. We say the wrong thing and doubt ourselves. Yet our stories rarely get to explore the often awkward yet exciting learning curve; I wanted to give those highs and lows a voice.

And, even in this post-Fifty Shades world, I think there’s still the misconception that kink and heart-warming, Hallmark-esque romance can’t go together. I wanted to show that they definitely can. That, sure, BDSM can be broody and lush, but it can also be sweet and fun and quirky, even on a low-budget; after all, we call it play for a reason. I wanted to write a story that would take all that tinsel and bells and holiday cheer and invite my characters—and my readers—to, well, play.

Sonni deSoto

If you enjoy “Tugging Reins,” please check out my story “Make Me Believe,” which also features Chris and Danielle, in The First Annual Geeky Kink Anthology. To find more about my novels, anthologies, and general thoughts on all things romance, sex, and kink, please visit my website sonnidesoto.blogspot.com.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

 

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Guest Post: Sheryl Collins (Under the Mistletoe–All I want for Christmas is Sex)

Sheryl Collins

Sheryl Collins

A present Texans at this moment.  A single mother of  a college student who has retired from her present place in the workforce pursing her long life dream. One of those dreams was to be a songwriter and author.  Sheryl had a long journey to finally Under the Mistole which includes from high school creative writing class to being honorable mention in  college creative magazine at the city state college. Sheryl has many short stories submission that did not make the cut for publishers on Wattpad.com. She also completed a YA book with some help and influence from her daughter which is now found on Wattapad.

“ Life influences me. Many people ask life? Every person I  meet can become a story and every experience can be a song. I have wrote lyrics to poetry since I was a little girl as a journal. It was therapy for my soul, a person ticket out of Texas to anywhere I wanted to go. My family influences me a tons. Great list of writers which maybe an endless list. I always felt that I could never be good enough for this stuff . I wrote and no one would understand me. I was a bunch of nonsense written on a page. If getting one book recognized by a great number or one song that can be heard on the radio, I know that it was not trash at all.” reply Sheryl.

Sheryl writes everywhere. That includes her car, at work in past, on vacation, fishing, in church etc. “You never know where a great story or song will hit you. I find myself sometime driving singing. I dreamed of singing in my sleep and waking up trying to remember.” laughs Sheryl.

Sheryl next project is finishing up one or a few children songs for a EP. She might also do a pop or blues EP. Sheryl next book at the moment is for her children EP called “ Clueless Sucks.“ A song she is working on for a merch. “My previous work with some help from my daughter being a teen, did not get the passion I wished to see from YA crowd. Did I expect a publisher yes but I will not say millions. I wanted to draw young people and artists to writing in story and music.” she add.

“ I am a jumper. I never know will I sit one a side and start doing another project. Who I might pick up? While I was working on Love Story EP and fabric design, I was trying to create a beat than a song came out.  I found myself back at a project for middle readers for children story that encourage music. Erotic writing at this moment I don’t know since I put down my patterns and sewing thing for gowns. The big break for an short story or stories did not happen. I have a goal to at least have a thousands of fans around the world who enjoy my creativity.”

Guest Post: Maria Duendí (Under the Mistletoe–Hush)

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I hate New York City. I have lived here for nearly eight years and I have never gotten into the cutesy “love/hate” stage most people do after a while. I hate it. I hate the smell (in the words of Han Solo, “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered!” Every day. Many times a day). I hate the lines of people that could rival Soviet Russia’s (sometimes I stand in a line just so I don’t possibly miss something.). I went to a Wegman’s in Pennsylvania, near Penn State, and I forgot to get something before I got in line. “Take your time, honey,” the cashier said. Take. Your. Time.

What I especially hate about New York, however, is the noise. Right now, there is construction being done on a new luxury building on our block (thanks, gentrification!), and we are being assailed with beeps, grinding, knocking, yelling. At night, the cement mixer sounds like it’s fucking. More power to you, man

 

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One evening, my husband and I came home close to midnight. I stepped out of the car, and I felt the ambient noise vibrate through my body. There was a whooshing sound—-the sound of cars getting off and on the FDR drive. There was a general growl from the electricity running in so many homes. Panic hit me at the back of my throat. “It’s never going to stop, is it?” I asked my husband. Day and night, the machine ground on.

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My husband is a city boy, so of course he told me I was exaggerating. “Everywhere is like this,” he said. But I remembered sleeping out in the desert when I was 20 years old, nothing but clear, dark, sapphire sky, the sound of the wind brushing the trees like a thin film over it. Even in a more populated area like State College, most people’s concerns are not about how kinky the construction equipment gets. There are escapes out there—-soothing oases to clear your head, to change your mind.

“Hush” stemmed from my fear of noise going on in perpetuity—-the grinding, growling, crackling noise of the city amplified by a mysterious force. The residents of the city in the story have no escape—-they’ve been hemmed into the city and they have a curfew. The only conduit to escape is a boy who really, really likes a girl, and we can’t (and wouldn’t!) blame the girl for accepting his invitation.

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 “Where are we going?” I asked, when it was quiet enough for him to hear my words. I added, “Do you know?”

He turned to me, shocked and amused, as if he had been alone and he had only been driving with his beer and my thighs holding it. “Yeah,” he said. “I know a place.” It was the first time I had heard his voice—deep and gravelly.

“Why aren’t you already there, then?”

A foolish grin came across his face. “Uh, travel ban?”

I laughed. “You broke that without thinking. How did you—”

“You wanted to go, right? Away from the Noise?”

I breathed in. The Noise lingered, but I could feel relief from it through the cold window. The man opened the window and there was an admirable silence. I breathed it in and out and my tongue was no longer unhinged. I let out a big whoop—a blade of sound piercing a soap bubble. The man chuckled to himself—at the twinkling of quiet stars, at me.

We stopped just a few blocks down from a stoplight—quiet blocks with shabbily genteel shrubs in front, a porch swing here or there. We approached the most run down of them. The wood of the porch had not been repainted in a long time—patches of brown and wincing tan peeked through the gray. There was a porch that was low to the ground and a balustrade wrapped around it.

The man reached over me to open my door to the car. I inhaled his clean scent, his body hovering me warm compared to the cold outside.

“Why me?” I asked, in his shadow.

He opened the door and removed the bottle from between my thighs, his eyes suddenly looking into mine. “Because you said yes.”

 

About Maria Duendi:

Maria Duendi resides in the New York City. She enjoys an almost obscene obsession with perfume and an addiction to Star Trek: Deep Space 9. This is her first publication.

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Guest Post: Ashe Barker and her new book

Hello lovely readers. I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting–I’ve been editing all the amazing stories and poems you’ll read in Under the Mistletoe. Today I’m thrilled to have Ashe Barker, a fellow Totally Bound author and contributor of a sizzling hot story in Under the Mistletoe, guest posting about her new release, Resurrection.

 

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Hello, and thank you so much for inviting me over to talk a little bit about my latest paranormal/time travel erotic romance, Resurrection.

I have always loved time travel romances, and in particular I’m intrigued by the stories where a character comes forward in time. As a writer it’s a dream to imagine all the wondrous and terrifying things they would encounter and to weave those into some sexy and occasionally hilarious scenes. Resurrection has a lot of that. Imagine for example a fifteenth century noblewoman let loose in a twenty first century shopping mall. Or her first encounter with a fast car. Or modern plumbing. Throw in a sexy vampire Dom and my joy is complete.

I am often asked about the inspiration which sparks an idea for a story. No spoilers here, but readers will be aware of the amazing event which took place in the current century and which stripped away five hundred years of accepted wisdom about one of our most infamous historical characters. Richard III was vilified by the Tudors, most ably abetted by one William Shakespeare. In Resurrection Richard is a relatively minor character but still manages to hold his own as a towering figure who influences much of what happens, and makes an amazing reappearance at the end of the story.

Resurrection is both contemporary and historical, paranormal and an erotic romance with the BDSM themes I love to write. I hope readers enjoy this mix of genres as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

resurrection-cover

The past is only a heartbeat away

Right from the start she knew it wasn’t about love.

As the youngest daughter of a wealthy family in medieval England, Lady Jane of Acton has been betrothed to Gerard Twyfford, the son of the Earl of Roseworth, since she was a baby. A dynastic marriage such as theirs is about power and property, not love but even so Jane desperately yearns for her husband’s approval. But Gerard’s rare visits to her bed are for the sole purpose of producing an heir, and she’s even failed at that. How can Jane win Gerard over when she cannot even be the wife he needs her to be?

Would one last chance be enough? Could he make things right, even now?

Ged Twyfford doesn’t know what he’s missing in life. A powerful vampire, he’s lived for close to six hundred years and seen a lot during his time but his past still haunts him. On a whim, he purchases Roseworth castle, the keep he used to rule as lord. Mostly in ruins now, Roseworth is a shell of what it was when he was still a mortal but Ged is determined to make it his home again. Maybe this is what he’s been missing, maybe he needs a place to belong at last.

When a woman emerges from the lake beside his castle, looking and sounding a lot like the wife he lost over five centuries ago, Ged assumes she’s a witch out to dupe him. But what if she is who she claims to be? Ged finally realizes just what he had, and just how precious to him was the wife he betrayed all those hundreds of years ago.

Do they really have a second chance or is it just too late to start over?

And of course a sensuous and hot excerpt…

 

“So, are you ready to lay yourself across my lap, Jane?”

“Will you hurt me?”

“Of course, though not so much that you won’t be able to stand it.”

“What if I want you to stop?”

“This is a punishment spanking so it’s over when I say it is. If you start to feel overwhelmed and want me to pause for a moment though, you need only ask.”

“And, after…?”

“And after, I shall hold you until you stop crying, and I’m sure that all’s well between us. Then I shall fuck you. You should be aware, Jane, I intend to make a better job of it this time.”

He was pleased to see a delightful flush creep across her cheeks. Time to pinken her buttocks to match.

“Jane?” He patted his lap.

She stepped to the side then leaned across him, lowering herself into position.

“Further forward, if you please. Lift up your bottom for me.”

Jane obliged him, pushing herself up onto her toes to present her beautiful heart-shaped arse. Ged admired the pretty curves, leaning to his right to catch a peek at her pussy lips just visible between her thighs. He contemplated asking her to spread her legs to afford him a better view, but decided against it. He had plenty of time and would explore her sweet little cunt soon enough. For now he opted to concentrate on the spanking. It was no hardship, he couldn’t recall an occasion when he had ever anticipated administering a punishment with quite so much relish.

Jane jerked hard when he laid his palm on her upturned buttock. He caressed her skin, felt the muscles tighten beneath his hand as she clenched in anticipation. He circled her soft cheeks with his palm, first one, then the other, saying nothing. He continued to caress her until she softened, her body relaxing, ready for him.

The first slap was soft, but still she gasped. He stroked the sensation away, then dropped another spank onto her sensitive behind, harder this time. She let out another soft sigh, but didn’t shift her position. He continued to slap her soft cheeks, peppering her behind with spanks which became harder, sharper, more intense. Soon she was wriggling on his lap, rubbing hard against his erection. She could have no doubt of his arousal, and he was acutely aware of hers.

As he ramped up the punishment her pussy lips glistened, then moisture started to trickle. She dampened his jeans, though he would swear she was unaware of her physical response. Her head though, that was another matter entirely. He rifled her thoughts shamelessly, and knew the moment, even before her body went limp, draped across his thighs in absolute surrender, that he had her. She was his, to do with as he pleased.

 

Buy Links       

Amazon

All Romance

 

Read Chapter One for free

 

About Ashe Barker

USA Today Bestselling author Ashe Barker writes erotic romance and spanking romance in a variety of genres including contemporary, BDSM, paranormal, historical. ménage, gay romance and time travel. She is a #1 Amazon Bestseller and all her stories feature hot alpha males and sassy submissives, often with a lot to learn. Kink abounds, and there’s enough dirty talk to satisfy the most demanding smut lover. However dark and dirty the setting, love always emerges triumphant, and her stories never fail to deliver a satisfying happy ever after.

 

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An Interview with Avylinn Winters

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Hi Avy! Tell us a little about you.

Hi there! Well, for starters, I’m a Swedish blonde, happy to prove the prejudices incorrect but also just as pleased with saying that I’m all for having fun. I write M/M novels in my free time, and spend the rest of my time either at the office, cuddling with my cat (who can impersonate a ghost), or hanging out with my partner. I’m not yet 30, but if you happen to stumble upon this post sometime in 2017, then that’s a lie.

I also spend a lot of time as a hobby psychologist and give myself various diagnosis. It’s all in good fun though, but my novels tend to include a little bit of psychology. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, I have a sweet tooth, and a bad memory which is a nuisance.

What was your journey from aspiring writer to published author?

I began as a reader. My partner bought me an e-reader for Christmas, and that’s the moment when this wheel started spinning. I read a lot. A lot. So, slowly I began to explore what the internet had to offer in terms of content. I stumbled upon a site called Booksie, where writers shared their works for free, and still do. I began reading there (now this makes me sound like a cheap, which is true as I was a student at the time with next to no funds), but all of a sudden the threshold to start writing my own stuff wasn’t that daunting. I could simply write something and press publish. No fuss. So, that’s what I did. I began to write online, and when Booksie felt cramped, I moved on to Wattpad.

Wattpad opened up a world of possibilities, and two years after starting on the site, I felt that I had achieved something that I wanted to introduce to the rest of the world. For the first time ever, I felt confident. So, I sent out the manuscript to an agent. Right, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I aimed high. Very high. When this agent finally got back to me (note that I only sent to one agent which is weird in itself), she was super nice and positive although she wished to see another story rather than this one. So, rejected, but with grace. I moved on to contact a publisher directly, one that a friend of mine had told me about a while back. This was Pride Publishing, and lo and behold, I sent them the manuscript, they gobbled it up, and here I am. What happens from now on is not set in stone, but that’s the fun of it all.

Who has influenced you?

I might go a bit off road here, but I feel like sharing this for some unknown reason. Influences come from everywhere and everyone, but a few individuals have left more of a mark. My sister is my hero, definitely, and so is my partner. But then, I’ve also been influenced by a selected few who have left me in one way or another. One was a young gay M/M writer who had to give up on the world he’d created online because of his family. They gave him an ultimatum, and he chose them. His entire story made a huge impact. He was a part of a closed religious society, quite an unwilling member actually, but he ended up showing me how strong the urge to fit in can be, and how difficult it is to sacrifice the world you know and the people you love. He also inspired me to continue since some members of the LGBT youth need us to speak up for them when they aren’t free to do so.

I also lost one of my best friends last summer to cancer. I was too young to remember much of my grandparents, and in general, we’ve been spared a lot of heartache in our family. So, when Jay died, it struck me hard. I wrote stories for him, with him and to him. Now when he’s gone, he’s still with me, pushing me forward and not allowing me to give up, just as he did then.

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Where do you usually write, and what’s your ideal writing space?

I write at home in my sofa, preferably with the cat in my lap (as long as she doesn’t get in the way). I do like sitting in a large room with lots of people around me, but only if they’re reasonably quiet. I’m easily distracted so quiet is the best. I don’t even listen to music most of the time unless I need it to reach a certain emotional state.

Tell us about your book (On sale today!)

My first published novel is called Volatile and tells the story of a young, slightly depressed, very lost guy who gets a rather remarkable opportunity to travel around Europe. The tale focuses on his rocky relationship with a volatile violinist. It’s angsty, it’s cheesy, and it’s meant to tug at your heart a bit. Without giving too much away, I give you the blurb:

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Like a depressed moth drawn to a wild flame, Chris hoped that flame would brighten his life, not burn him alive.

Chris Sinclair fades into a gray world after losing his mother to cancer. When forced to attend a concert, as a last attempt to coax him out of his shell, he discovers that life might not be as bleak as he first thought.

Dante Heron holds the audience between the tips of his fingers and the delicate bow, playing the violin as if every heart is his to command. However, something darker brews behind the façade, and Chris is determined to solve the enigma.

When Chris is offered the job of traveling around Europe with the famous violinist, he surprises himself by accepting. With no idea of what awaits him, he’s thrown into a world where emotions rule and rules are bent.

They’re a perfectly dysfunctional match, but then there’s always calm at the heart of the storm.

One, two, three, four.

I wasn’t prepared when the first note struck. Not at all. Waves of sound rolled against the walls, flowing into every crevice then surging back. The tiny hairs on my arms stood in a silent salute, reaching for the hum in the air. I gripped the armrests on both sides of me, but it didn’t help. I was floating in a restless sea, weightless and lost.

Closing my eyes, I fought the current of emotions that tried to break free, but it was a hopeless battle. I shivered as the tones from the string orchestra reached for my core and swept me away. Ten seconds, and I was struggling to breathe. It was too much.

In the late afternoon sun, one full year ago, my last words to Mom’s coffin hadn’t brought out a single tear, but here beneath the glow of a solitary light, my eyes burned.

I wanted to leave. All the pent-up sorrow after Mom’s last months alive seemed to pour out of my heart, latching on to the beautiful lament produced by the violins and cellos. It felt as if I were fighting against a tidal wave of sounds and emotions. It was powerful and haunting, like ghosts whispering past the veil between life and death. No wonder my skin flared alive with apprehension.

As the concert continued, I was torn between the urge to leave and the wish to stay and lose myself in the storm of sounds. It was a useless, exhausting battle, and it didn’t cease until the music faded into a quiet breeze. The lights focused on one individual among all the tuxedos. Someone who stood out in the crowd. I saw it as his fingers danced across the slender neck of the violin—I saw it in his wild eyes and unruly hair. The tresses were black as ink, slightly too long and drenched with sweat. He didn’t belong. He wasn’t one of them.

I couldn’t tear my gaze away from him no matter how hard I tried. He had me under his spell as his solo caught my soul and kept it hostage. I felt ridiculous, more so than the conductor who waved his arms in the air as if he was fighting an invisible monster. Perhaps this concert was a monster. It seemed cunning and brutal, masking itself behind treacherous melodies and rhythms.

It was time to go before I lost control.

Buy links

Amazon

Pride Publishing

Apple iBooks

Kobo

 

What’s your next writing project(s)?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Volatile. It’s a very different story, both in tone and content, but with characters that are introduced in Volatile. Where Volatile is sweet, Toxic is vile. It’s intended to unsettle. Toxic centers around domestic violence, and it’s meant to highlight that same-sex couples aren’t spared from this plague. It’s a serious theme, and it has been very difficult to both write and edit. The only thing that drives me forward at this point is the knowledge that stories like this, although unpleasant, are important.

 

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Guest Post: The Challenge I Didn’t Expect by Annabeth Leong

Annabeth Leong and I have shared pages, but we’ve only just become friends. Annabeth came up with the brilliant idea that we exchange guest posts–I share my thoughts and  feelings about being a first time editor and share my current submissions call, and Annabeth write a post about her anthology and her evolution as an editor. After reading her post, I’m so thrilled to have Annabeth guest posting here today.

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Delilah, thanks so much for hosting me here!

At the start of this year, to be honest, I was feeling burned out. After eight years of writing erotica, I wasn’t sure anymore if I had stories to tell that mattered in the world. So I took a step back, sat down with a notebook, and thought about things I’d done that did seem to matter.

 

MakerSex

 

Immediately, the forays I’d taken into editing stood out. The first anthology I edited, MakerSex: Erotic Stories of Hackers, Geeks, and DIY Projects, came out in March, but even though the book wasn’t yet available I already knew how important it felt to have discovered great stories I wanted everyone to read, to have helped the authors polish and improve them, and to have put together a book that was sexy, diverse, and well-written.

 

Between the Shores

 

I also spent a lot of time in late 2014 and early 2015 copy editing for The New Smut Project. Both of the books that project produced—Between the Shores: Erotica with Consent and Heart, Body, Soul: Erotica with Character—are filled with stories that humbled me, stories I felt honored to have touched in any way, stories that changed how I think about erotic connection to this day.

Next, I thought about how proud I’ve been to have contributed to the Coming Together series of charity anthologies. I’ve been in nine of them, including Among the Stars, Arm in Arm in Arm, and Keeping Warm. I don’t make much as an erotica writer, so it means a lot to me to be able to give to charity this way, when I might not be able to otherwise.

Finally, I thought about this question of stories that matter in the world. The stories I’ve written that I’ve loved best came from my own unique voice. They spoke to experiences I hadn’t read described in quite that way before, and when they resonated with readers, they seemed to do so because they addressed a void, made people feel they weren’t alone in something.

So if I wanted to do a project that I could feel excited about amidst my burnout, it felt like it ought to combine these elements—it should give me a chance to help other writers, it should be for a cause I believed in, and it should speak to an experience in which people too often feel alone.

Some time ago, I realized that I’ve never read a piece of erotica that includes a person who has an STI. If erotica acknowledges that STIs exist at all, it’s only in terms of their prevention. (Whenever I write this, I add that I would love to hear about positive counterexamples. Please feel free to email me!) That was what I learned in school, too—only prevention and warnings. But the truth is that’s not the world. People get STIs all the time, and getting an STI doesn’t forfeit a person’s right to a fun, fulfilling sex life.

I remember being diagnosed with HPV and genital warts—both of which are incredibly common in the U.S.—in my twenties and honestly thinking I could never have sex with anyone again. The shame was overwhelming. I’ve since had lovers who had other STIs, and I’ve seen them in various stages of overcoming shame, too.

 

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I got into erotica wanting to talk about subjects that had always been taboo, wanting to shine a light into places I’d felt shame, and where I thought others might, too. I came up with the idea for Coming Together: Positively Sexy, an anthology of stories including positive portrayals of characters with STIs, in this spirit. My hope is that the book will do good just by existing—that writing for it and reading it will heal shame. Beyond that, its proceeds will benefit the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, an organization that has helped to free me from so much of my own sexual shame, and that, among other work, educates people about STIs, including prevention, but also including enjoying sex responsibly after a diagnosis.

And since I put out the call for submissions, I’ve heard very, very often from people who want to read this book, who say they need to read it. I haven’t, however, gotten many story submissions.

I got into this project knowing this book would test my editing skills. I want to choose stories representing a wide variety of people and experiences, and to work with writers to help them realize their vision. I have an image of a book that includes a range from stories of people dealing with disclosing an STI to a new lover to people for whom it’s a quick, no-big-deal conversation before the sexy fun begins. I have experts at the CSPH available to consult with if needed, so I can be sure the book treats STIs in a medically accurate, non-shaming way.

What I didn’t realize was that this book is demanding a different kind of editing skill: convincing and encouraging nervous writers to try their hands at stories that feel risky to them. I have had many conversations with writers who say they don’t know anything about STIs and can’t write about them, only to tell me in the next breath that they’ve had or currently have an STI. I’ve had conversations with writers who say they can’t picture how a story could include mention of an STI and still be sexy. I’ve had conversations with writers who say they are far too worried about the possibility of getting something wrong. I’ve talked to writers who say they mostly submit stories they’ve already written, and they’ve never written a story that includes a character with an STI.

To me, this all speaks to the stigma around STIs, the very stigma that I’m hoping this book can question. I want to make a book that opens up a little space inside a dominant culture that often seems intent on shaming people, a book that offers up a vision that an STI doesn’t have to be the end of a person’s sex life, that it doesn’t have to be a big deal at all. I’m hoping to get some stories from writers who already know that because they’ve lived that experience, and I’m also hoping to get some stories from writers who are learning it through the writing they’re doing now.

I will confess that I’m not the greatest at promotion. I worry that I’m not up for the task ahead of me, and that I can’t edit the book I see a need for because I won’t get enough stories. I do want to say, though, that I am doing my best—that’s all a writer or editor can ever do. If you’re reading this, and you’re interested in writing a story, please give it a try. If you have questions, send me an email (positivelybook at outlook dot com). You can see the full call for submissions here, with all the information.

Thanks so much again to Delilah for hosting me, and thanks so much to you for reading.