Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review of "Drawn That Way" by Bronwyn Green

Die-hard fans of erotic romance will find lots to like in Bronwyn Green’s Drawn That Way.
While the story adheres closely to long-established genre conventions, it’s just different enough—and smart enough in exploiting those differences—to rise above the ordinary. Green tackles some intriguing issues here; rampant sexism and misogyny in the video-game industry; society’s impossible double standards where female body image is concerned, and the treacherous minefield of workplace romance. Yet the storytelling never becomes preachy or propagandistic—this is definitely not a novel of ideas—nor does the author stint on the sex.  There’s a lot of it—even by erotic romance standards—and the steamy encounters are consistently well thought out, always logically integrated into the broader narrative, deftly-written, refreshingly mature, and always—always!—entertaining.  

Pretty Tristan Weaver, a young guest worker from Wales, is employed as an accountant for an American  company that produces popular video games.  One day, her comment on an employee survey catches the boss’s attention:

Tris shrugged “ . . . It’s true. I haven’t seen a single female character come out of this company that wasn’t drawn like the average uni boy’s wank fantasy. Giant gravity-defying boobs, waists so small they couldn’t possibly hold up those chests and giant bubble arses—all I’m suggesting is a little diversity. A more realistic view of women in video games. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

Tris’ boss is Rory Brecken, a creative soul still somewhat bewildered by his own success, caught between his genuine artistic impulses and the stifling limitations of commerce. A man who “doesn’t do relationships”, his sexual needs have been met in a string of one-off affairs outside the office. Stung by Tris’ criticisms, he recruits her to model for a new game, which will feature more realistic female characters, authentic body types, and greater diversity.

Of course, one thing ultimately leads to another, all good intentions fly out the window, and these two begin a steamy office affair taking the form of a fairly conventional D/s relationship with a bit of light bondage thrown in for zest. Tris proves a willingly apt pupil, but—thankfully—never a pushover. Bondage-sex, as Rory points out, isn’t supposed to be easy, but Tris learns quickly that a certain level of disobedience is part of the game; it adds to the excitement and heightens the thrill of sexual tension, introducing an element of unpredictability and spontaneity, delectably surprising to both partners, the after-burn—the soreness left over from a corrective spanking—a fading memento of pleasure.

Green’s main characters are refreshingly ordinary and always relatably down-to-earth—a huge plus in a genre now so heavily overpopulated with impossibly-perfect dark-secret-burdened billionaires and airheaded cardboard cut-out Barbie-doll naïfs. On the minus side, I was somewhat disappointed by the way the author under-employs her interesting supporting cast, bringing them on stage only when it’s necessary for exposition or when she otherwise runs short of ideas for moving the story along and getting the main characters into place for the inevitable denouement.

At times the writing becomes overly repetitious. Regular consumers of standard romance seem to expect a level of dramatic irony in which the characters spend much of the story trying to sort out their feelings and overcome their self-doubt—though the outcome is obvious to the audience from the opening pages. If I have a serious complaint about Drawn That Way, it is that these characters spend far too much time rehashing the same emotions, pensively pacing back and forth over the same ground, walking their apprehensions like worried dog owners with a constipated pet. There needs to be some artful variation on this theme, and, one would hope, ultimately some subtle transformation of it; but here the expression of self-doubt feels like a cloying mantra, repeated with almost exactly the same words over and over.

Still, on balance, Drawn That Way makes for a highly enjoyable, satisfyingly diverting, light, and very sexy read.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review of "Lips Like Ice" by Peggy Barnett

This fascinating erotic sci-fi novel was sent to me “over the transom”, otherwise I would never have known about it. And that would have been too bad; Peggy Barnett’s Lips Like Ice is an exceptionally well-crafted piece of storytelling, effortlessly melding  elements of classic feminist science fiction in the best tradition of Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood with an intriguing—albeit sometimes hair-raising—vein of extraterrestrial erotic romance.  

A young earth woman, Lydia, one day wakes to find herself transported to a cold, brutal alien world, where she has been consigned to the role of a pet for the spoiled, petulant, adolescent offspring of local royalty. The alien species on this planet, which Lydia can only describe as “Ice-Elf Monsters” is born genderless, and individuals eventually choose whether to become anatomically male or female, though that choice is often influenced more by political exigency and family expectation than the leadings of one’s heart. And woe to anyone who chooses “wrong”.

The story unfolds at a leisurely pace—sometimes, perhaps, a bit too languorously—focusing on the heroine’s inner monologue, her torturous journey of identity accompanied by a seemingly endless cycle of self-doubt as she struggles to discern her place in this strange new world.

She wakes when the light of the sun, filtered through the amber window, puddles golden and warm on her face. The Prince is sitting on a deep, plush chair beside the head of the bed. The spindly table that had once graced its position has been moved between the two windows, flush against the wall. The lamp is still upon it, but Lydia’s writing desk is on the mattress by her feet. It must be the weekend again. She isn’t sure; she keeps forgetting to make a calendar. Her period is over, so that’s been four days at least.

She sits up blearily and rubs her eyes. The air is comfortable this morning, which means the Prince must be too warm. He is wearing only a loose pair of trousers that end well above his ankles and are held on his narrow hips by a silver sash. He has a loose, linen-like shirt on as well, but the neck is unlaced as far as it will go, the vee gaping obscenely and offering a glimpse of pointed collarbone and a glimpse of the dusky blue ridge of his pectoral muscle. He hasn’t any chest hair. Or nipples, as far as she can tell.

It seems strangely sensual and modest after he had stood before her in all his proud nakedness the other night. Knowing what is beneath the billowing drape of sleeve, the fold of belt, makes her feel sort of squirmy inside, like she is privy to a secret that she shouldn’t have even known is a secret to begin with.

Later, when the Prince asks Lydia whether she chose to be female, she finds it difficult to give a simple answer:

“We don’t choose,” Lydia says, “We’re born one or the other.”

The Prince shudders and stills. “So I would have been male right from the start?”

“Well . . . it’s complicated. It’s not . . . there’s biological sex, and then there’s gender, and sometimes they don’t match. Sometimes biological sex isn’t just one or the other, either; and gender can definitely be fluid. And that’s not even talking about romantic or sexual attraction spectrums. Humans are . . . we. we’re a fucking compli—ah! Ah! God, are you actually-- !”

Her eyes slide shut as another orgasm rocks his body, stiffens him against her, inside of her. More pulses of heat, sweet and dark.

“Biology class is sexy,” the Prince rumbles in her ear when he’s stopped clutching and shaking. He laves her sweaty neck with his tongue. Lydia falls into her doze with a chuckle . . .

Lips Like Ice offers readers adventure and palace intrigue, seeking out new life and new civilization with a thoughtful exploration of gender issues, and a probing reflection on the nature of free will, specifically, how one’s concept of liberty defines his or her humanity.


Friday, April 17, 2015

A new story by TAS on Madeleine Shade's site

Read my brand new story, The Fire-Hostage, debuting on Madeleine Shade's site as part of her Fairy Tale Friday series.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review of "Generation Game: Five Linked Erotic Short Stories" by Secret Narrative

Generation Game is a book that many of us have been waiting for all our lives, a happy surprise, even if it arrives possibly just a little too late. As a young blade, perpetually obsessed with “older women”, fifteen or twenty years my senior—sometimes even more mature—I might well have killed—or, at least, done something jaw-droppingly rash—for a sexual mentor like the one in these lithe, literate, compellingly steamy stories. More’s the pity that, now in my late-fifties, this sixtysomething goddess probably would have nothing to do with the likes of me anymore. Ah! If youth knew! If age could!  

In any case, it’s long past time somebody offered so frank and artfully-written a declaration of mature desire in this terminally youth-obsessed culture of ours. Secret Narrative—a crappy pen name for so fine a writer—offers an honest, deep-probing character study, untainted by the prejudices of youth, the willful ignorance and blatant denial that brands sexually active adults over a certain age as pervs, dirty old men, MILFs, DILFs, GILFs, trouts and cougars.

On the other hand, if we are to be labeled in any case, why not simply turn and embrace the labels?

The product of a young man’s cock is as elixir to my antiquated soul; I settle into the cocoon of my sofa and replay a recording of Paloma Faith at the Albert Hall. I consider the sound of applause. Like falling rain; heavy and relentless, and I wonder what it’s like to be on stage accompanied by a sparkling voice, an orchestra, chorus, and backing singers, and yet alone. I imagine those thunderous handclaps are for me, and take a bow. Faith’s dress is beautiful, crafted in late forties style, with matching shoes; they look handmade. I shall buy myself a perfect copy of the outfit and wear it to my debut gang-bang date. My Play On. I want to be played, a trail of many fingers on my vibrating skin, a hum of cells, thrumming sensation to my aching core.

The truth is that desire evolves, tastes become more sophisticated—or sometimes ferociously simple—the mature pallet craves what young tastebuds are incapable of sensing. Age perceives time differently than youth, and can be more deliberate in going after what it wants. But the flame never truly burns out, though our bodies sometimes betray us, gravity takes its toll, and experience etches its history of stress, pain, and laughter in our very flesh.  

Nature waves a heraldic flag of symptoms as an alert to the crumbling decay of lost youth. Simon Conrad arrived at other side of my acrid years, appearing as an unlikely savior, triggering an abundance of plentiful hope. My cells sparkled like new growth in a spring garden and I allowed the sun to open my petals, reveal my nectar, and now they suck where the bee sucks . . .

The five stories in this little collection artfully interlock to form a satisfying narrative totality. The writing is elegant and engaging for the most part, though the author gets carried away with the very sophistication of her prose from time to time. This is especially evident in the third story, Lethal Lesson, which wanders dangerously into the realm of effusive language. On balance, though, Generation Game is among the most deeply satisfying, thoughtful, perceptive, and pleasingly, deliciously mature erotic reading experiences of recent memory.

Enthusiastically recommended! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

A New Foreword for "Kiss-Off the Devil"

Today I am launching a spruced-up second edition of my most recent short story collection, Kiss-Off the Devil. The original version hasn't sold well at all. Unsurprisingly. I knew that these darker, more literary stories would be a tough nut for many readers to crack, and yet, I am more confident about the quality of the writing now than I was at first publication a year ago. The problem may have been my original foreword, which went into torturous detail about what the stories were not--not porn, not romance, not strictly literary, nor even erotica in its broadest commercial sense, though there are strong erotic elements in all the stories. I was overly apologetic about this; too concerned with "improper observers" taking offense at my work; worried over what conclusions readers might draw about me personally. No more! I proudly offer the new foreword for your consideration. 


I must have a dark side if I am to be whole
(Carl Jung)

The stories in this collection won’t be for everyone. This is a given. A writer cannot please all the peple all the time, especially when he or she writes about sex. There’s always somebody out there itching to take offense, jonesing to be outraged; looking for any excuse to stampede the moral high horses, or let slip the dogs of some imaginary culture war. Always somebody bombastically bewailing the wretched state of our times—often getting paid good money to tell us what we’ve come to— decrying the moral dry rot in society as evidenced by the coarsening of language on TV sit-coms, easy access to internet porn, or the latest teenage dance craze— even as horrific violence and chronic systemic injustice barely rate a raised eyebrow. Always somebody, invariably too close to power for comfort, demanding that books and film uphold a simplistic, knee-jerk reactionary movie-of-the-week morality in which sex—especially celebratory sex outside of “traditional” marriage—  is always a sin, and those who enjoy it are punished accordingly without fail. Always somebody somewhere—perhaps even at the back of our own minds—enforcing the notion that art needs to be “socially acceptable”—predictable, comfortable, sterile, chaste— and that fiction “needs to be nice.”

But truth—which is, after all, the ultimate object of fiction—isn’t always nice. Nor would a world in which everyone always told the unvarnished truth have much use for literature. As it is, our present plain of existence is rife with secrecy and deceit, and we must invent stories in order to tell ourselves the uncomfortable and often-convoluted truths society would silence. It is through fiction in its most subversively potent form that we expose the great lies of our time and unmask the venial fibs of unexamined everyday existence, revealing, through the voices of imaginary people, real-life hypocrisy for all it is.

Indeed, if we would dig down to the roots of human folly we should expect to get our hands at least a little dirty. But the beauty of transgressive fantasy, as a character in one of these stories points out, is that “we can go visit that dark place, go there and come back without getting physically banged up or mentally fucked up.” We can safely explore the very things that make us most uncomfortable, and ask ourselves why we react and feel the way we do upon our return. And when we ask why, inevitably we begin to grow, taking a step towards self-awareness and enlightenment. 

“Our inhibitions can be quite useful,” the narrator of All He Surveys tells us, “Thinking about the choices we face is not a bad thing . . .

. . . but when we let our inhibitions do our thinking for us we’re in trouble. When we attribute too much importance to these rather primitive psychological defense mechanisms they begin to impede our intellectual and spiritual growth. Treating them as if they were some sort of moral imperative, existing purely for some higher spiritual purpose which must be heeded under any and all circumstances, we willfully ignore a whole world of valuable experience and knowledge, finding it all the more difficult to realize our full potential.

And besides, challenging our inhibitions can be a thrill in and of itself, as the title character of Becoming Roxanne explains:

And there’s that Beauty and the Beast thing again. It’s like an automatic turn-on deep down inside of my gut. Like the more inappropriate or different a guy is the more I can’t resist fucking him. The real thrill’s in overcoming my hang-ups; the more out-of-my-league some guy is, the wilder the ultimate rush of getting it on with him.

Sometimes, even more often than those perpetually-outraged talking heads would have us believe— people in the real world do things simply because they are pleasurable, and there need be no other reason. As the insatiably curious, hypersexual heroine of Another Detour: Alternate Timeline would have it:

Love is love, and sex is sex. And sometimes if you’re lucky you get to have sex with somebody you love . . .  Other times—most of the time, maybe— it’s one or the other. Love’s a lot harder to find than sex, and the two things don’t always line up the way we’d like them to. Sex—lust— comes and goes; people who love each other can wear out their physical attraction. If we insist on always having love in the equation, the world’s a much colder place. We all end up a lot lonelier . . .

* * *

If the nine short stories in this book were made into movies they would probably end up being rated somewhere between R and NC-17. Not so much for graphic content (though there is a fair amount of that) as for “adult situations,” the frank exploration of certain subjects still considered taboo by a society deeply in denial. It’s less clear as to where those movies would be screened. In some cinematic limbo, I suspect, halfway between the art house and the grind house, never wholly at home in either venue. A tough sell in any case, though I hope there are at least a few intrepid, open-minded patrons willing to pay the price of admission, if only to be entertained for a little while.

Terrance Aldon Shaw

April, 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review of "One Night Only: Erotic Encounters" (ed. Violet Blue)

What a treasure trove of great erotic writing! The consistent high caliber of these nineteen short stories makes One Night Only one of the most enjoyable and rewarding  collections to come our way in quite some time. Editor Violet Blue clearly has an eye for quality, along with a gift for effective organization, arranging the contents with an uncanny “right-ness” reminiscent of a great filmmaker—then again, she was undoubtedly inspired.

The unifying theme here is the one night stand; those breathless, fleetingly ephemeral yet utterly unforgettable sexual encounters that often occur by chance, occasionally nurturing regret, though seldom recalled without a tinge of nostalgic delight. So it was in the reading, as well. It would be difficult to choose a favorite from among so many fine pieces, although several do stand out in my memory, reverberating in those sections of the brain that delight in a cleverly turned phrase, not to mention an increasingly cantankerous and picky reptilian core.

I was immediately hooked by Alison Tyler’s Seeing Stars with its vividly imagined main character, a lonely ticket-taker in a decrepit all-night movie palace who ends up taking a chance on a handsome patron. Fast-paced and thrilling, Kev Henley’s Chasing Fate: Exige is a Frank-Miller-esque tour de force of bad boys up to no good, fast cars and the even faster women who lust after both. Performance Art by the gifted Cynthia Hamilton takes a more cerebral tack, but is no less viscerally satisfying in its steamy denouement wherein two visitors to an art museum momentarily become part of one of the exhibits:

She arched up against him, legs rising, feet hooking on the backs of his thighs and finding denim there. She squeezed his cock inside her, and a strangled groan accompanied his next thrust. His legs crushed down onto hers and he fucked her with a steady pace—firm and measured, accompanied by the low claps of bodies joining, and the slick, lewd liquid noise that was evidence of her overflowing desire.

“Sarah . . .” he gasped at her lips.

It took her a moment—a quick moment measured in three thrusts—to remember.

“Yes.” Breathy and low, her answer was encouragement as much as confirmation.

“Sarah, I’m close.”

The words were low, like a growl, and they sent a thrill through her. She tightened her thighs around his, digging her heels in, and felt her sex constrict around his cock. One pulse, then another, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. It welled up in her, each pulse rippling outward like the droplets in the pond, filling her with sensation until she couldn’t help but brim over.

Jan Darby’s Maid Service delves the notion of “invisibility”, that is, the unspoken assumption that “the help” is to remain discreetly out of sight and out of mind. Yet when a guest at a business hotel “notices” the pretty housekeeper, all notions of class hierarchy and propriety are temporarily forgotten.  Donna George Storey’s Hole In Your Pocket evokes a delectable torture with its poignant and powerfully titillating story of lust suddenly requited when a decades-long Platonic relationship explodes into the physical realm. Austin Stevens’ Belle de Soire,  D.L. King’s Whore, and Kristina Wright’s Just a Little Trim are aptly sly and equally satisfying in their portrayals of frisky professional women out for a thrill. A short quote from Wright’s story ought to be framed and mounted on every serious erotic author’s writing room wall:

The only thing hotter than sex is the temptation of sex. Temptation pays the mortgage, baby.

To which I can only reply, yes! Yes! Yes!

Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Rock Star Rewards is a scintillating character study of a tough lady rocker on tour with her band, a woman who knows what she needs with the means to get what she wants. The game of chess was never so sexy or sensually intense as in Abby Abbot’s absorbing and well-imagined Tournament, and in Three Pink Earthquakes, Thomas S. Roche’s gritty, phrenetic style is perfectly suited to the story of a down-and-dirty ménage encounter under a barroom table:

Right there under the table at Blueboy’s, Molly felt the first man since Carl entering her as she pressed her mouth to his girlfriend’s juicy sex. His cock was thick at the head—just thick enough to stretch her a little, exactly at the place where a little met enough met a lot met more than enough met almost exactly too fucking much—and that meant almost. Exactly. Too much. But not quite, which was just fucking right.

Ilaria was perfect—wet as a faucet inside but dry enough outside that it took a long slow wriggle of Molly’s tongue to find the moisture. Then there was the taste, overwhelming her—deeply intoxicating, sexy and bewitching. Then there was the smell all around her, drowning out everything else. Horny pussy. Why the hell did I ever stop sleeping with girls again?

Enthusiastically recommended! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TAS story excerpt on Janine Ashbless' blog

An excerpt from my story Mr. Friday's Midlife Crisis is up on Janine Ashbless' blog today.
Check it out!

You can buy the story in its entirety  here on Amazon Kindle.
Or here on the Amazon.UK site.