Friday, March 30, 2007

Between the Reels

I know this is a blog generally about historically-set romantic erotica, so I won't blame you if your original thought about my subject line was: does she mean between square dance sets?

I'm actually referring to film reels here, because I was talking with a friend the other day about erotic scenes in movies...and how they're sometimes--actually, lots of times!--not the obvious let's-get-naked, show-it-all scenes. (With the obvious exception of Debbie Does Dallas, and flicks of that ilk.)

(Oh crap. I used the word flick. Now, Jane, put the whip away.)

Although I write explicit, leave-no-detail-to-the-imagination scenes in my erotic novels, some of my favorite events in movies (and books) are the ones with the between the lines (or, in this case, between the reels) implications.

Sometimes--many times--less is more.

Take that scene in Gone With the Wind--you know the one!--where Rhett sweeps Scarlett up into his arms, and that long, scarlet dress brushes the stairs as he carries her up there with strong, arrogant steps to show her just exactly what kind of a man he is. (Yes, that's me swooning over here!)

And then there are the more explicit scenes in PG-13 and R-rated films. Believe it or not, one of the scenes that sticks in my mind is the sex scene from Purple Rain! Of course, the last time I saw that was (ahem) many years ago when it was first released, so perhaps I was a bit naive about such things...but it does stick in my head as a very erotic scene. But help me! I can't think of any other ones that come to mind.

What about you? What's the one most understated, immensely erotic scene you remember from a film...and what's the one, in-your-face sexual portrayal from film?

Please jog my memory...I don't want to go down in the history of the Spiced Tea Party as having my favorite movie sex scene being Prince and Appollonia. How mortifying.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bad Girls

This month I got an email from a fan who basically asked me: Did people in the Regency period really behave that way? (That is, have mad rampant sex out of wedlock.)

"Hell, yes" was the short answer.

The longer answer goes something like this.... if Jane Austen could allude to it in her books, then not only did it happen, but it must have been known to unmarried women in order for them to write about it.

Yes, the venerable Jane Austen knew about sex out of wedlock -- and the associated consequences -- which, not to spoil, I address in SHOW ME. I can think of a number examples of her work right off the top of my head:

Lydia Bennett in Pride and Prejudice: runs off with Wickham and is found living in sin. Wickham is bribed to marry her, and Lydia is as happy as larry. As the saying goes. Completely oblivious that she'd just run her family's name through the mud.

Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park: gets married and then has a torrid affair and is packed off to somewhere in the country. Although I don't remember if there was an annulment or a divorce because of it. Maria behaved very badly.

Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park: a very badly behaved character. You practically get to witness her attempted seduction of the virtuous Edmund. A very bad sort -- and yet moving around in polite society. Which I think means, she's suspected of being a very bad sort -- but has yet to be caught out at it.

Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility: a foolish girl who causes scandal with the "Wickham" of the book and should have been banished from society, but of course does the right thing and becomes terribly ill and then Alan Rickman marries her. (Lucky girl.)

And I am not entirely unconvinced that Lucy Steele from Sense and Sensibility was the innocent she makes herself out to be. Why on earth else would you propose to someone if you didn't want to sleep with them? And, as I understand it, it was not uncommon for the bed to be shared prior to the wedding night -- although I think this may have been restricted to the lower classes.

OK, so Jane Austen is rampant with "bad girls" left and right. "Bad girls" in that they aren't the virtuous innocents we have been used to reading about in most modern day Regency romances. And now's our chance to write about them.

And from history, we have the ultimate bad girl -- Caroline Lamb, mad bad and dangerous to know. (OK, so she said it about Byron, but really, it applies to herself.) She ran about dressed in men's clothing, caused all sorts of scenes before Byron, not to mention being his lover, and yes, I think she was married when all this happened, but she certainly didn't behave like she was. Poor thing ended up "mad" and locked away at a family estate, I believe. Quite the Victorian moral ending to a wild life, non?

So, please, don't give me this guff about how unmarried women in the Regency were innocents. That's a load of romantic codswallop. If they haven't experienced it for themselves, they've certainly heard about it. Because there were plenty of bad girls out there then. We didn't invent this illicit sex stuff you know.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Behind the Mask

I was finishing up page proofs on my upcoming book Blood Rose, and realized that masks are a sexual ‘toy’ that pop up frequently in my stories. In my Regency set erotic romances, the heroines wear them. Since the sisters in the first two books end up sneaking into orgies and sexual scavenger hunts, and they are proper young ladies with good reputations, they have to wear a disguise. However, each heroine finds that being masked gives her a lot of freedom—each heroine suddenly has the chance to act out fantasies, to escape the restraints of proper behavior to be wild and wanton.

The mask with the red feathers is an example of a Venetian style mask. Here’s the site, if you’d like to view more: (Please note, I’ve posted this link for illustration purposes only. I haven’t actually dealt with the store.)

I have to admit that keeping my heroines masked did prove awkward at times, and I was certain that the ladies really longed to be able to cast off their disguises and be honest about their identities. But my books are set in the Regency and scandal was a real fear for a young woman. Scandal would not only ruin a woman, but also the reputations (and futures) of her other sisters. Remember how horrified Lizzie is in Pride and Prejudice, when her younger sister Lydia runs off with Wickham?

While I was working on these books, I discovered a store in my hometown that sells beautiful Venetian style masks. These were beautiful, made of papier maché and painted with beautiful vivid colors. My attention was quickly caught by the men’s masks that feature long, beak-like noses. (At the side is an example of that type of mask from Wikipedia: ) So in Blood Rose, the heroes are the ones masked, and they put those noses to intriguing uses for the heroine.

Personally, I’ve never worn a mask other than the cardboard and stretchy elastic style, but I fell so in love with these lovely Venetian ones that I’m thinking of splurging on a beautiful one for the Romantic Times convention. How about you? Have you donned a disguise to spice up your love life by adding the aura of mystery and fantasy?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


There has been some talk already on this site about classic erotic drawings.

One of the classics for the late 1700’s is Thomas Rowlandson. He created some rather tame images of landscapes and farm scenes. However, what he is well known for is his erotic prints.

What I love about his work is that the men and women he depicts are not the god and goddesses normally displayed in art. They are the everyday man.

Some of my favorites.
The Harem

Just look at the man sitting there with a raging hard on with all those women to choose from. Man. He must be in heaven. And the women are displaying all their charms to him, buttocks, breasts, and cunnys in hope that he will pick them to sate his vigor.

The French Dancers At Morning Rehearsal.

This image is filled with wanton frolic. The man in the middle has stood at attention as he plays his fiddle for of the curvy dancer to the left. The man in the back is futtering the one woman with the hat on, while playing the fiddle. Hum… can any man do that? Play the fiddle while diddling? I wonder what the music would sound like?

He also did this image… Family on a journey laying the dust.

I have never quite understood the sexual turn on with urine, well beyond it being a form of humiliation and in that case it is the humilitation not the urine itself that is the turn on.

Quite a bit of erotic literature from the late 1800’s is filled with this. Young men getting hard while watching a woman pee. Maybe someone here can help explain the sexual arousal element in this?

The golden shower is also mentioned often in Story Of The Eye. If you have not read this classic… you should... This book has some major fetishes in it. Sadomasochism, underage orgies, golden showers, necrophilia, and eggs. It is quite a mixture meant to shock.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Dazed and confused

A short and appallingly self-involved post from me today.

But I have an excuse. Because on Sunday I got a phone call telling me that The Slightest Provocation was nominated as a finalist for the RITA, in the long historical category.

(Which, if you don't know, is Romance Writers of America's peer-judged industry award for published authors. There's lots more information about the RITA, and the Golden Heart (for unpublished authors) at the RWA Web Site, including the categories and all the finalists. And there's also a thought-provoking critique and discussion (hundreds of comments) of the RITA at Smart Bitches.)

And no, I didn't expect it.

I mean, yes I know that a nominee is supposed to say that she didn't expect it. But you'll have to believe me in this case. In fact, Jane Lockwood can attest to the fact that I made her promise not to tell a soul until I vetted the call from the very kind and intelligent-sounding woman who said she was an RWA board member, but you never know...

...because part of me really did believe that it was all a hoax, dreamed up by the popular girls in my high school, who had (I imagined) maintained contact through the decades while they took their time perfecting the dastardly plan of impersonating an RWA board member and calling me at 1:00 PM EST, March 25, 2007.

Which definitely sounds more than a little bit insane and paranoid, as I read it over now. But high school never quite ends for some of us.

In any case, I plead guilty to being insane and paranoid, giddy, surprised, and astonishingly happy and thrilled. On Sunday I filled the kitchen with smoke when I burned lunch; we figured we'd be safer getting out of the house, walking on the beach, going to see a matinee of Music and Lyrics (very charming, I'm a sucker for underachiever heroes) and eating dinner out.

And while I haven't burned anything today and am capable at least of blogging -- concentrating on the the book I'm currently writing still feels a bit beyond me. Who knew that a RITA nomination would feel sort of like those times one is prepping for or recovering from a minor medical procedure and gets to lie around eating soft food and watching DVDs of Rome?

Which I just might do...

I'll come up with a real post next time, I promise!! But right now you must excuse me while I collapse into another fit of unseemly giggles, superfluous exclamation points, and entirely self-indulgent ellipses...

Web site launch!

I just wanted to announce that my Web site is now up and fully functional...including a little excerpt from my August-release Unmasqued.

You can find me at!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Revealing myself

I love reading all the posts on this blog, both from my fellow crumpets and the readers. I'm also quite happy to write about interesting and perhaps edgy topics because this is a good place to be able to speak one's mind.

But when I read about my fellow writers getting up in front of people and 'reading their work out loud' I kind of freak out. I'm really not sure if I'd have the nerve to do that. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not ashamed of what I write and I quite proudly tell people that my books won't be to everyone's taste because the subject matter is 'edgy and spicy and out there'-(so I've been told anyway!)

The problem for me comes more because I'm genuinely surprised that people read my books and have a reaction to them. I write fantasy and somehow when it's on the page it becomes other people's fantasy and they invest their emotions in it and give me feedback. It's an interesting circle. I forget the reading public when I write and forget that the themes I explore are sometimes dark and erotic and forbidden.

Mostly feedback is good and I love it when a reader 'gets' my characters and wants to know what will happen to them next. On the other hand, I've had the odd person suggest that I'm sinful writing such smut and that God will get me-but they'll pray for me anyway. Who would think that letting people share a part of my imagination could provoke a reaction?

Obviously, I need to get out of my own little world more and realize that because what I write is out there in black and white that to some people it represents me and my morals. That still surprises me. No one accuses thriller writers of being murderers but erotic romance writers have to have done everything in their books? Mostly I laugh when people suggest that but sometimes it makes me wonder how people who've never met me see me.

I'm fascinated to hear everyone else's take on this. Maybe it's just me!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jane on Jane

When we first started this blog I made the rash promise of talking about Jane Eyre, because it's such an important book in the evolution of women's fiction, the alpha and omega of romance.

This book has the most kickass opening sentence of any nineteenth-century (or later) novel:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

Boom, wham bam, right in the reader's face--a challenge, that you might have to put a bit of effort into finding out who "we" are, and where they are, and so on. At the same time it's a statement of something that is not possible, not allowed, the theme, that for me, epitomizes Jane Eyre. It's the story of a woman who is denied affection, family, and love, yet triumphs at the end of the novel, in love and married, wealthy, and...happy?

I've always found Jane Eyre an angry character, all that passion seething away under her ladylike exterior. When I first read it as a child I loved the beginning sequences with the Reeds and then at Lowood School, and even now, I'm sorry when she leaves. It was all that discipline... and frankly, I've always thought of Rochester, with his infantilization of Jane and the mind games (remember when he dresses up as a gypsy? Never mind the mad wife in the attic) as a bit of a jerk. I've had far more fruitful sexual fantasies about Mr. Brocklehurst and Lowood.

I played around a bit with Jane Eyre and wrote an erotic novella, Reader I Married Him (another of the great lines from the book) in which Rochester was the one chained up in the attic and Jane was the one playing games. You can follow the link to read the PG beginning on my website. One editor at a major NY publishing house sent me and my agent a rejection that sounded like I'd reduced her to tears: I don't want Jane to be a slut.

So what's your take on Jane Eyre? Icon, potential slut, courageous and principled heroine, or something else?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spice For Your Tea?

The name of our site got me to thinking about what it is we'd want to "spice" our tea with, should we be engaging in an evening of...well, let's not beat around the bush (heh!) here, gals...we're all adults.

...For an evening of lurid, luscious, non-stop sex! least for the characters in our books.

So I did a quick Google (doesn't that sound dirty? Or is my mind in the gutter? I'm going to Google you. Will you Google me? Can I watch while you Google me?)

Okay, sorry.

Anyway, I did a quick Google (*giggle*) for aphrodisiacs, and found a common Chinese drug, complete with its own advertising copy. Opium, apparently, is the most famous of Chinese aphrodisiacs, because, according to the Jin P'ing Mei,

Take but a speck of this, set it upon you, then
Rush like a whirlwind to the bridal chamber
The first engagement will leave you full of vigour;
The second, even stronger than before.
Though twelve exquisite beauties, all arrayed in scarlet, wait your onset

You may enjoy each one, according to your fancy ...
And so on and so forth ~
"Ten women in one night will be as one to you."

Sounds promising to me!

And then there is the direct translation of Jin Pi'ng Mei, which is a Chinese novel of explicit sexuality, aka, erotica. "The Plum in the Golden Vase."

That is erotic. Makes me want to quiver. How delicate and lovely that sounds!

So...fellow authors, is it oysters, chocolate, or opium for your heroes and heroines?

And as a reader, does it bother you if the characters in the book indulge in a bit of hashish before embarking on their orgies? (As they do in The Count of Monte Cristo!)

Do tell!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Erotic Reading Right Out Loud

I’m veering away from the historical discussion (although after a recent post, I’m ready to chant “nub, nub, nub!” just to get Jane going) and into another erotic realm.

Last week, Lacy and I (and some others) participated in an erotic reading at Babeland in Seattle. It was the second time I’ve ever written my work aloud, and the first time it’s been the erotic stuff. It was a lot of fun, listening to the readings and looking around the store at the toys available. (If you haven’t guessed, Babeland is an adult store.) Drinkies afterward was fun too but if I shared any of that, Lacy and the others would have to kill me, I’m sure.

(Yes, that's me, reading in front of floggers and harnesses and blindfolds, oh my!)

And yes, I did buy a toy -- the iBuddy, in fact, which you can plug your iPod or other mp3 player and vibrate in time to the music. I haven’t tried it out yet. I mean, I can’t call it an excuse for research, as I’ve already written the book where the modern-day heroine takes bag of toys back to the Regency period. (ONE MORE TIME, out in December.)

So I won’t. *wicked grin*

Back to the erotic reading. There were six of us rotating through the evening and it made me realize some things that are incredibly important to reading something erotic aloud.

For one thing, you can’t get off on what you’re reading because you’re in a room packed with people.

I glanced up occasionally to gauge response, but really couldn’t tell. One guy left during my reading and came back later, but I’ve no idea if that means his cell phone went off or... well, something else.

So here are some tips to reading erotica aloud and in public:

  1. It is a story, like any other, and should be read as if you were telling it, not reading it: with interest and intensity. Vary the cadences of your voice. I found when I practiced at home, I was in a monotone, so I made an effort to brighten it up a bit. (No idea whether this worked.)
  2. Use slightly different voices for different characters: for example, I went slightly higher for the heroine, and slightly lower for the hero.
  3. Remember to breathe. (Almost forgot that one the second time up.) Pause between sentences, paragraphs and so on.
  4. Given the language, treat explicit words as any other garden variety word -- unless its in dialogue and then say the dialogue how your character says it.
  5. Explain the scene set up before you start. (Hmm, maybe I should’ve listed that one first.) It helps the listeners get more involved with the story if they know what’s at stake.
  6. Revel in the wit. Relish telling the story. Grin at appropriate moments and pause for laughter.
  7. (And I learned this from observing one of the other authors) Schmooze your audience during the breaks.

I’ve written a scene in SHOW ME (which also has a fair amount of “historical” sex toys in it) where the heroine reads aloud to the hero. But he’s touching her at the same time, so it was definitely a different demographic, reading aloud to a room filled with people.

Monday, March 19, 2007

On Language...

This weekend I took part in a national television quiz show. Now this one was all in good fun, with good-natured competition and lots of humor. No one was called the "weakest link" and no one was humiliated. And it was all about language.

Called "Test the Nation—Watch Your Language", this was the Canadian version of a show that’s been a hit in over 20 countries, including Britain. Six teams are pitted against each other—ours included Romance Authors, English Teachers, and Comedians amongst others. We Romance Authors were a dedicated bunch—we set up a loop, studied hard (I read the dictionary on my flight there), and built a strong, enthusiastic team.

So did we win, in a show about language? Well, I can’t reveal the results yet—the show will be aired on CBC, one of Canada’s national networks, in the fall. I loved the chance to see what happens behind the scenes on TV, and was amazed at how smoothly the taping went when 250 people had to be organized. I even had a chance to be in the spotlight—I was asked to explain how romance crosses the line into erotic romance. I had to plan the answer for that, considering the show will be shown at 8:00 p.m. I pointed out that in erotic romance the language is frank, and I don't use euphemisms (though I didn't get the chance to wax on about great historical terms...)

While traveling home, I also had the chance to check out the airport bookstores, and saw Pam’s The Slightest Provocation on display, face out. Very exciting! I also noticed other covers that featured historical paintings of women, in the style of TSP’s cover. I love that look—they draw me to pick up the book and read it. I also noticed a "classics" section, but the cover for Vanity Fair, in an ironical move, was a shot from the recent movie.

In regard to covers, I posted the one for my upcoming book Blood Rose, above. Yep, he’s a bare-chested guy, but I like him—I like the graphical quality of the picture, and I admit I’m a sucker for male hipbones.

In other news, I was featured (as an erotic romance author) in the major newspaper for my hometown, which is also Canada’s national capital. It was exciting to come home to see my picture on the front page, and to find an article on me in the Arts and Books Section. Here’s a link to the article if you’re interested:
(This is my first newspaper article, so I hope you’ll bear with me.)

All in all, this weekend, I was intrigued to see how mainstream erotica and erotic romance has become.

And what about the ladies?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

After all this discussion about man titty, clinch covers and what sells a book, I started looking through my collection of Ackermann fashion plates. It occurred to me that most of the ladies portrayed were very young and rather thin for their time, rather like the models in our current fashion magazines.

We know from many of the contemporary portraits that the ideal for Regency women was definitely plumper, rounder and softer. In complete contrast to today, being chubby meant you were wealthy enough to eat well and that was seen as beautiful. It's also interesting that most society painters tended to paint variations on the same round face, be-curled hair and rosebud mouth on their sitters, so it's still difficult to tell whether these portraits were simply meant to flatter or are a true representation of how people really were. Not everyone wanted to be remembered 'warts and all' like Oliver Cromwell.

Back to my picture. This one is simply entitled "Evening Dress' 1820 but it's so much more. A real touch of subliminal advertising. Yes, the dress is beautiful but look at what she is holding in her hand and the coy, considering expression on her face. To me, this fashion plate is saying 'buy this dress and you'll be having a secret assignation straight after the ball!' Or is she simply reading over her shopping list for Safeway the next day? Somehow I doubt it. I wish I knew more about the language of fans because I'm sure the way she holds her fan under her chin has something to add to the puzzle. All I know is that she's anticipating a good night! What do you think?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Covers and Consternation: a controversy continued...

... or further thoughts on Jane's mantitty post.

Maybe I find myself so singularly unmoved by those perfect-pecs-and-abs combos adorning romance covers these days because I live in San Francisco -- where not only is the look mass-produced in the gym, but where it's done so well and so often by so many gay men.

While as for clinch covers, I usually find them a bit clammy to the... touch? Well, to the eye, anyway, because among all the clinching there isn't really much touching, is there? I think that what creeps me out is that clinch cover artists are still using techniques from the heyday of the bodice-ripper, when clothes might have fallen away but hands were kept visibly out of trouble: nobody was ever actually doing anything that could even distantly be construed as heavy petting -- because that would be pornographic. And not romantic.

Rather than pull up an example from clinch cover hell, though, I offer instead this dreadful photo that was in Vanity Fair a few years ago, of San Francisco's cute mayor Gavin Newsom and his then-wife, Kimberley.

Doesn't it look like a clinch cover? Same awkward head and neck position, same extreme stiffness and rectitude.

What could the photographer -- or his subjects, for that matter -- have been thinking?

But there's something else, something snarkier and more difficult to explain, that bothers me about both the clinch and to the male torso cover.

Hang in with me while I try to think it through. My starting point is that I don't think it's the job of a book cover to "illustrate" what's going on inside the book of fiction. I think rather that a cover should try to present an image that corresponds in some way to what the author is trying to get at, but not by drawing a picture of it. Rather, it should be a graphic shot at the same idea , atmospher -- the same world -- that the author's trying to get at verbally.

But while the torso covers are certainly suggestive rather than illustrative, they're too generic -- hey, it wasn't for nothing that we used to call the gay men who sported those cookie-cutter perfect bodies "Castro clones."

One wants an image that suggests a way of looking at the world, but is neither a Pavlovian signal nor an illustration. Certainly I don't think of the cover of The Slightest Provocation as a picture of my heroine Mary Penley.

I think, rather, that the painting it was taken from (Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of the Countess of Blessington) was a highly successful image of a beautiful and glamorous woman as the Regency would see her. Which is not exactly how we see a beautiful and glamorous woman (though the Countess is certainly still plenty easy on our 21st century eyes). She's just enough of her time and not of ours, to shoot a little spark of mystery, excitement, unfamiliarity, and disjunction through the gap between eras and sensibilities.

Which is the same spark -- well, in this case it's a heavy jolt -- that I got from the Ingres nude that Jane Lockwood posted recently. Like Lawrence's Lady Blessington, he's great to look at. But also like her, he's fascinating partly because I don't understand him fully.

Here he is again -- I hope I'm not boring any of you by bringing him back once more. He's an image from a time that's not ours, but that we can dream and stretch our imaginations (or, oh... our whatevers...) upon. As to what masculinity meant, how a man might try to represent it in his posture and expression.

Because -- and here's the difficult, and for me the interesting part. When we write an erotic romance, we begin with physical attraction and then we put it through the wringer of the disparities of power and sensibility that make love so difficult. The sex scenes aren't only entertainment (though they'd better also be that); they're also stages in the progress of this struggle. And when we write an erotic historical, we draw upon different views of power and sensibility than the ones we negotiate in our day-to-day lives.

So when we write an erotic historical romance, I don't think I want the physical sex to be 100% recognizable, familiar, and of the same worldview as Cosmo's last 30 or 50 or 70 Hints on How to Drive Him Wild in Bed?

Because although we're describing the same basic equipment, because I can't believe that it felt entirely the same two hundred years ago, when social beliefs and customs were so different. Hey, it didn't feel the same to me -- before and after I'd read Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Not that it's so easy to portray these subtle changes in intimate psychology. Myself, I'm usually going for a reasonably accurate themepark sort of rendition. But I do try to imagine what it might have been like to feel -- to be -- beautiful, strong, desirable, or powerful in a time when these qualities had different meanings than they have now.

Because -- just possibly and to bring it all back home once more -- I have this other set of suspicions: that I and we might we actually enjoy seeing ourselves and our times, through the shifting, shimmering veil of other eroticisms and aesthetics.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Caves, Women, and Apes Oh MY!

Night Of the Taking was heavily influenced on a book I read on Hellfire clubs. I am still so fascinated by them…

The Hellfire Club that I want to talk about is the one that was at Medmenham Abbey on the River Thames. This club was founded by Sir Francis Dashwood.(Black and White Print to the right. I love the image of the woman on the rock before him.)

The members called themselves such things as “the brother hood of st. Francis of Wycombe” or “the Monks of Medmenham”. They referred to themselves as brothers. They wore robes, pretending to be monks. There are rumors that they had an Ape or Monkey that was in some form or way used in the rituals that they conducted at the beginning of each meeting. The earl of sandwich upon seeing this monkey stated him to be the devil. This caused all sorts of rumors to fly about Satan worship within the abbey walls. The Monks of Medmenham’s motto was “Do what thou wilt” a saying made famous from Francois Rabelais.(image of the man with hat.) Many through the ages have based clubs and occults on that motto.

The brothers, blindfolded woman, either prostitutes or ladies of upper class and had them brought in by carriage to the Abbey for their enjoyment, calling them Nuns. The blind fold held two purposes to hide the way to the Abbey and to disguise the upper-class woman from the town folk they passed. It was also rumored that any children that were born because of hellfire rituals were raised at the abbey or in the town and were put into service there.

The abbey itself was said to have a library filled with erotica but no one really knows for sure. There was a painting of the god Harpocrates, finger to lips, which presided over the refectory and a portrait of Henry VIII's where his eyes were pasted over with paper. Both symbols of not to talk or mention what you see at the Abbey. The chapter room is the room that no one dared talk about.

John Wilkes stated this about the chapter room, a room that, though he was a member, he never was permitted to enter… "No profane eye has dared to penetrate into the English Eleusinian mysteries of the chapter-room, where the monks assembled on all solemn occasions, the more secret rites were performed and libations poured forth in much pomp to the BONA DEA." Legend portrays the Monks as indulging in sadomasochistic orgies with in this room. Yumm.

No one knows quite what really happened at the Abbey. The records were destroyed and members were sworn not to breathe a word about the goings on. John Wilkes had a trial attempted against him for seditious libel against the King in early 1763. During a search a version of The Essay on Woman was discovered set up on the press of a printer whom Wilkes had almost certainly used. This was the only bit of information on the goings on that escaped the Abbey and it was used against Wilkes destroying him as a public figure of the time.

Medmenham also had caves some say also based on the teachings of Rabelais which are still in existence today…

For a bit of fun… you can check out the website for the caves of west Wycombe

It is said that the Hellfire Club held elaborate parties here as well as performed rituals of sexual delight. Some say the rituals were more of the satanic vein, but there is no true evidence of that.

I found what I read about this specific Hellfire and the lengths that brothers went through to enjoy themselves,women, and wine, to do what they will absolutely fascinating.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

So...what do you call It?

It's always a source of bafflement to me that whereas men have names (many silly and highly inappropriate) names for their favorite body part, women don't go in for naming what they're proud to own. Why is there no appropriate and pleasing nickname for the clitoris or female genitalia in general? Is it because men either didn't know, were threatened, or chose to ignore it (and yes, I've encountered all three)? Or do we operate from the supreme confidence that we know what it is, where it is, and how it works, so does it need to be defined further?

And if you're writing historicals it's even worse. About a year ago our own Colette asked me for a suggestion and I suggested tickler. I'd been researching online and an etymologist suggested a German word, dating from the early eighteenth century, that translated as such. I thought it was pretty good. Colette's editor then promptly removed them. We'll see if mine make it through (same house, different editor) in Forbidden Shores (Signet Eclipse 2007).

Turning to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, things go rapidly downhill. You're left with the impression that Georgian gentlemen were just too squeamish to get down there and have a good look. What sort of idiot would nickname a woman's genitalia the cauliflower? Mindboggling, that such ignorance of both the human body and the wonders of the vegetable world should go hand in hand (unless, of course, cauliflowers looked radically different then).

And if you don't want to use the familiar one-syllable terms or you're not into writing about silken velvet dewy crimson sheaths etc., there are some truly horrible euphemisms--womanly passage is one that makes me shudder. How unsexy can you sounds like the sort of place where you'd hang the gardening gloves and knitting.

So what terms do you use? What throws you out of the moment when you're reading?

Monday, March 12, 2007

You won't find this on your calendar.

I love to buy calendars with famous paintings, and I often buy extras when they go on sale to use for "Art Appreciation" presentations at my son's school.

One of my favorite styles of art is the Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the late 19th century--these are the precursors to the movie and celebrity posters that often grace the walls of teen bedrooms...and Sports Illustrated swimsuit-types of photos that one finds more often than not behind the scenes in mechanic garages. In short, the portraits done in the ukiyo-e style were actors and actresses (mostly actors) in the kabuki theater--again, the celebrities of the day.

These were images that were easily affordable and thus available for the "common man" to purchase and hang in his/her home. Katsushi Hokusai was one of the most well-known ukiyo-e artists, and I know you've all seen some of his work, for he's famous for his Thirty Images of Mount Fuji.

However, he also did some shunga, or erotic, images in the woodblock print style, and I'll never forget the day in my collegiate History of Art class when this image popped up on the screen:

Yeah. Good thing the lights were turned low, 'cause I certainly wasn't expecting that!

The shunga images were often put in the infamous "pillow books" that were shared with courtesans and their customers. And well-to-do parents used the, er, shall we say, more conventional images as a sort of sex education tool for their children.

I rather doubt they'd be including this famous image by Hokusai, known as The Fisherman's Wife's Dream. It happens to be one of my favorites.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Other Colette

I've been continuing to muse about the mantitty thing, and how easy it is for an image to become drained of content, reduced to a cipher (in Jane’s word), and pressed into service as a Pavlovian signal to a well-trained market segment.

Which has led me to think how popular erotic writing has been received in other cultures, through other traditions.

And to reread, after some years, the essay called "The Gynaeceum," that Dominique Aury (the Frenchwoman who wrote Story of O) devoted to the work of her countrywoman Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette.

First, though, a little bit of background about this Colette, who, by the time she died at 80, had had three husbands, male and female lovers both, received a host of literary honors, and had written enough to fill 80 volumes. When she died in 1954, she received the first state funeral the French Republic had ever given a woman -- not to speak of one who'd devoted her brilliance and prodigious energies to writing about sex and love.

Her sensibility is as foreign to our present-day romance novel ethos as you can get. But how much we could learn from her -- especially with Aury as our guide.

For example, about writing about physical beauty. Colette rarely stopped at hair and eye color; she didn’t depend upon catchall words like “curves” for women, or “sculpted” for men. There's also "the texture and glow of the skin, the slowness or rapidity of gestures, the quivering of eyelids, the redness of the face, the smell of perspiration." We see these women with the eyes of a male lover, but also with those of another woman, a "rival and confederate" might see them, expending their healthy solid energies to make the best of what they've got.

There are few happy endings here. For Colette, love is as ephemeral as youth and necessary as air; the wiser and more successful of her female characters hoard their jewels, bank their money, invest in real estate; a secure, supportive, lifetime romantic love relationship is almost an oxymoron. "Gigi" - where the rich man falls in love and marries the would-be courtesan - might be her best-known story, especially in the U.S. But it’s unlike any other she wrote.

Colette’s men are rarely heroic. They may be handsome, worldly, glamorous, but they usually have a little bit of the ridiculous about them - as well they might (and the stories are clear about this), in a world that accords them so much unearned privilege. And so, as Aury says, one of Colette's women will "laugh in his face... give him laxatives, make a list of his inadequacies... make fun of his timidity and are astonished at neither his stupidity nor his meanness," even as as she yields, "disheveled and half undressed, to the scoundrel with whom she's in love."

It’s a world for realists. A romantic sensibility will be shattered; almost no one acts on principle. As her biographer, Judith Thurman, put it, "There was not an idea that could carry Colette away, or a sensation that couldn't." Life isn’t fair, endings probably won’t be happy, but no one wrote as compellingly about what Thurman called “the secrets of the flesh.” It’s a world where you don’t doubt for a moment that nothing is more necessary than pleasure.

In fact, it's a world that would be unbearable if it weren't for the solid abundance of the simple, physical pleasures it yields -- sex, and all the rest of it as well. Which is another thing we could learn from Colette, which is how to show our characters at home:

Where lodgings are concerned it must by admitted that Colette's heroines can make a home of anything, even little furnished ground-floor flats near the outer boulevards... horrible studios perched up in the sky....

Aury writes of "the dressingrooms, or bathrooms, reassuring, comforting places, aggressively clean, white, arms, severe, but full of complicity, as hairdressing salons are full of complicity, severe, comforting, and for the same reasons." What kitchens there are "are always orderly and one obviously enters them with pleasure either to open a tin of fish and make cheese sandwiches... to iron a blouse."

I want to go there. I love being there. I'm in awe of her power to create this world, where, as Aury concludes, there is

...nothing, no halo, no secret [to distort] them. Only her accurate glance, only her accurate words shed a blow over the most ordinary things; morning rain, well-washed stuff, fair hair, beads of sweat on a lip, the ashes of a wood fire.

Which is why, though I find her daunting in her hard-headedness and elusive in her attitudes toward happiness, I always return to the writings of this brilliant sensualist, who wrote with her appetites and derived what Aury called "a modest morality" from it, and whose world will never drain and diminish to cipher.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

For the curious amongst us

How on earth can I follow a post about mantitty?
In my quest for accuracy in all things erotically historical, I did a bit of research about the condom, which I thought I'd share with you lovely readers. Apparently, all my historicals are obsessed with the idea of fertility and contraception. I didn't notice this until one of my critique partners helpfully pointed it out. Thing is, she was right. Perhaps it's the result of being brought up as a Catholic and having four kids.

Anyway, let me share some fascinating details I found at the BBC h2g2 site, which is a bit like a mini Wikipedia, so potentially inaccurate (g), but bear with me! The ancient Roman men solved the problem of contraception by using goats bladders. The Egyptian used linen sheaths, the Chinese, oiled silk-all fairly predictable until we get to the Japanese- who used leather and tortoiseshell-ouch.

The earliest proof of animal gut condoms discovered in England was during excavations at Dudley Castle in the West Midlands where the garderobe (the loo) was known to have been filled in 1647. Now personally, this leads me back to Jane's sausages-how could they tell the difference? And if they could-do I really want to know the details?

Anyone brought up in the UK probably watched a children's show called 'Blue Peter' which was kind of a junior chat show, educational, sometimes funny and not to be missed. They were very keen on diy projects such as make your Mother an xmas gift using an old can, sticky back plastic and a tube of glue, kind of thing-but I digress. Here is my very own diy project for those of you willing to make a considerable effort.

How to make a sheep gut condom (1824)

Soak a sheep's intestine caeca in water for a number of hours, then turn inside out, and macerate them again in weak alkaline, changed every 12 hours. Scrape them carefully to remove the mucous membrane, leaving the peritoneal and muscular coats, and expose them to the vapour of burning brimstone. Then wash them in soap and water, inflate them, dry them and cut to a length of seven to eight inches. Finally, border the open end with a ribbon to tie round the base of the penis, and before use soak the condom in water to make it supple.

(See? it's easy when you know how!)

The two most famous London condom sellers in the mid nineteenth century were Mrs Phillips and Mrs Perkins, who produced competing pamphlets to promote their shops. Mrs Phillips also had a wholesale company on Half Moon Street off the Strand. For those who could not afford the services of Mrs Phillips and Mrs Perkins, Miss Jenny did a roaring trade in washed, second-hand condoms.

Oh Miss Jenny, how could you?

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Case Against Mantitty

Who can gaze upon the towering, waxed, buffed, oiled glory, proud results of many hours spent at the gym and ten minutes with photoshop, and remain unmoved?


I don't get it. Why do publishers inflict these monstrous creatures upon the reading public? Why do they think that women find all that shiny muscular hairlessness sexy? Or rather, why is this presented to us as the only sort of male sexual ideal; because we all know that there are many different sorts of bodies and bodies alone do not sexiness make. That highly developed musculature belongs to the gym and if you're writing historicals, that's a bit of a problem.

Those of us who like skinny geeks, men who read, or a bit of chest hair poking out from the open shirtneck are plain out of luck where cover art is concerned. But I think it's also part of the phenomenon of readers, writers, and publishers attempting to define the genre and thereby narrowing the definition. I was at an event last year at RWA National where an editor told us, with the fervent passion of an old time revival preacher, that male-male-female was hot!!! whereas female-female-male wasn't. And it wasn't this particular pronouncement that made my heart sink, it was that already rules were being created in our brave new world, to go along with thou shalt find the depilated, muscled and waxed sexy covers.

I love Ingres' nude male torso studies (he did some very fine erotic sketches too), and this gent has about as much definition as you're going to get outside of the gym. Not quite six-pack abs. No visible chest hair for that matter but he looks so human, so full of energy and poised grace, it doesn't matter. You can imagine this man throwing his clothes back on to fence, or dance, or ride. Or losing the clothes again to make love.

Now, that's a hero.

Jane, reminding you The Other One is featured Noodler of the Month at

Friday, March 2, 2007

Those Dirty Classics

I really enjoyed Jane's post about the sexual undercurrents in The Secret Garden. As a child, I'd read the book, but of course *blinks innocently* those erotic undercurrents were far above me; and the same for many of the other classics I've read.

However, having just finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo (which is the subject of my next book), I have to say--there isn't any subtlety there. Nosirreeee.

We've got Nubian princesses, hashish parties, orgies, and lesbians--not to mention poisonings and suicides and illicit love affairs. *rubs hands gleefully* I can't wait to get into this story!

That got me to thinking: there are some classics, like Monte Cristo and Phantom, that lend themselves to the erotic. (Thank goodness, or I'd be out of a job!) But there are others that definitely don't.

Such as Pride & Prejudice. I'm sorry, I just can't imagine touching any Austen novel with anything remotely like an erotic brush. (However, the Bronte sisters are a different story!)

And I don't think that even I could get dirty with Dickens, although there are some possibilities--but I think there are too many children in these books. It makes me feel a little squicky to think of having David Copperfield do the down and dirty.

Nor can I see it with Little Women or the Little House on the Prairie books. It's just not there.

But give me The Scarlet, yeah, I think I could have a lot of fun with Hester Prynne. And she'd enjoy it too! Think of the possibilities!

Alice in Wonderland has lovely erotic overtones, too--all those dreamy sequences, and the falling into holes, and the laudanum. Even though it, like The Secret Garden, is a children's book, that sense of sensuality and sexuality is still there.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

What She Craves Officially Releases Today.

This book I wrote just before my life changed drastically-- divorce.

A good friend of mine Eva Gale, who writes for Phaze, kept pushing me to try to write an erotic piece. There was a contest coming up at Phaze and she suggested I enter it. The piece I wrote for this contest is Night Of the Taking the third novella in WHAT SHE CRAVES.

I never entered it in the contest. I had gotten such good feed back from my crit group on this novella, I wondered if I could pitch it to NY. I got up the nerve and contacted a friend of a friend who is an agent( She doesn’t do steamy). She had in the past told me that if I ever wanted guidance she would be more than willing to look at something for me. I wanted to get her opinion on the story. To see if it was strong enough to even consider sending to NY. She read it and said it was an excellent story. That I should talk to a friend of hers who was an agent of steamy romance and erotica and see what she thought about it.

That agent is now my agent, Roberta Brown of the Brown Literary Agency. Roberta pitched my story to Kensington, and with in 36 hours from initially contacting my friend the agent, I had my very first book deal. My head was spinning. I couldn’t believe it.

That is how WHAT SHE CRAVES came to be…

The stories themselves all had different influences. Night Of the Taking I wrote right after reading two history books on Hell Fire Clubs of the 1700’s.I was fascinated by the rituals and ceremonies that were used in most of them and I decided to incorporate something similar into that story.

Next I wrote Lust Vow the first story in the book. I had recently read a very good book TAKING POSITIONS about Giulio Romano’s I modi (or positions) and Pietro Aretino’s pomes that he wrote to accompany the engravings.There are 16 positions in all.
Anyway, I thought it would be interesting for a group of men to put on these positions in a show as some of the brothels did in the 17-18th centuries. I used position #14 in my story.

CheckMate… the idea came partially from my life. I have a day job where I have to call the shots and unfortunately I was also in a relationship where by necessity I was forced to call all the shots. I hated it! So I thought about what it would have been like to have been a courtesan during the regency period that had the same issue, but for entirely different reasons. And so Cora was born, a courtesan that is a Domme by profession, who in her core, her nature, just wants and needs to be submissive.

That is how WHAT SHE CRAVES was born.

My book is available now at your local book store or on line at Amazon, Barns and Noble, or any other online book store.

Oh and I have a Book to give away! So go ahead and post a comment in this thread and I will use a random generator and give away a copy of WHAT SHE CRAVES at the end of today. Good Luck!

Hugs and Kisses,