Bright Shadows: Book 4 of ‘The Succubus’


~Yes, that long. Despite the heroic efforts of your family, there is only a finite amount of power I can draw off at any one time. And simply being here in your mind is a drain. I could do it earlier, I suppose. But the downside would be I would wake up in my own body all but helpless, with no power of my own. I would be as weak as a human, and have to build my reserves up all over again. I’ve gone through that once already in the last few weeks. I’m not going to do it twice.~

Mmhmm, she muttered distractedly. Was there a twisted muscle there, right above the red patch? Or some sort of knot in her back? She reached around with both hands to massage the spot. She wasn’t sore, but-

The voice in her head held a note of warning. ~Rachel, maybe you should leave that-~

It was at that moment when the tail erupted from the base of her spine.

Bright Shadows

Book four of this paranormal succubi possession, close relations, and now strangely Buffy-esque tale takes a strange turn with a metamorphosis…and an actual tail springing into the mix. This entry goes full-on into ‘urban fantasy’ mode where the possession aren’t just subtle, and the presence of demons walking the Earth isn’t just something limited to lore and fantasy.

I am subtly being reminded of the above under-rated movies, where possession and demons and all sorts of wickedness happening just under the surface happens with no thought or care put into the concepts ‘moral’ or ‘right.’ Did I just put a Schwarzenegger movie in a review? Yes I did, but if you watched it, you are going to be a lot better equipped to understand my next thoughts and the concepts (and problems) involving modern possession stories and the issues (and potential) of demons walking around in a modern world.

We get the ‘big reveal’ in this book of the succubi’s presence to her husband, and while I feel he reacted well, I wanted more. I wanted that fear, that realization that his wife may have just been possessed by a demon, and what I wouldn’t have given for him to turn and reject this. I would have loved for him to walk out and become a new conflict for this book. “Winning his trust” would have been a beautiful fight for her and added an unwanted (but fun) complexity to her life.

Why cut down on characters? I feel there are a lot of characters mulling about in this book, and I feel it would have served us better to focus on fewer of them. We have the husband and wife, older son and maid, and older daughter and new boyfriend all in the mix – with the succubi and two villains now sharing the spotlight. The boyfriend I feel could have been saved for later, and if this book is the daughter’s time to shine I would have loved to see her take the spotlight more.

I enjoyed the lustful moments and pairings, and they were done well with all sorts of nasty talk and sensual moments. Would they have been improved by focusing on less characters? I feel so, because when you get a lot of characters in a story sometimes it feels like checking off boxes and switching rapidly to give everyone time. I will have to bring in my kinky play-throughs of The Sims into this right now, since in that household building game you can make all your playthings do all sorts of nasty stuff (with mods), but when you get too many people under one roof it becomes a fight for the toilet and half of those little 3d people are starving and unhappy and all your dreams of ‘sex house’ have went up in smoke as all of them are panicking because some dumb-ass has started a fire in the kitchen again-

Wait, what?

Apologies for getting so humorously off track, but you get the point. You can have a lot of characters in a story, but I feel it always serves the reader better to focus on a few of them at a time and focus on let them shine. We can get back to the others in the next book, but let’s slow down and deliver on the fantasy we were building up to with the daughter and her new lover. I feel that is where the book was the strongest, and yes, it delivered, but I feel so much more could have been done here if this was the focus on the book.

But we have that ‘new tail’ moment, and also an advancement of the plot to consider! I know, and these were done well, but either push these to a later book (because I am enjoying the ride and don’t really mind waiting), or fold them in around the daughter’s path through this drama. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the plot advancements, but again, I just feel this would have played better had the ending scenes behind the paranormal ‘power transfer’ been between the daughter and her lover rather than the threesome (while still wonderful and sexy) we saw.

I love the ‘mistress’ turn our housewife has taken and her dominance – this is very well done and I love seeing this turn in her. I wanted to see a fight her in her head on this ‘new attitude’ and have her realize the change.

I also adore the banter between the wife and her in-mind succubi, and the transformation is a real highlight in this book. The possession and transformation is really a highlight of this series, and this has to be on my top-list for the year in paranormal and close-relations erotica. This is more than just a simple ‘fling book’ as it has a story to it, characters, feelings, a plot, conflict, and lots at stake. I suppose I am so harsh on it because I secretly love it, and I am always paying more attention (and trying to help along) the books I love and cherish – I love this series and I want it to shine.

But these is a larger issues here. I love erotic books that spend time on the story. They break the mold. They aren’t like those ‘sex only’ adult movies that promise 5-hours of face-bang. Those bore me. To have books like that without plot or character make me sad. This, however is different. It takes the lure of the taboo and makes us earn those moments by wrapping a story around it. It isn’t just all ‘sex first’ as we have to be patient and read to get to the good parts. The non-sex parts raise the heat level, and make us smoulder in anticipation for the good parts. The good parts mean more. They deliver more satisfyingly.

Writing sex is not writing about sex.

This book gets that, but I feel in this installment we stumble a little. The sex and pairings feel more important here when I have been absolutely adoring the story and build-up. While I enjoyed each one, this feels like being delivered two great dishes for dinner, each equally great, but I would have enjoyed each of them full had they been dinner on day one and then day two, rather than both at the same seating.

But still, this is a series I deeply am in love with, and looking forward to the next installment. What is not to love with a succubi living in today’s world, and wrecking havoc with everything she touches?

If you are into fantasy taboo erotica, this is a series that is sure to possess you.

Wednesday Workshop: Silent Armageddon

It’s like the crowds are frantically running the other way and I am ignorantly walking against them in blissful ignorance of my annihilation.

“Get you books out of the erotica genre!”

“They will never, ever be seen!”

“Put them in romance!”

Then I see yes, none of mine are doing as well as they were back then, and I wonder as people scramble the other way. I walk not towards the light, but the darkness, as I still believe in a market which doesn’t exist and is hidden under a blanket of shame.

I am sure those in the know and running the other way have the numbers to prove what’s going on. I do not doubt them. I do not cast aspersions on their fear of total and absolute obscurity. This is their well-being. Their life. Those running the other way have the best reasons to do so because they know better than I. The push by me in droves, fleeing certain darkness, and I stare into the blocks high wall of darkness which casts a shadow over us all.

Books can be sold but never seen.

Never found by chance.

Never browsed, nor ever related to anything else.

And I enter the cloud of darkness where my books reside, and find an incredible outpouring of desire and creativity no generation ever before has ever seen. Fantasies laid in the open, sex discussed openly, and the forbidden lust of dark desire laid bare for all to see. All of this wonderful openness covered by a shroud of shame, hidden in the darkness, and generations of works that will never be found, seen, or read.

As the dim twilight of shame surrounds me, I find myself in a place I want to be. Of total honesty and unabashed confessions without shame. Of words which bleed the honest passions of what it means to be a sexual being. Of bits and pieces of people’s honesty and deepest desires.

Fantasies under the blackest midnight which shall never be seen.

Under the shroud is a world I would rather live in, walking among the honest words of giants in the worlds created by words of unashamed lust.

It is a forest which shall never been seen.

In darkness it grows, and in darkness it dies.

Alone and unread.

Trees planted with complete honesty and hope, which blossom under darkness, and die unrecognized for their majesty and wonder.

What world exists under a commerce of shame and lies?

For all our advancements, I am ashamed to say it is this world.

Our world.

We have failed.

And they have failed us.

I suppose it would be easier to be out there, living under the light of lies and the false pretense of modesty and decency. I suppose it was a folly to chase honesty and openness. I suppose a market never really did exist for the bleeding passions of honesty. Those first in before every social media site and bookstore cracked down likely did well, but even now I fear they are suffering. Not many can survive this.

I see the evidence everywhere.

The crowds running away.

The panic of having books thrown in dark dungeons and the pall of sales and interest. Part of me wonders if this isn’t some passing fad, but another part of me says sex shall never be a passing fad and there is something more going on here which I may never recognize or understand.

Part of me wonders why I even try.

A voice screaming to a million souls running the other way.

That you should stay.

That things will get better.

I wonder.

Maybe it is I who should wise up and get the message.

Maybe the message is staring me in the face. They do not want what you write. I need to be careful about the word they, because they meaning readers is something in which every time I am rewarded by excitement and love. They meaning readers? They want to read what I write. They respond. They return the love. They see me.

They meaning the marketplace?

They are ashamed to carry it.

On one side, you cannot be honest, but you shall be seen. On the other, you can write without abandon, but you shall never be noticed or your existence acknowledged.

Maybe I should abandon hope and live under the light of lies. To accept the marketplace being the greater force. To chase the false gods of sales and recognition. To accept falsity as my deity, and to bob my head as I smile and sing along with the silent hymns of acceptance. Maybe I do not know better. Maybe others really do know more than I, that the world works a certain way, and that giving up is for the better.

Or maybe, I could stand in the light and hold my middle finger up high as I stare into the sun.

To say fuck you, I will live my life as I choose.

Write in the mainstream. Censor yourself. Accept reality. This is the way it’s going to be. Your reality and web of supposed truths are complete falsehoods to me. That if you repeat your lies a million times they shall never be my truths. You can lie until you are blue in the face and your dying day and I shall never believe you. Even if you lie for so long your lies become the truth some day I shall forever remember these words were once lies told to my face, and I shall hold your deception as proof of your hatred of me and what I am.

Free.

And honestly, fuck you, marketplace of shame.

I am free.

Fuck you, decency and the false veneer of public acceptance.

I would rather be a queen of nothing than I would a queen of lies.

I will write what I want to write.

Even though

I know

we live

in an era of the

Silent Armageddon.

Seduced To Adventure

“But can you see them?”

He nodded. “Most of the time. But Foti always can. Never misses one. And these men are complete pros. Until he gave me the signal that he had spotted them, I didn’t even know they were out there. But he did.”

Iris hadn’t seen any such signal pass between Gabriel and Foti. Then again, she hadn’t known what she was looking for either. “So now what?”

“Like I said before, we give them a show while Foti and his team look for the grotto in the hills over there. It’s one of the places that the temple might be hidden. The least likely, but I wanted to check it first so that if it is Elias’ men watching, he’ll just think I’m just out on a pleasure trip with my flavor of the week. Remember, you’re here to be fucked, not search to find an old temple.”

Seduced to Adventure

And right there I had finished packing my things.

“Pith hat, short-shorts, khaki top that spills my breasts out, and tube-socks and work boots that kinda look the part picked up from Walmart.” I smiled at my handiwork and zipped the top of my suitcase shut.

“Where are you going?” Darthaniel said from the door behind me.

“Oh!” I smiled and handed him the newspaper clipping. “On an adventure!”

Darthaniel read the newspaper clipping. “BIG COCK SAFARI. New more affordable rates. Go on the adventure of your lifetime as a hunky explorer and his team of well-endowed men lust after your every fiber of womanhood on a Greek-Isle safari of danger and adventure.”

He looked up at me with a no-shit expression. “You have got to be kidding me. This has something to do with this week’s book, doesn’t it?”

I nodded. “Sure enough, it does! I found this travel service in the newspaper that offers the same exact adventures this week’s heroine has in the book, where an ordinary, average woman is swept off her feet by a team of well-endowed and hunky explorer types, with occasional BDSM play, domination, and strange foreign (but safe) men lusting after after my irresistible sex-goddess like feminine features. It is everything I wanted in a travel service!”

He rubbed his eyes in mock pain. “What if, you know, travel services have their problems, and sometimes the bus is late and things don’t work out exactly like the brochure plays them up to be.”

“Nope!” I smiled. “This is sort of a group-sex romance novel, and besides an overly-long getting started part with a pretty silly ‘Hello John your friend Jane the stripper is calling’ moment, I absolutely fell in love with this book. It is sexy, knows when to turn on the lust, pours on the innuendo and wanting looks, and covers me in sex right when I expected. The passion written on these pages drives me insane, and it does that lustful, needing romance thing perfectly. Not only that, the writing is very well done, and full of style and passion. It is everything I wanted in a sexual adventure romance between one woman and a group of men that I ever wanted.”

He looked at me as if I were out of my mind, and I smiled. “Besides, the travel service I contacted has a nice bisexual option for the ladies, so I can go all womb-raider on a cute female guide or two. There isn’t any lesbian adventure in the book, and I can see why because that fantasy was all about a group of sweaty and foreign (but safe) men lusting after her. Throw other adventure chicks in short-shorts with British accents in the mix and things would get a bit divided for her attention wise.”

He shook his head and winced. “I just don’t believe the hype, you know?”

“It’s fantasy romance,” I said, “there needs to be no hype nor basis in reality. These are fantasies in which we create moments in our heads at night, under the sheets before we slip of to the lands of dreams. Preferably before we slip off to sleep, we get some quality time with the kitty with the same such fantasies. Here, read the book if you don’t believe me.”

I handed him my Kindle and he flipped through the book.

“Because I had to,” Gabriel ground out. “Because if someone else found the Iero, they could bring down Greece. And then the world’s economy. I wasn’t lying about that. And that risk is too great.”

Darthaniel found one of my highlights as he read it aloud. “No basis in reality, hmm? Why did you highlight that?”

“Shut up ‘Mister Reality’ and be quiet, ” I said as I sneered at him, “Just for fun I wanted to make a snarky comment about that because, well, you know, it’s a bit too late for that all to come true since it is already in the middle of happening, and you know, the world’s economy isn’t that great. Oh, and traveling isn’t all of what it was back then, and you know, if I traveled I would, yes, probably want to take you along and that would mean buying another package and finding out if you would have fun-”

The phone rang.

“Hello, this is Sylvia Storm, “I said, “Oh, you say my BIG COCK SAFARI is cancelled due to turbulence in the world’s economy? That the men hired for the safari couldn’t make it? That if I had any hope of going it would have been a couple years ago when there wasn’t so much real-world trouble on the islands where the safari is supposed to take place? That it will take a couple months to get my deposit refunded, and those will be long and I won’t be sure if I will ever get my money back? Okay, thank you for calling and telling me that my safari has been cancelled. Thank you and you have a nice day as well. I will hang up the phone now too.”

“You did this!” I playfully hit Darthaniel on his arm over and over as he laughed. “You injected a stupid dose of reality into my fantasy and ruined everything! Why did you have to ask questions? You ruined the moment! I will get you for this you big dumb oaf!”

He smiled and handed me my Kindle back.

“Well Sylvie, at least you still have the book.”

Wednesday Workshop: Evil You

You must fight against your very nature.

It is like one of those movies where the hero or heroine faces the mirror, and out walks a perfect copy, only evil. To win this battle, one must defeat one’s perfect replication. It is an impossible battle, because blow for blow the opponent you face knows your every move and your every weakness.

It is a battle which you know will drag on forever.

It is a battle where both sides will tire evenly, so relying on a mistake shall never happen, because weariness shall negate the advantage of an opening equally on both sides.

“I don’t feel like writing today.”

“My books never sell.”

“Nothing is working.”

That isn’t you speaking, that is evil you.

I shall give this persona a name, evil-u, or simply, Evilu.

Evilu is telling yourself to quit, it is the demonic mirror image of yourself telling the real you to quit, to get the message, and to throw in the towel. Sometimes Evilu gets the power to speak through others, and you see these hateful words in reviews, online posts, or the random criticisms that get thrown your way.

“She makes many mistakes.”

“An obvious novice of a writer.”

“No redeeming qualities at all to her works.”

You see these things written about you, and in a normal world, you would say, “It’s inevitable, ignore it.”

But no, something happens. Evilu speaks to you through these words like some twisted apparition.

“Look what they said!” Evilu says, “I feel bad they said such hurtful words! I feel so sorry for you, my friend.”

And then, predictably, the turn happens and the words written are twisted like a knife in your back.

“There must be a reason why they said such nasty things,” Evilu says, “are you sure you didn’t do something wrong, perhaps? Did you do something that would make someone angry at you? You know, nobody is perfect, and you aren’t either, so I am sure they wouldn’t say these things if there wasn’t some truth to them all.”

And through that specter of doubt living inside your head, you begin to believe the things which are written about you.

“I am so sorry that you are feeling bad,” Evilu says, “I hope nothing else comes out or is written about you. I know how hurtful this all is.”

Evilu is always willing to listen and offer advice. But Evilu is also a nasty, deceitful motherfucker, and ever seeks to drive that knife further into your back.

“You know the best way to stop all this?” Evilu says in a reassuring tone.

“Quit.”

Oh, and Evilu has reasons why you should by the bucketful, and that lying asshole will pour them on like the rain.

“You remember when it was just you and me, before all this writing bullshit, and things were simple?” Evilu says. “When nobody criticized you online, you didn’t have to deal with all this negativity, and you could live a simple life without all this stress and worry? Oh, how I miss those days.”

Those false ‘you can go back’ memories hurt the hardest, but just like life, going back is always a lie because there were never any good old days. You were dumber then and smarter now, so why would you want to lose all that you have learned?

“Don’t listen to her, she’s just some nobody lying online bitch who is telling you some false ideal of following your dreams is somehow worth your precious time!” Evilu says.

Don’t attack me, Evilu, because it is a waste of time. Fuck off.

It is inevitable. Ignore it.

“Well,” Evilu says, “you know what I say to that? Look how much time you are wasting, and look how nothing is selling! You are doing this for nothing! Oh, I remember how you used to pour yourself into your books with big dreams and wide eyes, and you know now we are so much more knowledgeable in the ways of the world and how nothing sells and nothing works. There is no audience. There is nobody listening. What you do is a complete waste of time.”

This is where ‘love what you do’ helps a great deal. Seriously, there are better ways to make money, I will give Evilu that, but honestly if you love the written word, sharing, creating, and writing this entire argument goes away.

Never fall into the money trap.

You may lose this battle for years or even decades.

Or forever.

You need to love your work.

“Oh, sorry to have some truth to what I say,” Evilu says, “but yes, doing this is a waste of your precious time. You know what else is true? You will never be good enough to be seen as a serious writer. Your grammar sucks, you have style problems you can never get over, and the ways that were taught to you are laughably wrong! You have so many grammar hangups you might as well hang it up yourself.”

If you love what you do, you will get better. If you become a fan of reading and language, you will put in the time needed to improve. If you value the fluency of your words, you will get the self-help books you need, read them, work through them, and work on your problem spots. You will tell yourself, if I work on improving and promise ‘my next book will be better’ fans will understand and support you. Catalog your weaknesses and train through them.

You will discover your fans are really very forgiving. And new fans are as well.

“You admit that?” Evilu says, “your first books suck! People will laugh when they read them!”

Everyone’s first book sucks. It’s a fact of life, from Shakespeare’s first (likely unpublished) scribbling to anybody else’s first college writing journals, your first work sucks. It sucks.

Compared to your new stuff.

But what really matters?

What matters if you quit, and that last book you wrote is truly your last.

You will never write another book. You will never improve. You will never, ever deliver something better. Your last will sit there as ‘the last one’ and you will never show your fans how much you have improved since the last time. Your last book will forever be known as your high water mark in quality.

If you give up trying to get better, you have given up.

This is the point where you need to show the world the true difference between you and Evilu. Facing a perfect clone of yourself that knows your every strength and every weakness, what will give you the edge to emerge victorious?

I am assuming you want to win here. If you don’t, walk away with your head held high. I am not going to disparage you if you honestly said, “this is not for me.” Sometimes, what you find yourself in is not for you, it happens, and not every job is a perfect fit for every personality.

You can quit a job in dignity if you can honestly say ‘this wasn’t for me.’

This is one of those skills you need in life in order to move on.

And there is no shame or regret here.

You can walk away.

But if you are walking away because you feel shame or you couldn’t do it, you need to take another look. If you are walking away because someone ‘said something’ and you feel intimidated, you need to take another look. If Evilu talked yourself out of something you really and honestly love, you need to take another look.

So you need that one thing that Evilu does not have. You need to have that edge over an impossible opponent, something an exact and perfect copy of you does not have.

I will give you a clue to what this is, and it is in the very nature of the creative you versus Evilu.

You are an amazing, creative person who has hope in the future.

You dream.

You love what you do, and you love sharing the things you create.

You feed off of the energy of those who love what you love.

This creative person is the truest version of you.

Evilu is the opposite of all of those things.

Now, you have the answer.

Winning this fight should be easy.

Political Pit Stop Gender Swap

I motioned for the bartender to mix her a Jack and Coke. Yeah, right, an apology. The Chad doesn’t apologize. When I see a hot babe, I call her out on it. More women should take the shout outs from the men that grab their attention as a compliment. Instead of acting like outraged women taking the militant feminism too far, where even a nice innocent little comment tossed their way offends them. If I owned a hot body like that, I would be happy for all the flattery showered on me.

Political Pit Stop Gender Swap

That last line turns out to be our politician’s curse as he is turned into a hot woman in today’s book of sweet gender-swapped revenge. The main character is a metaphor for today’s ‘hard charging’ political man, and the tone and mannerisms of language is perfect.

I also found myself laughing my head off at points, which is a huge plus. This book is so silly and over the top I found myself loving it at every perverse turn.

Our political bull-in-a-china-shop alpha male hits on a witch, and she forces him to live on the other side for a while. The transformation is done very well, and we get those familiar ‘wolf in high heels’ moments I love to read about adjusting to life on the other side of the gender gap.

And then it turns porn-y during the first sex scene, and I felt robbed a little bit. I would have loved a more sort of ‘coming to terms’ scene, but it felt a little too much like of a humiliation-based ‘the ogres and the fair maiden’ moment that went over-the-top too much in reaction to the outrageous personality.

Subtle would have worked here, I feel, instead of a full-on group-sex scene by a group of grotesque characterizations. I would have loved to see our sexist politician ‘now with breasts and high-heels’ deal with the more subtle side of gender discrimination and sexist attitudes and have those feelings of unfair treatment and objectification. Instead, she is a group-sex gangbang sex object, and I felt while yes, she is on the other side of the fence now – the treatment in how (when he was a man) saw ‘women as objects’ did not differ to how he expected to be treated (now as a woman).

It is a subtle moment, and one I felt a little let down by. If “women were sex objects” before, after the switch, I would expect that attitude would be the source of conflict and something he regrets. It does turn into that, but only after a lengthy section of in-passing experiences where he tries to adjust and I felt we lost a little more on the ‘experiencing the other side’ and fighting against having to measure up to men while wearing heels.

Before, I was the king. I commanded respect. But since my transformation, I felt on a daily basis that I was talked down to constantly. Needed things explained to me more. And for what? Because I looked like a blonde bimbo?

The treatment I was getting was starting to traject me into a depression spiral of worthlessness, where all I could offer was my body for a few entertaining minutes.

In this summary section of ‘living as a woman’, there is justice, and the book does redeem itself. We get that turnaround moment where how he treated women becomes something he loathes being thrown his way, and we get that other side. Nicely done, and this provided the just desserts he deserved and I wanted to see.

But I wanted to see a moment where he tried to use his business skills to ‘make it’ in the world (with his previous life’s knowledge as a man), and I wanted to see him fail because of the in-grained attitudes towards his new gender. That would have been the icing on the cake, and shown to him that even though one has the know-how and education, the bias that exists in society still does not make for an even playing field.

Turn-about makes for fair play.

I would have loved a lesbian experience in here as well, truth be told. To see him try to treat a woman as he used to treat them – now as a woman – and try to setup a lesbian experience would have been cringe-worthy and a great amount of fun.

The ending is a reset button, and truthfully I could have seen this going any way and I would have been happy. I do feel sorry for the ‘bonus package’ that was lost along the way, in other gender-swap books the tiny bundle of ‘bonus package’ tends to complete the experience and makes the transformation irreversible in the mind of the transformed. It is a card, once played, that is hard to roll back because it has so much meaning.

Once that ‘bonus package’ card is played in gender swaps, that usually signifies ‘never going back.’

I would have loved to see that ending as well, where no, the bonus package is more important than the years of fake and worthless sexist bullshit he built up in his old life. Now, as a her, that bonus package means more than anything else in her life.

Even if he/she wouldn’t make for the best mother, as the witch who cursed him says, it is something we all have to learn.

In spite of how prepared we are.

That is life and the cards we are dealt.

And the hands we play in life change us, hopefully for the better.

Even the losing ones.

The writing style and tone of voice of the character was perfect, and even in the transformation the tone of the writing and the voice of the character changed – this was very sharp and well done. I did find myself laughing out loud at the tone and the sexist quips, those were all spot on and perfect.

Is this a potentially controversial book? Wait, stop before you answer that. Stop. This is a trap. That is a loaded question intended to evoke a ‘yes’ answer and throw this conversation down into the sewer of political discourse we have poured into our eyes and ears every day via the so-called news. To do so would be to take a fun book meant more as lighthearted social commentary and sexy fun in a light it doesn’t deserve. If you loathe politicians like this, don’t let those feelings prevent you from having a little fun with the concept and laughing at the absurdity of it all.

We writers and readers are better than this.

We can laugh, smile and have fun with silly ideas.

We can enjoy parody and social commentary with an erotic twist. We are mature. We can handle this without freaking out. Reading any idea and any free thought is our right.

This is our power.

Protecting things which may make us upset protects our freedoms.

I guarantee you, the things in which you believe will make others in this world upset. Instead of silencing things which make us upset, we protect their right to speak. We may disagree, but you can surely say what you believe.

And we can have a little outrageous fun, if we choose, because parody is our right too. Parody is often the sugar which makes the medicine go down. And not being so stuck up you can laugh every once and a while is a positive trait.

Silence and shuttering equals darkness and evil.

And no idea has power over the educated mind.

Wednesday Workshop: Don’t Trust the Reviews

I said, “Never trust a reviewer or what comes out of a reviewer’s mouth. Ever.”

Darthaniel walked out of the midnight showing of Suicide Squad with me and smiled as he shook his head. “That sounds strange coming from you.”

“Before we saw this one, I read the reviews online, and all of them were universally negative, that this had no redeeming value, and some of them were outright lies intended to ‘give you a reason’ not to see the movie. Some of them were just bald-faced lies, like, nobody gets killed, or some bullshit like that. Written by a reviewer.”

I sighed. “I am going to call some of these things parrot shit, because it’s shit and it’s meant for you to parrot it in order to get you to think a certain way. Without thinking, and just being that reason that sticks in your head to get you to go along with the reviewer’s biased agenda.”

“I liked the movie,” he said. “I mean, it was a good Will Smith movie, and Harley was cute. The action was good, and it was a cool movie. I enjoyed it more than the last couple Marvel flicks, honestly. Was it perfect or great? Probably not. But it’s one of the rare superhero team movies that lets a female character take an important role and her story is just as important as the one in the plot.”

“I know,” I said, “she wasn’t a quota character who feels like she was tossed in there just to have a chick on the poster. But it is the outright lying and hostility that gets me about this, especially the reviewers and crowd of people that want to be seen as serious reviewers.

It feels like those people that do game reviews on Youtube, every couple months there has to be a game they universally dump on, and if there isn’t one, they pick one anyways that doesn’t deserve the hate. It could be something incredibly average but with redeeming qualities, and that’s fine with the people who play it, but to the professional Internet reviewer the game and releasing it is some sort of personal insult to them.”

The crowd around us started to thin out, and we did our customary post-movie bathroom breaks to refresh and reset. We picked right back up without missing a beat when we met again.

Darthaniel tossed the paper towel from his hands into the receptacle. “So this is a, ‘I enjoyed it so you should’ sort of statement?”

“No,” I said, “not in the least. This is a, ‘I enjoyed it and the professional reviewers are not even close and some of them are outright crazy’ on this one. This discussion is more a commentary on reviews than it is the movie.”

“People are assholes,” Darthaniel said, “and people put too much weight on social media and bloggers. There’s also a lot of people out there trying to be famous and important, which I feel is a trap. You end up chasing the fame more than you do the truth, or trying to get people to see things your way instead of encouraging people to think for themselves.”

“I try not to tell people what to think,” I said, “I mean, even something average (in my view) has redeeming qualities, and I can’t go around telling people what they should ‘say’ about a book. You are right, think for yourself, and I like reviewers who encourage that. It’s just, I don’t know, things lately feel like we are in this Alice in Wonderland mode where the news and reviewing has went to shit and become some massive propaganda campaign where we are told what to think, what to say, and that having an opinion of something slightly different than everybody else is some sort of thought crime.”

The Mad Hatter joined us moments later, typing on his smartphone while walking up beside me. “Hated it. Wished I never would have seen it. My eyes are bleeding as I type this review. Rating, one crime against humanity out of a hundred.”

“Remind me to never take him along on movie night ever again,” I said.

“You invited him,” Darthaniel said. “Hatter, was that you on the phone a couple aisles in front of us the entire movie?”

He turned to me and nodded, his eyes wild with glee. “Of course! I was writing my reviews of the movie, during the movie! Isn’t that just clever and ingenious? I was live-streaming my review, in the theater, with the movie going on behind me as I tore it to pieces! My viewers will love this! I am so witty and insightful and grand, don’t you agree?”

“You were reviewing it during the previews,” I said, “on several sites. So how could you give an honest opinion before you even saw the film?”

“Oh dear Sylvie,” the Hatter said, “you poor little misguided thing. You still think this is about honesty, don’t you? This is about popularity, saying what the most people shall agree with, and going along with the crowd. It is about letting people see you while you rant and rave. The performance of a review is more important than the content of such. There is no such thing as subjective content to a review, not anymore. People that read reviews are not looking for things which make them think for themselves, the people that read reviews are looking for people to tell them how to think.”

The Hatter smiled that maniacal smile I loved him for.

And I rubbed my eyes in mock pain.

We walked down the hallway towards the concession stand, the irresistible smell of popcorn again blissfully assaulting my senses.

“So nobody reads reviews because they are looking for honesty?” Darthaniel said, repeating the obvious.

The Hatter retrieved his cane from the spot he tucked it in under his arm, and tipped his hat. “Of course! People don’t have the time in which to make an opinion anymore, nor do they want to. Most are too busy to even watch the movie itself, and they can’t be bothered with the herculean effort needed to go out to the cinema, see the film, and think for their own benefit. It is much easier to read the review, no matter how biased or untruthful, and take that opinion as your own.”

“Don’t make me rethink my profession,” I said, “I am miserable enough at the state of honest journalism nowadays.”

“Poor Sylvie,” the Hatter said as he nodded his head. “We live in an time where lies are efficiency. Deception is a vital necessity of modern life. If we did not accept a lie as the truth, our lives would be much more complicated than we could ever deal with.”

“And once we accept one,” Darthaniel said with a laugh, “it is so much easier to accept the next. And it’s really easy to accept them too if all of our friends are repeating them.”

The Hatter smiled and waved his hand in circles through the air. “And so on, and so on…”

We walked out into the lobby where an exasperated Cheshire Cat waited for us at the front tables. The feline shook a claw in our direction with a judging look. “I’ve never seen so much blatant nudity and sexual themes in a movie in my life! I should have read the reviews!”

“Never see a movie without forming an opinion first!” the Hatter said with a thrust of his cane. “Let this be a lesson learned my fine furry friend!”

“What movie did you see?” I said. “Sounds like one I’d like to see.”

Darthaniel said, “He went to The Secret Life of Pets.”

Lust from the Ocean Depths

The blonde beauty steps out of the clear, cylindrical stall in the middle of the lush vegetation of a greenhouse and walks up to a terrycloth one–piece draped over a chrome towel rack just a short distance away.

She slips into the soft, white jumpsuit and continues to dry her wavy hair with the towel when suddenly a sultry female voice comes from the overhead speakers. “Captain Meadows?” says the voice.

“Meadows here,” replies the blonde.

“You’re wanted in the control room, Captain.”

“On my way,” she replies as she slips her feet into a pair of sandals and tilts her head back, shaking her hair loose.

Lust From the Ocean Depths

Today we dive under the depths of the vast blue ocean with a sexy Star Trek or SeaQuest DSV female crew of sea explorers that find themselves in tight, revealing clothing or tight, tricky situations. This is a crew made up of porn stars, or women who look like porn stars so the tongue in cheek factor is very high here. Part of me wanted this to be taken seriously and have the proceedings not be so over–sexualized, but then again another part of me realizes the campy and exploitative nature of “tight costume” science fiction so I got it. This is more like the novelization of an X–rated science fiction television show and a lot of it is “for fun” so one shouldn’t take things too seriously here.

We occasionally break out into and almost campy and visual style at times, with descriptions of the exploration submarine jolting and the women’s breasts jiggling. This is a nice touch, and it hits upon the “sexy science fiction” notes quite well. I would expect to see those sorts of things in a late budget sexy (filmed on the cheap) sort of B–movie film. Including these moments shows an appreciation for the genre and I liked the descriptions of those very much. At times I think a bit more could’ve been done here with descriptions of the women walking down the hall and their shorts polling into their “under see” regions. These moments were a highlight of the book and I would have loved to have more of them to hit upon those visual and exploitative notes.

Science fiction writers have to be mindful of over-explaining things. What should be normal should be handled quickly and without diving into too much detail. We have a couple of scenes here, most notably one in an airlock which describes almost every little motion and event, with how the airlock cycles, what they did inside of it, them putting on various pieces of gear, and it just felt like the entire sequence of events could have been summarized with “they suited up and exited the submarine via the port – side airlock.” I know it is often difficult balancing “showing the reader new and fantastic stuff” and “explaining to the reader something that should be within the realm of every day experience.” It is a subtle sort of determination you make when you are a science fiction writer, when a certain moisture–farmer character is on his desert home world, the reader really doesn’t need to see how the “blue milkshake” machine works or where the milkshake powder comes from. Just have the character make the blue milkshake and have the reader wonder.

There is a similar scene with the rest of the crew exiting the submarine and following the path of the captain’s minisub where the same sequence is repeated almost action for action, when I have this feeling it would have been easier just to summarize, “the rest of the crew arrived via the second minisub.” While I enjoyed seeing all the amazing technology and interesting undersea exploration moments, there were times I felt that summarizing the mundane and highlighting the incredible would have put some places in a more “wide-eyed and wondrous” light, if you know what I mean. When you watch sci-fi, you want to really detail those moments where the viewer’s eyes are taking it all in and being amazed. The everyday should be the everyday and not dragged out in detail.

The exploitative and campy nature of this experience extends to the sex. I liked these moments, and understandably and predictably a lot of the sex was done out in summary and shorter forms. I would agree with this sort of handling of the sex, where we are not going to get into a two or three thousand word long chapter on one sex scene between two of the crew members when the plot is waiting, and and we need to get to the end of this week’s episode – and back to the action. There is a careful balance needed when you are doing “sexy anything” like a parody or campy reenactment. You will need to write your sex in a more brief and abbreviated form, while still getting across the lurid and entertaining parts of the forbidden event. The book strikes a good balance here, and it does take sexy detours every once in a while when it needs to (even when it doesn’t make much sense, but then again, that is par for the course in the sexy parody genre).

I like the sexy moments here, and there was a good mix of the lesbian and group sex moments intermixed in the scenes and pairings. There was a moment when I felt there were a bit many crew-members all going at it at once and I got a little confused and had to review “who was who” in the beginning to get my bearings, and that sort of haze and confusion is always a risk when writing group sex or multi-partner sex affairs. This is probably more due to me not paying enough attention, but group sex scenes should be written with “handrails” to help the reader visualize things and remind them of “who is who” and “who is where doing what.” They are a lot like multi—character dialogue scenes where care must be taken to avoid the reader losing “who is saying what.”

As a sexy parody of a late night science fiction television show this works. It is a book I can say that I enjoyed, despite a couple shortcomings and “I want more” things, and I would recommend to readers looking for a sexy lesbian–style parody of a popular science–fiction franchise. It also was unafraid to hit the intentionally exploitative notes of an experience like this, like tight shorts and low tops that expose jiggling breasts. When you first see things like this, a serious reader may be like, “oh come on.” And then when you realize what this book is satirizing, you are like, “yes, I expect to see this.” Never be afraid to include things that should be in your book, even if they seem a little bit silly, because hitting those notes is very important to read creating an experience like this.

A fun excursion into the depths of late–night camp and almost porn–like sexy parody. I enjoyed this one, and I am looking forward to further “miss”  adventures of this crew.

Wednesday Workshop: …Cat Videos!

It seems like we live in this era of constant distraction-

Ooh, cat video!

Wait, what?

Let me say that again. Distraction. It is our number one enemy. If you are stupid enough to watch the news, you get this constantly.

BREAKING NEWS: Something we should really care about, that should never go away, and that should really be hammered upon until there is some real consequence for something so tragic, outrageous, terrible, or just plain wrong.

Ooh, cat video!

And then the bobble-heads on the news they do it to themselves. They hit some fluff piece, what’s trending on Facebook, some video posted months ago on Youtube, something someone said on Twitter, and then before you know it…

The outrage is gone.

That moment is gone.

Our chance to do something about the something that brought us together is over with. We are on to other things, our attention span has went to shit, we are flooded with another distraction, and nothing came of that moment when something should have. The chance to push for change has faded away. It’s a Pavlovian form of mental torture where you are made to be angry about an outrage, and then nothing comes of it.

Every time, the next big headline is blasted across the screen just to cheaply get your eyes watching, and then it is taken away the next moment and nothing comes of it.

And people complain the sex in porn is meaningless.

By that standard , the news is even more pornographic, because the news is real stuff that affects our lives, and it is cheaply thrown in front of us like some X-rated scene just for the thrill and then taken away and forgotten about the next moment.

Here’s a plane crash!

Cat videos.

Now that you’ve forgotten about that, here’s something else to make you angry. Look at what he or she said. Isn’t this a total outrage! Something should be-

Cat videos.

So what does this have to do with writing a book? Actually, a lot. This is the culture we live in. This is the 100% instant, right-now, trending hashtag, immediate reaction, plugged in, and always on world we live in. We find ourselves constantly distracted by stimuli, both positive and negative. We find ourselves flooded with sexual and violent imagery all day long. Between these moments, we distract ourselves with funny viral videos and other-

Ooh, cat video!

That. The same cycle you see on the news becomes your life. Your mind bounces between moments of intense anger and sadness at the things you willingly expose yourself to, and then you distract yourself constantly with meaningless distraction.

When we want to get a book done, we find ourselves shutting off Facebook and social media just to escape. Distraction is the enemy. Clicking on a cat video could cost you two chapters of work.

But look at the larger cycle here.

The constant cycle of stimuli and “nothing comes of it” frustration builds up. You almost become an addict to the anger as you seek out the next big hit, supplied of course by the media all too happily so their sponsors can sell you a couple more pills or a new car.

When I was growing up my mother warned me against too much sugar, and it wasn’t really as ‘make you fat thing’ although that was a part of it. Sugar is that instant high, that incredible rush of energy that puts your mind in a cocaine-like jolt of existence. it wears off quickly, so you need another hit. It’s like a mouse given a bag of sugar, of course the poor thing is going to sit there all day and eat it – it is such a rush and it doesn’t know better.

At times, the experiences we get on social media feel like the same exact thing. An infinite bag of sugar spilled in front of us filled with things to react to, new experiences, billions of things to be angry about, pictures to see, people to meet, and plenty of cat videos to watch. We also get those anger stimuli constantly, and we find ourselves bouncing between things we love and things we hate in a strange mental haze of experiences.

With the mix of emotions I bet this is like an acid trip every time we go out and open ourselves to reactions.

And we only feel alive when we react.

So we pile on, we get angry, we feel our hateful words will make a difference, and we are fed the next big thing in which we should focus our hate upon. We join mobs of angry people and feel good about the experience moments later. Then we distract ourselves with meaningless fluff to forget. And then when something else angers us, we pile on that just so our reactions can make us feel alive again.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one sees it – did it really fall?

If a post happens on social media and I don’t react – am I really alive?

People say when they leave social media their lives change. I tend to believe them. They tell me it is like the 1990s all over again, where they can have hobbies, free time, they feel relaxed, and there isn’t this constant stream of anger and happiness stimuli being fed into their minds like an intravenous drip of information. They can get books done. They can finally be themselves.

We are sold the line “social media makes our lives better.”

But does it? I know this probably isn’t popular to say, like the person who takes the bag of sugar away from the mice, that person will be hated and not a popular person. But for me, I find the less time I spend out on social media, the more focused I am. The less I watch television news, the less angry and afraid I become.

I read a newspaper every so often and that’s how I keep informed. I subscribe to old-fashioned magazines and read up on writing and the world. The low-tech saves me from the high-tech, because with paper I have more control. It doesn’t get blasted into my eyes when I pick up my phone or turn on the computer, it sits on the table until I make a choice to have that “informing myself” experience.

And I put this time into my hobbies and books. I have focus again. I am calm. I enjoy life a little more without the constant bleeping of headlines from my phone or onto my computer’s notifications center. What is real is what is here in front of me. What matters is the important things.

If I want a cat video, I’ll adopt a cat.

Subway Diaries 1: she likes when I watch

I chuckled and swipe my metro card on the turnstile. I ran up the stairs on the downtown side, heading to Manhattan. The uptown and downtown platforms are both deserted on this cool fall night. I look up at the arrival times and my train is coming in 7 minutes. I decided to hit back a couple of girls I was communicating with throughout the night and see if anyone if down to meet up. I doubt it, but I’m feeling horny as hell. Let’s see who decides to bite at this late of an hour.

Subway Diaries 1: she likes when I watch

It has some pretty serious grammatical issues here and there, but it has an authentic sound. It stumbles when it should soar, but when it gets into the groove I am gripped.

This is a super-short story of an encounter when a man looks through the window at a woman while waiting for his train. She gives in and lets him see everything, and puts on a show for him. The scenario is very well done, and it felt very original and fresh. I like to read some of the ‘rougher cut’ works every once and a while, stories like this which are more about feeling and a truer experience than the craft and artful words.

There are moments in here where the writer ‘gets it’ and we are in for a treat, such as watching a woman perform where there is no sense of sound. Where the only reactions we see are that of the man watching, and where the outside world of the city occasionally intrudes in the space between them. There is a power and an artful style to that that I love, a recognition of the removal of senses that makes the others much more acute.

There is a dark ending that we only watch and never hear, and then a retreat into the city and a small glimmer of hope.

Maybe.

It has problems, but it also has that authentic ‘something else’ trying to escape. A voice used to the streets and the random acts of passion on dark city streets. Of moments and hookups, how things are and what things could be. Of being there.

Of not having the words to express the moment, yet the feeling still comes through. An attempt to fly, and a reaching out which still enriches us despite its stumbles and missteps.

It speaks in not so eloquent words, yet the feelings still come through.

But yet, in some way, it put me there.

No small feat.

Keep writing, whoever you are.

Keep writing until those words flow free and color our world with the beauty I know you possess inside.

But, keep writing.

Wednesday Workshop: Self-Inflicted Wounds

You are your own worst enemy.

Getting upset, impatient, distracted, depressed, or outright quitting are all things under your control. They are mental states which begin the “failure track” in your projects, and in your life.

You convince yourself you are failing.

Thus, you are a failure.

And you quit.

“Know when to quit!” is shouted at us again and again by “those in the know” and it is touted as a key success strategy. Now, if you are trying to write cookbooks but you hate cooking, then I can say yes, you are probably in the wrong business. But if you love this, if what you are doing is your passion, please keep at it.

Because loving what you do is 90% of the fight. If you love what you do, you will find time to do it. You will find time to put into improvement. You will find time to read and reflect. You will be inspired enough to put in the long hours required. This isn’t “instant money” this is more a hobby, a passion, a desire to share and create – and also a lifestyle requiring time which you could be doing other things.

And we get told to quit all the time. Even passive aggression from social media slips through, little snide comments people get a kick out of making filter their way into our lives. Watching others in our world deal with negativity gives us an impression of a negative market. We can take a thousand unrelated points of data and weave a narrative with them that confirms a bias we were looking to prove to ourselves.

  • Look at this person saying they aren’t selling books!
  • Look at that other person dealing with an attack!
  • Look at this other person quitting the market!
  • Look at that one-star review!
  • Look at that one book not selling!

It doesn’t take much data to prove a point to ourselves. We just need to collect enough reinforcement to confirm our self-biased viewpoint, and all of a sudden it is the truth. To us. It is a conclusion we were looking to prove given data we cherry-picked to reinforce our biased viewpoint.

Now when I say bias, people tend to go off because it is a loaded word. Biased liberal viewpoint! Biased conservative viewpoint! No, this is not that. This is, “biased personal viewpoint based on an outcome you wanted to be true.”

Preconceived notions.

Bias towards an outcome we chose.

It is a hard thing to admit, but nobody is truly neutral in a viewpoint – and that is fine. We all have opinions just like we all have rear ends. But when we set ourselves in a preset mode of thinking and look for evidence to prove it, we get into situations where you go out on social media and “look for posts supporting why you should quit writing.”

And you will find them.

And you will ignore evidence to the contrary.

And your self-fulfilling prophecy will come true because you were out there specifically looking for evidence to support a decision you already made before you began the “truth finding” process.

You already quit before you began, so why waste the time going out there and looking for the reasons why?

Just one post can set you off. Just one argument can trigger you towards a certain incorrect belief. Just one post can start that idea smouldering inside your head that what you love is a waste of time. It could even be transference, just because another part of your life isn’t so great right now, you subconsciously look for ways to take out your frustrations on a part of your life that (given who you are or how long you’ve been at this) is actually doing pretty well right now.

The worst thing you can do is take out your frustrations on other people or parts of your life that did nothing to deserve it – but that is so common because people come out on social media to vent. And given this age they need to vent.

But never take it personally.

It’s inevitable.

Ignore it.

And never let it get to you. And never let the frustrations you have with one part of your life transfer to something else. What you love doesn’t deserve all that hate and negativity. What you love is what you love, and you know what?

Even if you never find success, this is what you love doing.

And you will keep at it. Keep sharing. Keep creating. And keep putting out creations and projects that make you happy.

This is what you do.

If you have to see yourself as a crazy cat lady who knits all day and pets her clowder of felines while she rocks on her chair – and that makes you happy…

…that is what you do.

If you are that crazy writer who sits at their desk all day writing cheesy pulp fiction, smutty sex books, or trashy romance novels…

…that is what you do.

But never talk yourself out of it, and never selectively take a thousand random strings of unrelated data and knit yourself a blindfold of failure. And remember, you will knit that blindfold with a thousand strings of your own choosing, and they will of course be the best ones to do the job.

You choose the reasons for your defeat.

Before you are even defeated.

It is the sports team that goes out on the field knowing they will lose. That gives up before the clock runs out, and you see them walk the field in defeat when you know in your heart they could pull this off and win.

Ever had that feeling you wished you were ignorant and just did things in spite of “the truth” or “what people say”? That plays into this, and what you are really feeling is you wished you didn’t talk yourself out of things so often. You wished you weren’t so prone to self-defeat and giving up. You wished you weren’t that dejected team waling the field in a state of self-defeat.

But nobody is stopping you but you.

Would ten years ago you would have ever thought you would have a book out? That maybe it would be selling? What even if what you make just buys you a cup of coffee every month – you are still proud of what you did. What would “the old you” say right now?

I’m betting the “old you” would be jealous.

But I want the “old you” to be someone who congratulates you, who pats you on the back and says “wow, great job!”, and someone who asks the question…

…what are you doing next?