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Oh, how I’ve missed Werewolf Wednesdays.
Blurb: Northern Exposure
Even in Grundy, Alaska, it’s unusual to find a naked guy with a bear trap clamped to his ankle on your porch. But when said guy turns into a wolf, recent southern transplant Mo Wenstein has no difficulty identifying the problem. Her surly neighbor Cooper Graham—who has been openly critical of Mo’s ability to adapt to life in Alaska—has trouble of his own. Werewolf trouble.
For Cooper, an Alpha in self-imposed exile from his dysfunctional pack, it’s love at first sniff when it comes to Mo. But Cooper has an even more pressing concern on his mind. Several people around Grundy have been the victims of wolf attacks, and since Cooper has no memory of what he gets up to while in werewolf form, he’s worried that he might be the violent canine in question.
If a wolf cries wolf, it makes sense to listen, yet Mo is convinced that Cooper is not the culprit. Except if he’s not responsible, then who is? And when a werewolf falls head over haunches in love with you, what are you supposed to do anyway? The rules of dating just got a whole lot more complicated. . . .
While the blurb is interesting enough, I guess, I’m not sure it would have fully caught my attention. However, the review over at Ivy Book Bindings makes it sound hilarious, charming, and exactly the sort of fun book I want to read RIGHT NOW.
And then, when checking out the author’s website, I see there is a second book, The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf, and according to its blurb on the author’s website, the alpha wolf is Maggie Graham. Female alpha? SOLD. I will report back as soon as I can get my hands on these and read them.
First, Teresa Jusino wrote an excellent preview piece over at GirlGamer.com, and now a giveaway of some related goodies. Of the first issue, Teresa says: First, the comic. This shit is bananas, but in the best way. Set in the early 1980′s, The Werewolf of NYC tells the story of Albert Shaw, a severely lonely man who has to deal with the fact that if he doesn’t have complete control over himself, he turns into a werewolf and goes on killing sprees. Not being able to lose control makes having relationships, sexual or otherwise, very difficult. In fact, the first issue shows us what happens when a man has to repress his sexual desires for the benefit of living beings around him. You probably guessed it – it doesn’t turn out too well. Vazquez does a great job of capturing the seedy feel of early 1980′s Hell’s Kitchen, and his art looks like what seeing the world as a bloodthirsty werewolf must feel like. That’s the best thing about Vazquez’s art – it’s visceral.
That sounds badass, and even though I rarely buy comics by the issue right now, I am going to pick this one up.
Also in the book you deal with not just people who are sympathetic, but also those who are a little less sympathetic, like the werewolf, for example. Do you feel that even the unsympathetic loser is in some way redeemable? Is there an innocent inside of every guilty person?
That’s interesting. I hadn’t really thought about it like that, but I guess I do. I do think that everyone has something sympathetic. Even the most seemingly unsympathetic person can be entered into, and the idea of sympathy as a form of empathy, as understanding, and I think it’s actually important for us to have empathy toward the most awful people because by understanding them we can understand the differences between them and everyone else. So, if I were to write a poem about a serial killer, it wouldn’t necessarily be to give sympathy toward the serial killer but to understand the route that a human being takes to get to that point. I guess that’s what I’m really interested in. Understanding on a both intellectual and emotional level and that’s what comes across as sympathy.
And the werewolf poem? It’s inspired by married men who have sex with other men, and I think that, yes, it’s a despicable thing to be cheating on your spouse, but it’s also a craving that these men might not have much control over. Or they have control over their actions, but not the force behind it. There’s this Stanley Kunitz poem with two lines that have always stuck with me: “What makes the engine go? Desire, desire, desire.” And I think that desire is the great equalizing force between all people. It’s what makes the winners succeed and what makes the losers keep going even after they’ve lost.
That’s profoundly fascinating—I definitely didn’t see that inspiration for the werewolf poem. Do you expect people to get that from the poem just at face value, or is that the type of thing where they need to seek out the author’s opinion to be able to come up with that interpretation?
I think I secretly have a bit of a New Formalist in me in that I don’t want any poem to require a secondary source. I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to know what I think about or care about to like my poems. In fact I try very hard to pull myself out of poems whenever possible. My goal is always to write a poem—that even if it has a deeper valence or a sort of hidden agenda—I want the poem to work even if that’s never discovered. Personally I would think that the werewolf poem is more interesting if you think about it in the context of sexuality but I also hope that it’s an interesting poem even if you don’t. I don’t know if it succeeds or not because no poet is ever really sure of what his poems do. But I like to think that the poem opens itself up to whatever reading a person wants to bring to it. But that sounds so…
Yeah. I generally hate it when people say that because it sounds like you’re abnegating authority. It’s like “Oh, you can get whatever you want out of my poem, I don’t care,” when obviously I do. Like, ideally everyone would read that poem and think “oh, men who have sex with other men, interesting.” But if no one gets that they’re still like, “Oh werewolves, I’ve never read a werewolf poem before, neat” and also be pretty happy.
But I don’t want to be one of those poets that people feel like they need to decipher. That’s so tedious. I love Wallace Stevens but half the time I’m reading Wallace Stevens thinking “I am missing something here.” And then a hundred percent of the time I’m reading Pound I know I’m missing something. But I don’t always find those poets to be that enjoyable.
Accessibility is a really important thing for me. I want to write poems that anybody could like to read. My fantasy audience is always my mother, who, if she’s ever read any of my poems, has never really talked about them, but I like to think that she reads all of them and is thinking, “Oh, I see what he’s doing here, yeah, juxtaposition.” And even if she’s not thinking about what’s happening, she’s still thinking, “Oh, that’s sad, I feel sad now that I’ve read this poem, thank you.”
While I have read werewolf poems before, I’d like to read this one (and the rest of the collection). I’m pretty intrigued by both some of the things he’s saying here about abnegating authority AND about accessibility of writing, particularly poetry. I may have to come back to this with more thoughts. But for the moment, WEREWOLF POETRY!
This Werewolf Wednesday post is inspired by two things: the Face Off: What Werewolf Legend Should Not Be Missed? post from Fangs for the Fantasy, and a conversation I’m having with Eliza Reeve about a certain trope, the Only Werewolf Woman in the World trope.
The Fangs for the Fantasy post discusses which werewolf legends they do and do not want to see in stories now. My conversation with Eliza is basically whether having few werewolves who are women is a trope in werewolf fiction. (Though it’s not everywhere, I see it frequently enough I think it is.) I’m combining these two things to talk about some of the tropes I either love or loathe.
Love: Forced Change During the Full Moon
Though I can also get behind the stories in which werewolves can change whenever they want, but I love the stories where no matter if they can control the change the rest of the time, they have to change under the full moon. That can be one night, three nights, five nights, I don’t care. What I love is that inevitable moment where no matter what they want, no matter what they’re doing, they have to give in to the pull of the moon. So much power, and yet it can’t always be fully controlled.
Loathe: Only Werewolf Woman in the World
Though there are stories that include this trope which I love, I hate the trope itself. In part, I hate it because I love stories with many women in a variety of roles, and I love stories about packs of werewolf women being human and animal together, their friendships and their romances, their triumphs and their failures. Mostly I hate this trope because it tends to come with all sorts of anti-women storytelling and misogyny and turning the one woman werewolf who exists into a sexual object for the others. I often find it gross and infuriating.
Love: Pack Bonds
Whether it’s a psychic bond that allows the werewolves to talk to each other in wolf form, or simply the bonds that make them feel like a family, the familiar smells and sounds of the others, I love stories where the pack is one big created family. Not everyone has to get along, but in the end, they fight for each other and support each other and love each other. Created families of werewolves for the win.
Loathe: Abusive Alpha Males
I’d loathe abusive alpha females, too, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one. I love pack structures and alphas in control, but I am not a fan of this trope where the alpha male is abusive and too strong for anyone else to fight and far too often sexually abusive, particularly to the Only Werewolf Woman in the World.
Love: Enhanced Senses in Human Form
I love werewolves in human form being able to smell and taste and see and hear and feel so much more than regular humans. I love the potential available to the story when the werewolves can do that, and as a write I love coming up with new descriptions and thinking about what they can sense that a human could not, particularly smells. It’s a way of building the world from a perspective that is similar to, but not quite, human, and I enjoy that challenge a lot.
What are the tropes you love and loathe?
Last week I posted “Lone Wolf (Bound)”. Today, I thought I’d post the songs I listened to while writing it. (I’m unfortunately not doing a lot of fiction writing except for the Full (Moon) Flash Fiction, which is frustrating, so I don’t have a lot of playlists to pull from right now.)
Only three, because I listen to my music on repeat while writing, and flash fiction doesn’t require an extensive soundtrack.
1) The Lumineers “Ho Hey”
Totally unashamed of falling in love with this from the Bing commercial. Between this and the vampire Bing commercial, I find Bing commercials to be the best.
My favorite lines are, probably unsurprisingly: So show me family / all the blood that I will bleed / I don’t know where I belong / I don’t know where I went wrong
2) Alex Clare “Too Close”
I swear, I don’t actually get all my music from commercials. This one, Tech Guru introduced me to the song before I actually saw the IE commercial. (Which is kinda gorgeous. Whoever Microsoft is using for their ad work right now, GOOD JOB. Did you see that awesome Iron Man bit?)
It’s actually not the lyrics that get to me on this one, just the rhythm and the electronic work. What would you call that? Someone musically smarter than me should help me out with the proper terms.
3) Florence + The Machine “Drumming Song”
The rhythms here work nicely for the building tension of a full moon night, I think. (I’m not generally a fan of Flo + The Machine, particularly after the whole racist “No Light No Light” video; see Racialicious.com’s “No Light No Light White Supremacy All Dressed Up in a Pop Video is Still White Supremacy” for a great analysis.)
What are you listening to this week?
I realize I did songs from this same playlist the last time I did Music Monday, but it is a massive playlist, so there is always more to share. I have specific songs for specific scenes or chapters, but I also have a playlist for background music; it doesn’t have to exactly match whatever work I’m doing, it just needs to make me feel good while I write, for various definitions of “feel good.” Also, my music can be eclectic.
“Johnny and June” by Heidi Newfield
Johnny Cash references for the win, no matter how cheesy. I grew up loving Johnny Cash’s music, and I just love it more the older I get. Also, I really love the fire in the video here, and that gorgeous car. I like the rise and fall of this, the softness and the powerful chorus. Total windows down, music up roadtrip song.
“Devil Town” Bright Eyes
Not the official music video, but this claymation and live action fusion is fabulous and, at times, hilarious. (The vampires!)
“Whispers in the Dark” Skillet
This great, too, though the version on my playlist is acoustic, and therefore wicked haunting.
“White Sandy Beach” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
I really should stop putting his music on my playlists, because mostly what it does is break my heart that he isn’t still alive and making music. (Johnny Cash’s music does the same thing to me, really.) I have a lot of Iz’s music on this playlist for a couple reasons, but this is one of my favorites.
“Boxer” The Gaslight Anthem (live at Bonnaroo 2010)
Mostly for these lyrics:
There was something heavy holding you down
And there were whispers that were driving you crazy
And now you hunt the heart of this town
Remember when I knew a boxer baby
“Drop the World” Lil Wayne feat. Eminem
Tech Guru showed this to me for the first, and sold it to me as an apocalyptic rap song. Until that moment, I didn’t know how much I wanted apocalyptic rap songs. The version on my playlist is uncensored and is SO MUCH BETTER. I recommend syncing up an uncensored version with the official video, because it’s amazing. (Tech Guru did this for me the first time, because he is awesome.)
So what are you listening to while you write?
I am deep into a werewolf novel right now, and have lined up some music to go with it. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the songs here, along with their official music vids where I can, because official music vids are frequently ridiculous. (Also, sometimes awesome.) (Most of these songs were introduced to me by either Eliza Reeve or my dear friend Kira. I really need to schedule trips out west to visit each of them.) I choose music to write to based on a combination of appropriate lyrics and/or mood and/or a rhythm that gets to me.
Escape the Fate “Issues”
Escape the Fate “Gorgeous Nightmare”
(Wow, this was the first time I watched the official vid. You can skip to about 1:20 for the song to start, but that’s kind of intriguing. Not such a fan of the fat hate, but I will have to spend some time analyzing the video some other day.) (The rhythm on this song really gets to me, especially when the lines repeat.)
(I still sometimes sing this as “I feel like a rockstar” because it cracks me up every time I do. No idea why.)
The Pack AD “Wolves and Werewolves”
(Alas, could not find an official vid for this one, but I highly recommend buying their album.)
Bowling for Soup “Girl All the Bad Guys Want”
Bowling for Soup “High School Never Ends”
(Also my first time seeing the video, and it’s horrible and hilarious at the same time. Plus Bowling for Soup is ridiculously hot.)
So what are you listening to (or watching) while you write?
The posts I scheduled to go up while I was away failed, so here are publishing updates for the past month.
I guest blogged over at Midnight Seductions about writing werewolves and characters with mental illness, including my own experience with mental illness.
Cast the Cards released October 31, 2010.
Blurb: For over 250 years, the use of the tarot for divination has been a mainstay of mystical and occult practices. Cast the Cards is a collection of six all-new short stories that explore some of the powerful themes associated with the Major Arcana, all with an eye toward erotic romance with GLBT and alt-lifestyle characters and motifs.
“Blazing Star” is a story about a mind reader and her fortunetelling, monster-hunting lover who face a world headed into a potential apocalypse. Together the two women create a sanctuary for the other monster hunters, but not even a magic-protected sanctuary can guarantee protection when the world is ending.
There have been a couple really nice reviews of Cast the Cards.
On the whole, I found Cast the Cards to be well-conceived and intriguing, and I would have no problem at all recommending it to others. The folks at Storm Moon Press have done an excellent job compiling this collection. I was impressed with the high quality of the writing in each tale as well as the way they adhere to the central theme.
Hope is a hunter of the supernatural. Like other hunters, she heads to the one place where she knows she can find sanctuary, the home of a fortune-teller and Hope’s lover.
Trouble is rising in the world. Weird things that are unexplainable keep occurring. Hope and her friends are off on a mission of danger. Stolen moments of passion help calm the rising tide of bad that is reaching their shores.
Sexy and soothing. Odd descriptions for a story, I know, but that is what I felt as I read as intruded on the world of these two women.
This book is like a night of amazing love making. The seduction is slow and sweet. The climax is toe-curling. Then, you slide into the after-glow. Emotions run the gamut, and the reader is left emotionally spent but wholly satisfied. The incorporation of the Tarot deck only heightened my desire to read on. Each story is unique and special, but they work together so well. I would recommend adding this collection of stories to your shelf.
I am really pleased by the mention of “Blazing Star” because sexy and soothing was exactly the mood I was trying to create while writing the story. I was thrilled to see that it worked.
Released November 3, 2010, I have a piece in Bad Girl’s Sweet Kiss from XCITE Books. My piece is more a story than a lot of the other pieces included, but sometimes trying to pick out the truth is part of the fun.
Blurb: A blow-by-blow anthology of first-time fellatio and other oral delights.
Chrissie Bentley is a woman on a mission – to raise the profile of oral sex. In ‘The Bad Girl’s Sweet Kiss’ she has brought together her own experiences as well as those of many other erotic writers from all over the world. From some of the most well-known voices in erotica to more recent newcomers to the field, everybody’s first time is different. In this diverse collection of blow-by-blow accounts exploring an oft-overlooked act of intimacy, you’ll find something to shock, titillate, amuse as well as trigger memories of your own oral initiation.
I also sold a werewolf short story, details on this to follow.
A couple different things came together to inspire this post.
First, Eliza Reeve and I talked about her accidental prophecies; as she mentions here, first she said she would never write werewolves, then she wrote “Lunacy”, which is an excellent story you read; then she said she would never write vampires, and now she has a couple stories out with publishers; and just last month she said she’d never write a historical romance, but Circlet Press just put out a call for subs, Sense and Sensuality, which looks like a lot of fun.
So that’s been on my mind, the idea that once you say you will never write something, you end up taking back that proclamation in the future.
The combination of these two things makes me a little leery about talking about what I won’t write, because what if I end up like Eliza? However, the things I won’t write are generally things I also won’t do, kink-wise at least, and I’m pretty confident of my hard lines when it comes to kink.
So here are some of the things which make me invoke Your Kink is Okay, It’s Just Not My Kink: golden showers, scat play, age play, foot worship, necrophilia (though, I do write vampires, so this is a bit of a gray area, technically), bestiality (despite writing werewolves and shapeshifters, so I’m sure this is a bit of a gray area too, technically).
Not a lot, really, though I’m sure there’s more I’m just not thinking of right now.
But that doesn’t include everything I don’t write, because some things I am just not interested in. I don’t write dominant men with submissive women. I don’t often write m/m, though I love a good m/m/f threesome. I don’t write supernatural men and human women, because I’m more interested in stories where the women are supernatural. (“Hunter, Prey” is a bit of an exception, because Aisha is human at the start of the story.) I probably will never write about mummies. (I think.)
Some things I don’t write are kinks my partners left me with. (Anti-kinks, sort of, though that sounds more negative than I want to be for some of them.) I don’t write non-con, though I might write a negotiated and consensual non-con scene within a kinky relationship. (I haven’t, but I might.) I don’t write water play, in that there is a threat for drowning or being stuck in the water or anything that might involve water and being out of control around it because one of my partners is terrified of water and I made sure to edit any such things out of my stories. I am careful when I write about candle and wax play, because of some bad experiences my partner told me about. Etc.
Hilariously, I wrote “I don’t write contemporary romances (though this is a place I think will likely change; however, I am more interested in paranormal romances, so I stick with them right now).” but it’s not true. I just sold a contemporary erotica piece, at least, but it’s so very much not what I’m used to writing it automatically made the list of things I don’t write.
So these things change and one person’s kink is not someone else’s kink and we all have things we do or don’t write and things we say we won’t write but then end up writing. What are yours?
At one point, I saw a review of Like Tooth and Claw that was pretty negative overall. I’m not linking to the review because the review itself isn’t the point. People should be encouraged to leave honest reviews without feeling like the author will come and yell at them for writing a negative review. However, the review did make me think. When I saw Hack Gender start appearing on Twitter, I decided to finally put down some of my thoughts.
The part of the review that stood out for me was when the reviewer basically said zie couldn’t identify with the characters of my story, “Hunter, Prey,” because the woman was dominant and topped the man and the man was willing to be dominated.
I’ve run into this before, both as a writer but also as a kinky woman, especially as a kinky queer woman who is considered dominant. (Theoretically, I’m a switch, but there are very few people for whom I bottom [so far, exactly one], and I am far more likely to be the top when participating in the kinky community.) When people discuss kink — whether they themselves are kinky or are simply analyzing it from outside — most of the time they assume dominant man and submissive woman.
That is not my kink.
One reason it’s not my kink is that a lot of the time, there is no man involved in my kink. Most of the people I played with were women and they were either bottoms or switches who bottomed for me. And yes, I think there is something beautiful about the women writhing in pleasure-pain.
There is something beautiful about men in the same situation.
But this isn’t about my kink. It’s not about your kink. It’s about the assumptions of people — here, readers, but I think this applies in other situations as well — when addressing something considered unusual. A dominant woman and a man happy to be dominated.
I intentionally wrote Aisha to address some of the things which bother me about paranormal romance — and romance in general. Aisha isn’t a virginal slender young white woman. Aisha has a lot of sex without being in a relationship, she is in her thirties, she is fat, she is black, and she owns a construction company and fights to hold her own space in a very masculine field. At the beginning of the story, Aisha picks up Finn — a stranger — in a bar for an uncomplicated one night stand. (Finn later complicates it.)
She is hard to identify with because she dominates her romantic partner in the story.
Women are not supposed to be dominant. Women are supposed to be taken, not to do the taking themselves. Women are not supposed to go after what they want, and they are certainly not supposed to get off on holding power in a sexual situation. They are not supposed to enjoy denying their partner’s orgasm, especially when the partner is male. They are not supposed to enjoy tying up their partners and beating them.
Women are not supposed to have power, and if they do have power they are certainly not supposed to enjoy it.
This is bullshit.
Edited to Add: It has come to my attention that at the end of this post, it may not be clear that I am expressing anger via sarcastic commentary on what people have told me about women and sexuality. I am a dominant woman who enjoys power and sex and fully support dominant women who enjoy power and sex. I apologize for not saying this clearly.
I’ve been both busy with various writing projects and ill, neither of which left a lot of time for blogging. However, I submitted a couple of those projects today and finally have a moment to write about some of the thoughts I’ve had lately.
One thought is about the importance of rejection letters. Sure, nobody wants to be rejected, but it’s a part of the process. (Whatever process, really: job hunting, dating, writing, etc.) The rejection letter itself can be really useful, and that’s the part I’ve been thinking about.
There are a couple ways I think rejection letters can be useful. The more obvious way is if the letter says, We don’t want this piece of writing for reason A, reason B, and reason C, and those reasons are things which can either teach you about the problems of the piece or specific things the publisher wants.
The other way is that it can be validation. (These are not mutually exclusive by any means.) This is what I’ve experienced with my last three rejection letters for erotic short stories. (Two for one story and one for another.) In all three cases, the publisher chose to pass on the story (the anthology was already full, it wasn’t quite the right fit for that particular anthology, etc.), but in all three cases the publishers had encouraging things to say about the story they were rejecting and they asked to see more work.
Each time, the rejection letter was really encouraging even though it was a rejection.
Even rejection letters which give you nothing but the non-detailed rejection are useful, I think, because at least they’re a way to show you’re doing something. You’re writing and submitting and that’s really something, whether or not you’re getting published yet. That’s a big deal.