I Like It Hard – A publishing anniversary

Apologies for cross-posting, but… it’s a special day – and not least because it’s the general election and also the day James Comey appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Cover of I Like It Hard by Francis James FranklinMy novelette, I Like It Hard, was published by Less Than Three Press (who are currently having a sale to celebrate Pride month) this day last year.

After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.

But no amount of training or advice from Dan and his lovers can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve- wracking live sex shows—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.

Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.

Excerpt

“Oh,” my mother said when I told her the news, her neutral response spoken through lips twisted with unconcealed distaste. “Well done.” My father mumbled agreement. Clearly, both were still distressed that I was taking part in the competition at all, and despite their words, they were disappointed I hadn’t been kicked out.

Not that they had been one hundred percent behind Dan, but their complaints then had been more about his dragging them into the media spotlight. Which they were used to by now, really, so that wasn’t so much an issue. With me, it boiled down to my being a woman. My poor Mum. She had triumphed in her acceptance of Dan being gay, and had even at times shown a reluctant pride in seeing him on television, but I baffled her. In her mind, my bisexuality was a phase, my aromanticism was just a fancy way of saying I hadn’t met the right man, and my determination to follow in my brother’s footsteps was pure perversity to spite her.

“I don’t know why you feel you need to do this,” my mum said, not for the first time. I think I must have heard it at least once every week since I had started my training in earnest. “You’re such a smart girl. You should get yourself a normal job, find a nice young man, get married.” Thus proving that she never listened to a word I said.

Dan grinned at my scowl. “Yeah, Sis. You know what, we should post a video of you on YouTube, standing in front of a blackboard and writing fancy equations. Then you turn round, look at the camera, and say, ‘I like it hard!’”

I chuckled at this. “Do you think I could make a career in naked accountancy? ‘All figures exposed — except the real ones.’ How’s that for a slogan?”

Mum glared at both of us. “This isn’t a laughing matter! No one will ever take you seriously if you do this. And no man will ever love you. They’ll see you as a slut to be used and discarded.”

Yes, my mum called me a slut. While pretending not to, but still. Sighing, I looked at Dan. “Let’s go. This girl needs to train hard if she’s ever going to be as big a slut as you.”

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May 2017 Fairytales @AlinaMeridon

infinite haiku: silk caught in flies caught in silk ...The Enchanted Forest

After last month’s perverse and slightly disturbing foray into sexbottery, this month I wrote a lesbian fairytale romance between a bard and a warrior (hmm, what does that remind me of?), the warrior (a trans woman) being a knight on a quest and the bard being a singer of spells and a fugitive slave. Let’s have a blurb:

When fugitive slave Kari dares to enter the enchanted forest that her mother disappeared into years before, she stumbles across a wounded knight and uses her skill as a bard to heal. The pair find themselves trapped by the forest, and their only hope is to find the Silver Queen whose tears are the last hope for a dying princess.

Written in thirteen instalments (adding up to approximately 13000 words), it is written as a lesbian romance, but it’s also a fairytale fantasy with fairies and giants and other magical creatures.

  1. The Enchanted Forest: 1. Blood in the Water
  2. The Enchanted Forest: 2. What’s in a Name?
  3. The Enchanted Forest: 3. Hot Water
  4. The Enchanted Forest: 4. Waking Up
  5. The Enchanted Forest: 5. Knitting Needles
  6. The Enchanted Forest: 6. A Guide Book
  7. The Enchanted Forest: 7. Shining Armour
  8. The Enchanted Forest: 8. The Silver Knight
  9. The Enchanted Forest: 9. Dragon Slayer
  10. The Enchanted Forest: 10. Baby Blues
  11. The Enchanted Forest: 11. The Oracle
  12. The Enchanted Forest: 12. The Silver Queen
  13. The Enchanted Forest: Epilogue

I had fun trying to distinguish between different sorts of magic, with the bard singing rhymes to call on nature’s magic, while the wizard meddles with other-worldly stuff, and so on. Maybe one day I’ll explore this world and its magics properly. (The best books I’ve read for magical details are the trilogy by Lyndon Hardy.)

The Loveless Princess – An Aro/Ace Fairytale

Lilian Bodley’s The Loveless Princess, published May 2017, is a fairytale with an aromantic heroine. A heroine who is a princess, and a princess must love her prince. Everyone knows that…

Not all fairytales are romances. Fairytales often have very poor characterisation, and they’re mostly about a scenario and its consequences. There’s a lesson of one sort or another to be learned about life, and the obsession with true love winning the day is a very modern one. Cinderella is the classic modern fairytale (see Aromancing Cinderella) of the good-hearted girl being rescued by a prince, combining tropes such as True Love and Love Conquers All and Love at First Sight, leading eventually to a Happily Ever After.

But maybe it’s propaganda, much like the Catholic Church saying, “No matter that you suffer in this life, be good (and obey our authority) and you will be rewarded in the next.” Cinderella the fairytale is saying, “Be a good girl and obedient, and maybe one day a prince will carry you away to a life of bliss.”

It is the voice of patriarchy: “Be a good girl, and obedient, and you will be rewarded with marriage. Of course, if you are spectacularly pretty and have a godmother that can introduce you to high society, that may help you catch the eye of the prince – and a pair of stripper heels wouldn’t go amiss.”

Such is the power of our modern fairytale romance, that we demand it in real life too. Charles and Diana – how perfect! How tragic! How could he not love her? How dare he not love her!

The Loveless Princess starts with a fairytale wedding. Yes, it’s a political marriage, arranged without the happy couple ever actually meeting, but the expectation is that the handsome prince and the beautiful princess will fall truly, madly, deeply in love and be blissfully happy for the rest of their lives. If this were a fantasy instead of a fairytale, the bride’s mother would be saying, “Look, maybe you won’t love him, but try to make the best of it.”

But in a fairytale it has to be love. Even if he’s gay and she’s aromantic and the chance of either ever falling in love with the other is smaller than a fairy’s freckle.

It’s a little confusing the way The Loveless Princess uses “love” to mean essentially romantic attraction and “desire” to mean sexual attraction, because that gets in the way of a more subtle exploration of love and desire. On the other hand, this does reflect characters who barely understand themselves and feel utterly alone in a hostile world. I enjoyed the story, but I do feel it could have been done better. There is more world-building and character-development than a fairytale normally gets, but not enough to make it work as a fantasy.

Valentina Lisitsa playing Liszt's el Contrabandista while waiting for a train at St. PancrasAnd finally…

A couple of music videos for your entertainment: First, Valentina Lisitsa playing Liszt’s el Contrabandista while waiting for a train at St. Pancras.

Leontina Vaduva and Placido Domingo singing Caro Elisir from Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore at the Gold and Silver Gala at Covent GardenAnd second, Leontina Vaduva (a beautiful Romanian soprano whose voice I adore) and the incomparable Placido Domingo singing the delightful Caro Elisir from Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore at the Gold and Silver Gala at Covent Garden.

that I had such wine
to summon the wrath
of a goddess

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