Sunday, March 18, 2018

'The Erotic Writer's Thesaurus' Nears Completion


As of this writing, The Erotic Writer’s Thesaurus is nearing completion. Hard to believe I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel after nearly five years, but, then, I’m not complaining. I estimate another four to six weeks to complete the editorial work, and maybe another month beyond that to finish the formatting. The book will be widely available in paperback—a rather thick paperback at around 500 8.5 x 11 pages—and I am currently exploring the possibility of making a PDF version available on CD-R or even flash drive so that users can have easy access to it on their computers.

Still, I wonder, will anybody really want this book? Will the literally thousands of hours I’ve put into it make any difference when potential buyers balk at the price? (And the paperback will probably be a bit expensive given size and production costs. I estimate in the 20-dollar (USD) range.)  Will it be of any use to anybody? With over 20,000 entries, will people complain that it’s unnecessarily nebulous, too unfocused, or not nearly close to exhaustive? (An exhaustive exploration of erotic vocabulary would be impossible, of course, and, as with all reference books of this type, the book will be obsolete even before it hits the market.) Will all my hard work be for naught?

In any case, I plan to take a long sabbatical once the work is complete. I haven’t had a real vacation in over ten years, and, it seems, my whole life has been consumed by work to the exclusion of everything else. I’ve kept at it in spite of depression, illness (the last six weeks), and all the various headwinds that life has chosen to blow in my direction, determined not to quit, even though sometimes it feels like I’m rolling a rock up a hill in Hades. I will finish, but I want it to be over—and with good reason. After the recent launch of my novel The Seven Seductions—which appears to be going over like a gaudy lead balloon—and the continuing slog on the Thesaurus, I need a break, some breathing space in which I don’t feel obligated to have an opinion about…anything. Some time to recharge my creative batteries.

OK. Rant off.




Thursday, March 1, 2018

Short story by TAS in the final issue of 'A Café in Space'



Delighted and thrilled to have my short story Ad Astra included in the final issue of A Café in Space, The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal Vol. 15. The story was inspired by this short quote from Nin:

The life of the unconscious is life without pattern, certainty, or rigidity. It approximates the dream. It is pure flow.

This is a beautiful issue, chock full of valuable scholarly work, never-before published excerpts from Nin's diaries, biographical sketches, personal remembrances, poetry, and short fiction, with a number of fascinating black and white photographs depicting Nin and her circle. Kudos and thanks to editor Paul Heron!



Sunday, February 25, 2018

In a World... Demystifying The Blurb


For many authors, writing The Blurb is the most unenjoyable aspect of the whole creative process. I don’t know anyone who actually looks forward to it. But that’s hardly surprising: blurb-writing is one of those annoying but necessary chores that can neither be postponed nor procrastinated out of mind, an acute pain in the ass to be endured and, hopefully, done with as soon as possible. Perhaps one reason writers despise blurb-writing so much is because it’s a buzz-kill, the requirement coming precisely at that moment when the author is flush with the exultation of achievement, having only recently completed their masterpiece; the hero who just won the Big Game is nonetheless required to change the litter boxes and take out the trash. The Blurb is the party-pooper’s pin that bursts our happy-thought ballon.  

Then, too, the need to compose The Blurb often comes at a moment when the author is tired, having expended great energy to finish a book, and possibly beginning to suffer the natural symptoms of post-project let-down. It’s not exactly something that motivates people to drag themselves out of bed in the morning.

Must it ever be so? Let’s think a little bit about the elements of effective blurb writing, and how we might make it less of a chore.

At the beginning I said that writing a blurb is part of the creative process, and this needs to be born in mind. We don’t turn off our creative imaginations when it comes to composing The Blurb, it’s an essential part of the whole endeavor.  In many ways, it is also a challenge of craft: how many words do you need to compose an effective blurb? Fifty? Seventy-five? One-hundred? Three-hundred? It’s often possible, by working within a set of severe limitations, to create something not merely memorable, but powerful in its impact. So, as opposed to thinking of The Blurb as some looming shadowy menace with which one must do battle, think of it as nothing more nor less than a simple, garden-variety paragraph to be written.

But this is a paragraph with purpose! Regardless of how many words one has to work with, the paragraph that is The Blurb must accomplish the following: (1) Broadly synopsize the story, or at least, describe the problem the characters must face and overcome. (2) Compellingly introduce at least one important character. (3) Entice potential readers, not only to buy the book, but make them hungry to find out what happens inside.

Synopsis

As far as synopsis goes, The Blurb need provide little more than a thumbnail sketch of the beginning of the story; that is, describe the set-up. The author doesn’t have to know—and readers at this point don’t want to know—how the story ends, they only need to understand the problem or conflict that sets the story in motion. If that conflict is compelling—compellingly described—people will be inspired to explore. (Also note: the author doesn’t have to wait till the book is finished to write the blurb, but can compose it at leisure as the story takes shape.)

The Blurb sets up the story but does not finish it; gives potential readers a glimpse of the storyworld and the characters who occupy it, but does not flesh out details. An effective blurb piques readers’ curiosity, inviting them to pursue a tantalizing mystery.  It ought to go without saying—but often clearly doesn’t—that any well-written blurb eschews spoilers. The author’s primary aim in composing The Blurb is to whet readers’ appetite. Giving too much away too soon is as bad as providing too sketchy a description. Most readers’ attitude may well be “why bother?”

Perhaps the best way to pique curiosity is to pose a series of questions. As in a teaser for an old-fashioned dramatic series, it boils down to “what will happen?” Will the heroine escape the clutches of the wicked witch? Will the hero come riding to the rescue? Will love conquer all? If these are questions to which the reader badly-enough desires answrers, The Blurb has done precisely what it needs to do.

Character

Can you create a striking portrait of your main character with just a few well-chosen words? How much detail is required to make them come alive in the reader’s imagination? Is it more important to describe how the character looks, or how the character thinks or what they must do to overcome the difficulties that faces them?

The telegraphic nature of The Blurb allows for the use of descriptive modifiers that might otherwise be unwelcome in much serious writing. “Handsome, happily-married Jack falls madly in love with the beautiful mysterious Alison, who leads him into dark temptation… Is Jack under a witch’s spell…or is Alison the unwitting pawn of an even greater evil?” As a rule, keep the descriptions fairly broad, and allow readers to use their own imaginations to some extent.

Enticement

Regardless of genre or literary taste, The Blurb is akin to advertising fast food; you need to make the story sound tasty enough to get people’s mouths to water—you need to make them want it right now! And, just as a well-crafted opening sentence draws people into the story itself, The Blurb’s first line should grab them, suck them in, and make reading the rest of the paragraph, and then the whole book, inevitable.

Finally, here are some examples of blurbs I composed for my latest novel, The Seven Seductions. I began working on these a couple years before completing the book in December of last year, refining as required once the book was finished. I’ve included several versions of The Blurb in varying lengths. You may decide how effective (or not) they are.


(1) The Seven Seductions.
Short form (75 words)

Haunted by a demon’s prophecy…

Gretchen grows up dreading the destiny she cannot escape—not even within the walls of a convent— the lustful longings of the otherworldly creature she knows only as The Nameless One.

Now, after having become Sister Mary Chastity, Gretchen must struggle with the stirrings of her own long-buried desires. Can a handsome, carefree young artist help her to face her fears? Or is he, himself, the demon in human guise?


(2) The Seven Seductions
Medium (102 words)

Haunted by a demon’s prophecy…

Gretchen grows up dreading the destiny she cannot escape—not even within the walls of a convent—the lustful longings of the otherworldly creature she knows only as The Nameless One. Uncanny things have always had a way of happening ever since her older sister read aloud from a book of black magic, unwittingly awakening the demon. But now, after having become Sister Mary Chastity, Gretchen must struggle with the stirrings of her own long-buried desires. Can a handsome, carefree young artist help her to face her fears? Or is he, himself, the demon in human guise?


(3) The Seven Seductions
Extended (226 words)

Haunted by a demon’s prophecy…

Gretchen grows up dreading the destiny she cannot escape—not even within the walls of a convent—the lustful longings of the otherworldly creature she knows only as The Nameless One.

Uncanny things have always had a way of happening ever since her older sister read aloud from a book of black magic, unwittingly awakening the demon. But now, after having become Sister Mary Chastity, Gretchen must struggle with the stirrings of her own long-buried desires, the undeniable yearnings that overpower her flesh, and the guilt that inevitably follows when memory intrudes upon the present and dark secrets come back to confound her.

On “holy retreat” in a vacation house by the shores of a lake in the Great North Woods, Mary Chastity meets Magic, a handsome, carefree young artist who tests her vows even as he speaks to something deep within her heart. Can this beautiful boy help her to face her fears—or is he part of the future The Nameless One has foreseen for her all along? Is Magic the key to Mary Chastity’s salvation—or nothing less than the incubus itself in human guise?

All is ultimately revealed when past and present converge, and Mary Chastity is forced to confront her demons in a blazing finale that takes her to the very depths of Hell and back!




Monday, February 19, 2018

Steamy except from TAS' 'The Seven Seductions' on Janine Ashbless' blog


You can read a super-steamy excerpt from my new novel The Seven Seductions on Janine Ashbless' Blue Monday blog, here.

Enjoy!



Thursday, February 1, 2018

'The Seven Seductions: A Novel' by TAS





Now available: 


Haunted by a demon’s prophecy…

Gretchen grows up dreading the destiny she cannot escape—not even within the walls of a convent—the lustful longings of the otherworldly creature she knows only as The Nameless One.

Uncanny things have always had a way of happening ever since her older sister read aloud from a book of black magic, unwittingly awakening the demon. But now, after having become Sister Mary Chastity, Gretchen must struggle with the stirrings of her own long-buried desires, the undeniable yearnings that overpower her flesh, and the guilt that inevitably follows when memory intrudes upon the present and dark secrets come back to confound her.

On “holy retreat” in a vacation house by the shores of a lake in the Great North Woods, Mary Chastity meets Magic, a handsome, carefree young artist who tests her vows even as he speaks to something deep within her heart. Can this beautiful boy help her to face her fears—or is he part of the future The Nameless One has foreseen for her all along? Is Magic the key to Mary Chastity’s salvation—or nothing less than the incubus itself in human guise?


All is ultimately revealed when past and present converge, and Mary Chastity is forced to confront her demons in a blazing finale that takes her to the very depths of Hell and back! Literary paranormal erotic romance (HFN) from Terrance Aldon Shaw.


EXCERPT FROM 
THE SEVEN SEDUCTIONS
(Chapter 33)

It was easy enough to find the spot where the birthday party had been. Dozens of footprints remained, undisturbed in the soft sand, tracks of myriad comings and goings crossed and recrossed, a thousand shallow indentations disrupting the gentle roll of the terrain. The beach seemed all the more deserted now, strewn with the evidence of people so recently having had their fun. The driftwood logs the boys had dragged up from the shore were still arranged, a semicircle of rough-hewn pews around the fire pit, the sticks they had improvised for hotdog skewers poking out from the middle, half-burned, a wheel of broken spokes. The necks of empty beer bottles stuck out above the sand, planted there like so many seedlings, while, half-collapsed, the crepe paper banner lay forlorn, a listless, dying thing, shivering with the slightest motion of the breeze.
She built a fire around a sheaf of tinder, the hotdog sticks halved and re-halved along with the wadded remnants of the birthday banner. Once it was all well ablaze, she set to work, laying driftwood over the top, one log at a time, careful not to smother the kindling.
Doesn’t have to be a neat pile. Not for this. Just make sure you don’t leave anything off…
The damp wood belched a sour white smoke as it whined and hissed. From time to time a spark would explode with a startling crack, spit out like an angry four-letter word. Mary Chastity used a stick to draw a broad circle in the sand, moving right-to-left as she recited:

Now to thee, goddess, mother, maid, and crone,
Protection grant for me and all mine own.
Abide with me on this propitious night
And round me draw a ring of power and light
To guard me from the evil demons do
That this, my making, may be pure and true.

Not that she believed in them, but the words had been her mother’s once, and what harm could they do?
Protection invoked, however skeptically, she sat cross-legged a little ways to one side of the fire as she dug in the sand, scooping up loose fistfuls to form a pair of shallow trenches. Mary Chastity took the silver crucifix from around her neck, kissed the corpus in a gesture long-born of habit, and dropped it into the hole on the left. She buried the switchblade like a suicide, without ceremony, on the right. The Schwarzbuch lay open before her on the ground, still stubbornly keeping its secrets as she read:

Come, Nameless One, in this enchanted hour
And fill me with thy flame of darkest power…

The words tumbled through her mind, though she was careful not to form them on her lips. It was enough merely to imagine. Her intent, unspoken, would suffice.

From forth the brooding air and troubled dust
I conjure thee with all thy fearsome lust.

The smoke from the fire had grown thick, still more harsh and pungent as it spread out to merge with the mist forming above the surface of the water. Soon, the horizons disappeared, enshrouded in all directions as beneath a white funeral pall. And still she read:

I call thee forth from shadow and from mist
At this the hour of our appointed tryst.
Come now from lightning and from lowering cloud
To lift the bridal veil and rend the shroud…

She paused to listen. Nothing yet. Only the dull complaint of the burning logs, the low whistle of the wood, breathing its last against the onslaught of the flames.

Come unto me with all thy dark desire
And gather me to thyself ere need require.

She hesitated over the next couplet. That the creature was already close she had no doubt, nor that it would soon be with her. Yet to complete the spell would be to unlock a door, which, once open, could never be closed again. Mary Chastity drew a deep breath and read aloud:

With groans of ruttish lust and seething sighs
In words Infernal thus I bid thee rise…

She heard it then, a soft moaning somewhere off in the woods, the baleful howling of a wolf. No, a dog. Several dogs. More; a whole pack of bloodhounds on the scent, coming on through the fog with the voices of their masters rising hoarse and high above the din, shouting for someone lost or escaped. Calling out a name.
Her name.
“Gretchen! Gretchen!” The voices were all around her in the mist. “Gretchuuunnnn!” the syllables torturously prolonged as desperation grew. “GREEETCHEN! GRETCHUUUN!” The seekers drew close—so unnervingly near that Mary Chastity imagined them reaching out to grab her. Then, just as swiftly, they seemed to move off again, voices receding into the inscrutable distance. In the deafening seconds of stillness that followed, Mary Chastity felt her own heart’s frantic hammering against the inner wall of her chest, a booming dirge pounded out on a deep bass drum, sending tremors through the earth in broad rippling circles as if to wake the dead.
Something was stirring in the water out towards the middle of the lake. She sensed it, somewhere off to her right, even before the sound had reached her; a frenzied thrashing on the surface, the water suddenly broken, boiling, churning, alive. Ominous whitecaps rolled into shore, and with them the commotion of a teeming exodus, things emerging en masse like a billion lost souls from the sea. They came wading in, moaning and lamenting, voices tortured, inarticulate, an infernal chorus, unmistakably male.
Mary Chastity stood as they approached, a shambling phalanx of naked men emerging from the mist. Their faceless forms were half-rotted, twisted, grotesque, hair and flesh sodden like seaweed with the fetid slime of watery entombment. Still, here and there, a glimpse of something horrifically familiar; a ring-pierced nipple, a scar, a blenched tattoo, riddles written on flesh like ghostly runic script on faded vellum. The revenants came, lurching and shuffling, gathering around her less in menace than in brutal supplication.
“Uhhgghh…” She closed her eyes, choking back her disgust as they touched her, a single hand at first, cold and frail against her overheated skin, then another, and another, curious, almost methodical in their explorations. The gauzy wrap was whisked away as fingers traced the sensitive column of her neck, the charmed space between jaw and collarbone, her upper arms, the back of her shoulders. And lower still, descending with growing eagerness till, all inhibition cast aside, they claimed her with clammy open palms, brazen, ravenous, famished for life too-long denied.
They spun her around roughly, her body buffeted like flotsam on a dithering tide, shoved from hand to hand as each took their turn to grope and squeeze and paw. By now she was naked above the waist, worked out of her dress with a thousand random tugs and pulls. They manhandled her in slow motion, her bottom, her breasts, the sanctum of her inner thighs, all smeared with an oily putrescent glop as they crowded in, fumbling and fondling, a writhing communion of the damned absorbing her into itself.
“Help!” she cried out though she knew no help would come. “Help!” the words barked out in sharp staccato sobs. “Help!” And again, a strangled husking “Help!” as they pushed her to her knees, down into a vortex of seething flesh. Through hooded eyes she saw them all around her, a waving wheat field of half-inflated cocks, quivering like heavy seed pods about to burst, blushing, erubescent, glinting with the dubious moisture of quickening arousal. A few made fleeting contact as the circle tightened, brushing randomly across her shoulders and through her hair. She felt them then, organs of all shapes and sizes, stiffening as they pressed at the sides of her face, her ears, her cheeks, her chin, her lips, blindly probing and thrusting, seeking out her weakness.
And more, closing in wherever she tried to turn, merciless, hungry things all driven by the same brainless need. Unbending now like low-hanging branches, countless cocks battering her upper body; some brushing and slapping her across the face, others wriggling and squirming wormlike through her cleavage and over the swell of her breasts. She slumped to hands and knees, weak with the struggle to hold her loathing in check, to keep her mind above the maddening fray even as her head sank beneath its surface.
Terror breeding indecision, Mary Chastity tried to crawl away, first on all fours, then on her belly, dragging herself through the sand like some hunted forest creature scuttling far beneath the swaying canopy of cocks. To the shoreline—No! Towards the fire! Must stay close to the fire!—she made her way through a jungle of foul-smelling flesh, hanging half-decomposed, withered foliage from the trunks of rotting trees. Past shrunken hips and emaciated thighs, knees unnaturally protruding, withered calves and ankles, bones jutting out at gruesome angles from yawning unhealed wounds.
Have to make it! Have to… But stay inside the circle no matter what. Musn’t get turned around. Mustn’t forget where I left—Yes! There was a visible parting in the forest, a tenuous pathway opened up ahead of her, and the fire a short way beyond. If I can just get to it, everything will be—
“No!” Someone had seized her by the hair, and she was being dragged back into the thick of the crowd. “God, no!” They held her by her wrists and ankles as they lifted her, waist-high above the ground, limbs splayed out like a cross in the form of an X. No! the cry echoed within as they tore her skirt away. God, please! Her head lolled back, unsupported, so that she was unable to see, only feel, and guess, and picture as uncertainty fed her fear. As something insinuated itself between her legs—something abominable, repulsive, yet far-too familiar, like the tenuous memory of a nightmare—the head of a long slender cock slip-sliding with greasy ease against the soft line of her labia, nudging her wet walls aside as it found its way forward, filling her like white-hot steel.
Three fleshly suitors do I see…
She knew this cock, if not the face of its owner, remembered unmistakably the smooth metal ring behind the ridge of the glans, the way it scraped at her soft inner places with every unexpected surge—every slow excruciating withdrawal—when her virginity had been taken that night as she slept, though afterwards she had dismissed it as a dream.
Three loathsome lovers will there be…
Oh!” She yelped as a second cock was crammed in alongside the first. This one was unmistakable; more substantial in weight and girth though less in length, like a massive tree root burrowing through wet soil. The two members moved in awkward concert, thrusting and reciprocating as if vying for dominance, pushing her to the brink of endurance where yet another cock was shoved into her mouth, open wide in wonderment and horror.
She knew this one best of all. A balky iron club wrapped in velvet, it strained the hinges of her jaw, filling her till she could scarcely breathe. Just as it had been that distant morning when she knelt before it, awestruck, like some pagan postulant before a great stone idol, worshipping with her lips until the god had anointed her with his unruly gift, initiating her into his cult of mysteries with a burst of sacred jism.
Thus, ravished by all, you shall flee…
Something cool and smooth like sculpted glass sought entry from below. But that was a dream… Real enough, the fourth member circled the bashful rim of her nether opening before impaling her there, filling her last hung’ring hole. Holy God! It chafed against the others, creating an eerie friction through the thin walls of her core, and she imagined them together, fused by some fearsome intelligence, slowly merging into one impossibly potent mass.
…and find your way at last to me… Mary Chastity heard the demon’s thought in her head. The revenants had heard it, too, for they halted in mid-stroke, suddenly uncertain. But only for a moment. The pace resumed, more deliberately as, one by one, they pulled back inside her, waiting, waiting, waiting as if for permission before pushing forward together as one. A single earth-shattering thrust. And again. And again. Once, twice, three times, groaning soldiers throwing the last of their strength against an unbreachable wall. They came like the confluence of roaring rivers, flowing into the hollow interstices of her being, boiling away her will. What cursed mongrel might be born of such unholy fusion? Uncaring now, she screamed with all her failing strength, screamed and screamed again, a single word of farewell and of welcome, all she had been at last abandoned to the void.
The sky itself seemed to answer. A growl of thunder heralded a shift in the atmosphere, a change in the air, as if she and everything around her had suddenly found themselves transported into the cloistered eye of a storm. A gray ceiling of cloud hung stiflingly low overhead, spread out in all directions to where a ruddy incandescence defined the meager encircling horizon like the steady glow of a furnace. She could hear the low lament of distant wind, its lonesome drone accompanied from time to time by brooding peels of thunder, far, far off, resounding dully across that blasted hellscape.
“…my slave for all eternity!” The voice came, no longer as a thought; not a whisper or a hiss, but something out of the thunder itself, full-throated, deep, clear, and commanding. “Enough! This one is mine!” The revenants disengaged clumsily, whimpering in mournful terror as they fled to the edge of the circle, randomly fading and phasing in and out of certainty beyond its limits, at last disintegrating altogether into flaccid swarms of dust.
Panting, naked, exhausted from her ordeal, Mary Chastity crouched at the demon’s feet. Her body glistened with the vile residue of the revenants’ embrace, their own unholy chrism, a hundred soiled handprints adorning her from shoulder to calf like a hideous birthmark. She shivered, acutely mindful of her isolation, her vulnerability; the uncanny sense, simultaneously thrilling and repulsive, of the creature’s searing gaze upon her skin, his hungry appraisal of her like a spider savoring the terror of its meal.
A hulking form loomed up before her in the sickly twilight. Close, so very close that she need only have opened her mouth to gauge its substance, a fearsome phallic monolith. The thing appeared to mutate as she watched, indistinct like a subliminal illusion, never altogether there at once, suggestions of shape revealed in blinks and flashes at the shifting margins of shadows in the firelight. Mary Chastity thrilled at the thought of the whole, for if those transient, fragmentary hints were suddenly to be assembled like so many pieces of a puzzle in her mind… Her eyes flitted upward, following the blurry outline of the shaft to its root, the place where it protruded from beneath the sheer cleft of a tautly sculpted stomach. How? How could this be? Up and up, she took it in by increments, the muscled body of a perfect human male, limbs beautifully formed, chest and shoulders broad and strong. Up and up with growing excitement, yet still she could not see his face—could not as yet perceive the whole of him for all her torrid curiosity.
“Show yourself,” she cried. “I want to see you!”
“Slave!” A hand, beautiful and swift, swept down to capture the sides of her face in its pitiless grip. “Even now, you have yet to learn your place!”
“Uhhhh…” She blurted out the compressed semblance of a protest, unable to breathe or break free. “Uhh… uhh…”
“Who are you?” The demon pushed her away abruptly. “Speak!” He held her by the shoulders, tight, at arm’s length as she fought for breath again.
“I… I’m Gretchen—Mary Chastity I mean. Or Chaz… some of the time I’m Chaz. I’m not sure anymore.”
“Who are you?”
“Does it matter now?”
“Who are you?
“Who do you want me to be?”
“Hmm.” The monster considered for a moment. “And who am I?”
“You are… The Nameless One.”
“Who am I?”
“You are Lust.” She spoke meekly as if reciting from the catechism. “You are Urge. Desire Unrequited. Need Never Fulfilled. You are the Fear that comes like a shadow attending them all. You are the Longing that haunts the darkest corner of a maiden’s heart. The Beast that fills the night with weeping and with screams.”
“Who am I?”

“You…” Mary Chastity leaned forward with a sultry sigh as she touched her lips to the head of his cock. “You are my Master.” 

...



Now available: 



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Review of 'Desire: Sensual Lesbian Erotica' by Emily L. Byrne

Hard to say what’s more fun: discovering a fantastic new (to me) writer, or telling everyone who’ll listen about this fantastic writer they simply must read. Author Emily L. Byrne puts me in this happy conundrum with Desire, her recent collection of eleven finely-wrought f/f erotic romance tales.

Byrne offers readers a dizzying diversity of setting, vibrantly evocative, sharply-focused, and practically always unforgettable. From the tourist-choked thoroughfares of Viva Las Vegas (with its hot-to-trot Elvis drag kings) to the revolutionary Nicaragua of A Night in Estelí, the churches and art galleries of Florence in A Room with a View, and the wintry cityscape of Minneapolis in the hauntingly surreal Cherrybridge and Spoon. Nearly as dazzling and varied as her settings, Byrne seems to traverse disparate genres with the breezy nonchalance of a master, whether it be sci-fi (Diplomacy), sword and sorcery (Heart’s Thief), espionage (The Old Spies Club), realist mainstream (Summer Stock), or contemporary romance with a bit of magic thrown in for good measure (The Goddess Within).

But it’s her characters who truly make these stories stand out, from the lonely police detective in The Further Adventures of Miss Scarlet, to the environmental activist falling madly in love with the female park ranger in the delightful Treehugger; the once-burned (literally) in-love starship commander in Diplomacy, the empathic burglar in Heart’s Thief, the bewildered goddess-for-a day of The Goddess Within, or the young American activist stealing a dangerous moment of passion with an itinerant journalist in A Night in Estelí.


Emily L. Byrne is a fantastic writer—one you simply must read! Desire is enthusiastically recommended.



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review of 'The Prison of the Angels' by Janine Ashbless

With The Prison of the Angels, the final installment in her Book of the Watchers trilogy, Janine Ashbless brings this epic erotic-romance saga to a conclusion with a bang of near-apocalyptic intensity. And how could it be otherwise, given what we’ve come to expect thus far in the series?

I’m not sure I can give too much away here without dropping spoilers—everything in this story is essential, and Ashbless never wastes a word. But, to review: in Cover Him with Darkness, Milja frees the fallen angel Azazel from his imprisonment. In the superb middle-installment, In Bonds of the Earth, Azazel sets in motion his plan to free his fellow rebel angels from their ancient prisons, setting up a cosmic showdown with the powers of Heaven. In The Prison of the Angels, the scary feathered beasts come home to roost, the consequences of choices made must at last be faced, the price of love and freedom paid regardless of the cost. Yet, as always, Ashbless ties it all together with such style, such flare, conveying a sense of  inevitability—of ineluctable right-ness—with the plot’s every twist and turn, it’s hard to imagine all hell breaking loose in any other way, Or near half so excitingly, for that matter! Of course, throughout, the sex is wicked hot, and it is sex, after all, desire and lust, that have driven this story from the beginning, and ultimately created the critical mass from which it draws its power.  

But it would be wrong to dismiss this story as just another facile fast-paced sex-action-adventure franchise—though it certainly is fast-paced and often sexy as hell! What I have always admired about Ashbless is her ability to tell riveting erotic stories in a way that recognizes and honors her readers’ intelligence and curiosity, not to mention their willingness to look up the occasional word if they need to. The essential story is never weighed down by excessive literary vocabulary—the author’s voice, or need to prove how smart they are, overwhelming the narrative—but words are used correctly, precisely, and always with thoughtfulness and care. Big ideas are woven into the fabric of the tale with seamless craft to seem as natural a part of the whole as the action-packed set pieces and steamy bedroom scenes.

And—wow!—do I ever love the way Ashbless employs mythology in her stories, perhaps the true hallmark of her style. It doesn’t matter that we largely no longer believe in Zeus or Apollo, Thor and Loki, or the creation mythos of the Hebrew Bible; all these stories—always essentially metaphors—have outlived literal credulity; yet all are still exciting, still thought-provoking, brimming with narrative possibility. The thing Ashbless shows us about myth is that it is malleable; it can be molded and reformed, melded and spliced to suit any time and place. The fascinating angelology in this series comprises far more than the traditional (and rather staid) Judeo-Christian roster; but shows how different cultures may have interpreted the same archetypes in different ways. The Norse trickster god, Loki, becomes the tempter of Genesis, the fallen serpent-angel Samyaza; the Archangel Michael assumes the form of something out of Native American myth… It all makes for a wonderful, engaging, multi-layered story that touches the mind as well as the heart, yet is always fun to read!

Perhaps, the author is speaking directly to her readers through the character of Pemenuel, the angel of the written word, when she describes the power of story in this passage from The Prison of the Angels:

“The humans have done something remarkable. Something we could not. They have created new worlds. Worlds where decisions are made for good or evil, where hearts are broken and won, where hope is found and innocence lost. I have been to these worlds. They are real realms of the spirit.”

“Books?” said Azazel with contempt. “Just words!”

“No. They are places that the human spirit goes to be reborn. Landscapes and people that they recognize, just as they recognize their own homes. Places as real as your memory…”


In The Prison of the Angels, as in the books that preceded it, Janine Ashbless has created an extraordinary new world, a “real realm of the spirit” that is a sheer pleasure to visit.


Enthusiastically recommended.