Tag Archives: erotica

Nuts, Bolts, & Decisions: An Interview on #Writing #Erotica with #ShowYourselfToMe Author Xan West

Hi, folks!
 
So, today, I’m taking part in a blog tour (over at Syrens, but reposting my part of it in full, here, because: relevant) promoting a new erotica anthology – Show Yourself to Me – from author Xan West (You can find the whole tour at this link, yesterday’s stop can be found here, and tomorrows – which involves a time-difference – can be found here. The tour itself includes a number of reviews, but you can also find – and add – reviews at Good Reads and Amazon). I jumped at the chance to read a slew of stories from an author I respect and admire, as well as the opportunity to ask some writerly questions about the nuts, bolts, and decisions involved in writing an anthology like this.
 

Show Yourself To Me - Cover Art Close-up of a hand, holding a chain-leash, thumb brushing the lips of the person on the other end of the leash.

Show Yourself To Me – Cover Art
Close-up of a hand, holding a chain-leash, thumb brushing the lips of the person on the other end of the leash.


 
Before we get to the interview, here’s the blurb about the book itself:
 

In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.
 
Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.
 
Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.
 
Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.
 
This is
Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.

 

And now, on with the interview! 😀
 
 
~*~
 
1) Show Yourself to Me opens with a story that, fundamentally, is about belonging. Can you talk to me about that, and why you chose to open your anthology with this piece?
 
“Missing Daddy” sets the mood of the book in so many ways, and belonging is absolutely one of them. For me, as a queer writer who centers my fantasies and desires in my work, belonging is such a central aspect of that, of my queerness, of my kink, of my politic. Being connected, not just in the context of a romantic couple apart from the world, but being in the world, belonging to community and family, belonging to self, as well as being claimed and claiming in the context of D/s. They balance and match each other, all those belongings. Especially for a story that begins by speaking openly about abuse in the context of kink, and the legacy of that in kink life and community, it is so important to center this story of longing and nostalgia in a deep memory of belonging and care in the context of BDSM. This story wants the reader to hold all of that reality in queer kink life: abuse of power and also care with power, legacies of abuse that last long beyond abusive relationships, and legacies of leather that feel whole and beautiful that also come with us, belonging to self, giving self to a partner, belonging in community and family.
 
 
2) Pieces like “My Pretty Boy”, “The Tender, Sweet, Young Thing”, and “How He Likes It” touch on how it can be easier to accept cruelty than gentleness. Can you talk about that for a bit?
 
I’ve had a lifetime of experiencing sensory input in ways that didn’t match how people thought I should be experiencing it, how it was “supposed” to feel. It took me a long time to come to terms with and accept that reality, which has shaped so much of my daily life, especially play and sex. The simple truth is that people are different, and they experience sensations differently. Something that is intolerable for me might be pleasurable or neutral for you. Kink really helped me hold that reality, because although there were cultural expectations about how people would experience sensations, I kept finding, as a top, that the folks I played with would experience them so very differently from each other.
 
This theme in my work, of light touch and gentleness feeling close to or actually intolerable, where sharp, firm or intense touch, and pain in particular, feel welcome and desired, is my attempt to center and validate an experience that is so rarely acknowledged, even in kink life. It is an experience that often resonates for stone-identified folks, and that is definitely part of my motivation as well, to write stories where stone folks can see themselves reflected without judgment or pathologization, as those stories are incredibly rare.
 
It’s also a layered thing, one that gives opportunities for internal struggle within a scene, and pathways for sadism. In “My Pretty Boy,” they consensually play with the fact that Rickie hates gentleness. This created a wonderful way to shift perspective on what cruelty and sadism can look like, and illustrate that sometimes gentleness can be very cruel indeed.
 
 
3) This is a collection of your erotic writing, some of-which is forthcoming (I think… like the excerpt from Shocking Violet), and some of-which has been published elsewhere. A lot of them run to what I think of, accurately or not, as “standard anthology length”, but some are longer and some are much, much shorter (“This Boy”). I’m wondering how many of these pieces were written for specific calls (“Facing the Dark” seems like a likely example), how many just turned up in your head demanding to be written down, how many were born out of personal explorations or writing practice? (Yes, this is essentially a “where do you get your ideas” question).
 
You got it right, close to half of these stories were written for specific calls (including some of the shorter ones, for flash fiction collections). For a number of years, writing to a specific market was part of what drove my writing process. “Facing the Dark” was written because an editor asked me to write something for a gay fireman anthology. “Missing Daddy” was for a bear call, “Ready” for a gay motorcycle collection, “Falling for Essex” for a college boys call, “My Will” for a gay time travel anthology. “Please” was written as an exercise in writing to a tight editorial preference—for Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica series. “The Tale of Jan and Tam” was written for a fairy tale retellings call.
 
When I’m contemplating writing for a call, or am solicited by an editor for a specific kind of story, I sit with it for a while, do some research if needed, see what wants to stick. I often go through a few ideas before I land on one that works for the call and feels doable to me. I’m especially looking for a spark, a beginning, a strong voice, or a moment in the story that I find so compelling I feel like I need to write it. My notebooks are filled with potential ideas like this, and there are some I will bring out years later, and try to write them.
 
The other times, I often find a spark in something else. “The Tender Sweet Young Thing” was sparked by a conversation I had at a regular queer gathering I go to. “Compersion” was sparked partly by a class I went to on the subject, that felt like it completely left out so much of my own experiences of compersion. “Nervous Boy” was written in response to a craigslist ad I saw, and answered, though I never got a response. I’ve also written fantasies and dreams that kept returning demanding to be told. I’ve written pieces for lovers, and potential lovers. I’ve written stories in response to scenes I’ve watched.
 
Often, it’s a mesh of things that drive my writing; the spark or the voice or the lines that come into my mind are just the beginning. There are often experiences and ideas I want to capture, and things I want to talk about in my stories. I’m fairly unabashed about having certain agendas in my work.
 
 
4) I know you make a point of showcase a lot of different bodies in your erotica – your characters don’t default to “able-bodied and thin”, for example, and you make sure your readers know it. With that in mind, when a character ends up being white or fat, fem/me or cis or disabled (or whatever cluster of identities a given character may have), how much of those intersecting privileges and oppressions are just “how the character showed up in my head” versus how much of it is an active decision on your part as an author about the kind of story you want to tell?
 
Much of the time, not defaulting takes conscious work. Sometimes I catch myself not having defined some aspects of a character’s identity and there I am, stuck in my usual defaults. I usually am stuck by the things I haven’t defined, a little ways in, not knowing where to go. Conscious work gets me unstuck, and a lot of the time that is at least partly about establishing specificities of identity.
 
Some aspects of a character’s identity will come to me with the character’s voice or the situation or the conflict I’m imagining at the beginning of the process. Sometimes those choices are driven by the way I puzzle out what I can bring to a specific call, how I can imagine bringing these people together.
 
One of the things that has become very clear to me is how much the specificities of identity of my characters are often shaped by my own identities and needs. When I think about the specifics of the queer genders that appear in this collection, it is clear that I’ve mostly been writing stories about my own gender experiences, or about genders that I have fantasized about being. Over the past 15 years of writing erotica, the body of work from which I drew the stories for this collection does not include the diversity of genders of the people in my life and my communities. Instead, my deep hunger for putting myself into a genre where I have mostly been erased or misrepresented has driven many of my choices about the genders of my characters. As a whole collection, those choices contribute to a deep erasure that mirrors the ways trans misogyny and misogyny often operate in queer communities. For me, this recognition is even more reason to work more on consciously considering the identities of my characters.
 
When I was pulling stories together for the collection, from the body of my existing work, one of the things I worked on was more clearly marking the identities of the characters, so that they weren’t just clear to me, but were clear to the reader. So the reader also was less likely to go to defaults while reading. I needed to do this much more with my earlier work than with my later work.
 
A few years ago I began a project of deliberately centering disabled characters in my work, one that coincided with my decision to live more deeply into my own disabilities. I wanted my creative work to hold the same intentions as my personal work, so they could feed each other. I have found writing these stories to be so powerful in my own life. Many of them are included in this collection; they are the ones written in the third person.
 
 
5) On a related note, you tell stories from a lot of different perspectives – both from story to story and sometimes within a single piece. Can you talk about the factors that determine whose PoV you’re writing from, which stories are going to involve “head hopping” versus which ones stay with a single narrator? I’m thinking, in particular, of stories like “My Precious Whore” where you’re dealing with some fairly heavy edges (for the characters but also for, um, me as a reader…) but also of “The Tender, Sweet, Young Thing” where the narration is bouncing between half a dozen heads. Can you talk a little bit about that?
 
Most of my early work was in the first person, though I played with that some by having POV characters sometimes imagine that they knew the perspective of other people (like in “Nervous Boy”). My recent work has been in third person. It was a conscious choice to shift that way, because I found it unblocked me. Until I tried third person, I kept hitting up against a wall, couldn’t figure out how to more clearly mark characters as disabled.
 
When I chose to shift my work, I embraced head hopping, something that is often frowned upon in erotica circles. I wanted to explore multiple interior experiences, see where that got me. In “The Tender Sweet Young Thing”, I wanted to stick with three perspectives—to stay inside the heads of the three queers that were central to plotting the fantasy scene, because they each were deeply invested in creating this scene from a different place. Dax, from a fantasy ze had held since childhood, Mikey partly as a gift of love and recognition for Dax, and partly for her own self, and Téo, who recognized a gender he wanted to play with. The story shifts from one to the other as the dynamics shift between the characters, that’s how it flowed out, so by the time you get to the actual scene, you hopefully have a stake in each of them getting what they need from it, and from each other.
 
With first person, often a voice comes to me as a story sparks. Point of view is one of the first things that solidifies in the story. In “My Precious Whore”, I was working on a few things in that story:
1. I was working to illuminate the edges inherent in playing with misogyny and whorephobia, to take the reader deep enough to really be able to see how deeply dangerous this kind of play is.
2. I was trying to illustrate how a structure of D/s and consciously chosen power play can create a container for this sort of intense and risky psychological edge play, make it possible to do it.
3. I wanted to capture something specific about orgasm control, how it can work in humiliation play scenes, how helplessness from forced orgasms can be particularly intense and beautiful.
4. I wanted to write a story that explored possessive top desire that wasn’t feral (which I’d mostly been writing), but went to colder places, wielded power differently, grappled with the edges of misogyny and deep psychological play.
5. I was attempting to illuminate the ways being the top in a scene centered on humiliation, objectification, and play with oppression can be incredibly edgy for the top and how the top can need support from the bottom.
 
Some of those things would be a good match for the bottom’s point of view, especially #3. (I want to write another story from a bottom’s point of view that can get me there more deeply.) #1 and #2 could work from either point of view. But for #4 and #5 I needed the top’s perspective to get me there.
 
I put that story in a drawer for a while after I wrote it. It felt too volatile to put out into the world, and too personally edgy. That’s how it has often worked for me with the stories that go deep into play with misogyny. (“Strong” is another example.) I was concerned about the damage they might do in the world, and worried about the ways they could be misinterpreted. This version of “My Precious Whore” illuminates top vulnerability much more than earlier versions, and it showcases the support of the bottom. Telling it from the top’s perspective really helps it get there, helps the reader touch those things.
 
 
6) In “The Ballad of Tam and Jan” (and I love that Carter Hall turns up in more than one story, by the way), you talk about transformative experiences for tops. In it, and also stories like “My Pretty Boy”, you talk about tops needing to remember and honour their own needs. There’s this pervasive (or maybe it’s just me?) thing where sadistic, and even just toppy, desires are framed as not okay – like it’s totally fine to want to be anonymously skull-fucked by a truck-load of random people, but wanting to turn someone into “just a hole” (to pick a theme that ran through a lot of your stories), to dehumanize them, is less okay. Wanting to beat someone to a pulp because it feels good to hit defenseless people is, well, monstrous. I find in a lot of Kink 101 stuff, the top is framed as facilitating the bottom’s experience, with the bottom being “really in charge” and the top being a provider in a lot of ways. Can you talk about that stuff in the context of the needs and vulnerabilities of tops?
 
The fear of top desires and needs that you describe is one of the most frustrating aspects of kink culture for me. I’ve written several essays about it. It’s a big problem, and can make navigating play so much harder for everyone, so much less likely to be mutual. This image of the top as facilitating the bottom’s experience and having no needs of their own is a huge contributing factor to ableism in kink communities. It’s been a challenge for me, personally, to find play partners that are up for considering and honoring my needs as a top, especially my needs for support around pushing my own edges.
 
My work, and in particular the stories in this book, are invested in creating different images of tops, different narratives about what tops need and desire, what bottoms do to support tops, what play that is mutual and honors the needs and desires of all parties can be like. Stories help create culture, and this book is one of the ways I’m trying to shift the way we think about top desires, top needs, and top vulnerabilities.
 
These stories openly celebrate sadistic and dominant desire, and that aspect of them alone is likely to make people uncomfortable. I’ve had stories rejected (with rather intense judgmental language) for openly describing sadistic desire. Once I had an editor suggest that I edit the story so that the dominant was not so clearly getting off on making the submissive cry during sex, because that felt inherently non-consensual. The editor suggested that I change the story so that the dominant was doing it to facilitate the experience the submissive needed.
 
In these stories, I am attempting to carve out room for the beauty and heat of unapologetically sadistic desire, and it is partly to meet my own needs. I need a kink culture that honors sadists who have their own desires, that supports tops to be vulnerable, that asks bottoms to support tops in play, that honors that everyone has needs. Not just because I’m human, but particularly as a disabled top.
 
 
7) Tell me something you love about this collection and want everybody to know.
 
I’ve talked about writing stories that center disabled and sick characters, how that was my project over the last few years. These stories often include disabled and chronically ill fat trans and genderqueer characters playing with each other, in community with each other, creating accessible spaces together. I’ve never read stories like that before, which is one of the reasons I needed to write them.
 
What I haven’t talked about is how impossible it has been to place these stories in anthologies. I’ve been aching to share these stories with the world, but have had no luck getting them published. I finally decided that I had to try to sell them as a group with my other work, in a collection like this, in order to get them printed.
 
Before I could seriously tackle that project, Go Deeper Press approached me to request a manuscript. They love these stories in particular, which makes me incredibly glad. And now these stories are out in the world, and I am so thrilled that people get to read them! I love that my first collection shows some of my oldest work, next to the new directions I’ve been going in as a writer.
 
 
Thank you, Xan. 🙂
 
 
~*~
 
 
You can pick up a copy of Show Yourself to Me from Go Deeper Press (print or digital), or as a e-book from Amazon.
 
You can find Xan’s thoughts about the praxis of sex, kink, queerness, power, and writing at xanwest.wordpress.com.

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Book Launch with Amber Dawn! I’m In It! :-D

Hey, folks!
 
So I may or may not have mentioned this back in, like, February, when this scheme was first cooked up, BUT: I’m in a show! With Amber Fucking Dawn! 😀 😀 😀
Be still, my little femme literary heart! 😀
 
It’s a free show at 7:30pm, on Saturday, June 13th (so a week from this coming Saturday) at Venus Envy in Ottawa. The occasion is the launch of Amber Dawn’s quite awesome new book of Glosas – Where the Words End and My Body Begins – and there will be a sex-positive write-in (audience non-mandatory participation, essentially) during the show.
 
There will be love-letters to queerdom, poetry about queer history, femme identity, modeling, & sexwork, short stories told and read, and, as the flyer puts it, a whole lot of “sex, sass, humour, and healing”.
 
In short, you should all come.
 

FREE show ft Amber Dawn, Kalyani Pandya, and ME!
Saturday, June 13th, 2015
7:30pm – 9:30pm
Venus Envy (226 Bank St, Ottawa)

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Actual Story Sale OH MY GAWD

So I wrote an age-play story and I actually got paid for it.
Seriously.
It’s not my first time getting a story published, but it is my first time getting a story published for money. And not, like, honurarium money, either. “Pays for a week of groceries (if I’m careful)” money. I’m all a-squee about it. ZOMG.
 
Anyway.
So that’s fantastic, and now I need to find more work like that because, hey, I can do this. CLEARLY I can do this. 😀
 
 
TTFN,
A.

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PPO Insite Theatre Fundraiser – I’m Reading At It! (Friday, October 24th, 8pm – Cafe Nostalgica)

So I got an email from a friend the other day, asking if I’d be willing to perform some of my (tamer) erotic poetry and fiction at a fundraiser for the local Planned Parenthood this Friday the 24th (tomorrow). I’ve sent her a copy of my latest story – one that’s short enough to fit into my allotted time while still allowing me to include a few pieces of poetry as well – just to make sure that it’s okay for the intended audience.
I gather it’ll be a pretty vanilla crowd – though, if you’re kinky and interested in supporting Planned Parenthood Ottawa, I’d love to see you in the audience at Cafe Nostalgica (U of O Campus) at 8pm – so a story that includes choking, even self-choking, might wind up being a little too much. I sure hope not, though!
Beyond that, I’ll probably read “Teeth” (an oldy, but a goody) and a couple of short poems from my “Sweet and Sharp” chapbook. Whether or not I get paid is, alas, dependent on whether or not PPO meets their fundraising goal for the evening, but it still sounds like a fun gig, so I’m in. 🙂

Tickets are $25 (available online and also from the PPO Office – 2197 Riverside, near Bank St) and include the reading, a burlesque performance (Bella Barecat) and admission to the evening’s dance party (ft DJ Caffrey). There will be prizes for best costume plus a photo booth as well.

Sexy Masquerade for PPO’s Insite Theatre
Cafe Nostalgica (601 Cumberland, U of O Campus)
Friday, October 24th
8pm-2am
Tickets $25 in advance

I’ll most likely be dolled up in my Lilith Gear. Hope to see you there, Ottawa/Gatineau Folks.

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Unholy Harvest Writing Workshop – In Which I Learn Something New

So I went to Unholy Harvest last weekend. It was, as always, phenomenal in a number of ways. But this year, one of those ways was that I learned something new and helpful in terms of how to write porn.
Apparently there was this study done, with thousands of participants, which determined that, while the content of people’s sexual fantasies is broad and diverse and all over the map, all of those fantasies could be slotted into one or more of the following (only) four general categories:
Breaking taboos
Resolving ambivalence
Longing/yearning/denial
Power and domination
 
Convenient, no?
So I now have this really handy way of taking an inspirational-flash – that quick mental image that might, hopefully, lead to an actual story – and sorting out which themes to poke at in order to make the story happy cohesively and in a way that might just make it a story that other people will be able to relate to.
So that was a big light-bulb moment for me.
 
The other thing that I concluded was that, if I want to play with feelings of ambivalence in my stories – more on that in a second – I need to accept that, for the moment, those stories are going to be on the long side. Pushing “novelette” rather than the kind of thing that I can submit to an anthology.
 
So that. Yeah. I got a story idea during the workshop. One that involves a woman going to watch her long-time GF work (the GF is a peepshow dancer) and getting off on her GF’s work-persona while simultaneously feeling a lot of longing and heart-ache about her actual GF because their sexlife has been suffering lately. Throw in a dash of ambivalence and secrecy, and the need to re-connect with the beloved, and you’ve got the potential for a really neat story.
But NOT for a really neat story that you call tell in five minutes or fewer at the Erotic Open Mic.
So what I wound up writing was a happy-and-connected couple who have (i) a power exchange relationship, and (ii) a weekly ritual wherein the Property half of said diad goes to see her owner dance, and the Owner half of the diad – who is also a big masochist – uses the last song of her shift to demonstrate what she wants her sweetie to do for/to her (service-topping) when they get home.
It included a certain amount of gender-fucking, a lot of voyeurism/exhibitionism, and a good helping of tease-and-denial. Mwahahahaha.
It was – if I do say so, myself – hot, rough, and cute, and it was short enough that I could read it aloud in the five minutes allotted to me on the stage. Go me. 🙂
 
So that’s where that’s at. 🙂
 
Here’s hoping I can keep it up, and that I can polish this particular piece to the point where it’s good enough to be submitted to an anthology or three.
 
 
TTFN,
A.

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Live On Tape (or something)

Apparently I’m on YouTube. Who knew?
 

 

 
First video is one poem. Second video is two (shorter) poems. They’re kinda slow to load, but there you go.
 
 
TTFN,
A.

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Surge: Images of Power & Pleasure

So a bunch of my friends are in a calendar (you can also pick it up at Venus Envy, but you have to go in person) that is raising funds in support of the Rainbow Railroad.
 
Every time I look at it, I think there should be poetry or prose to go along with each image. So that’s my latest challenge. Let’s see if I can’t come up with a dozen poems reflecting power and pleasure and these specific images there-of.
 
Wish me luck! 🙂

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Mutterings About my Sunday Show (Dusty Owl – October 20th, 2013 at 3pm)

So.
Life continues apace.
I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed, but that’s nothing unusual.
 
I’m chewing my nails over my show on Sunday. I have a set-list drawn up, but it’s messy. I need to print everything out, I think, and see if I can’t arrange things in a way that that flows nicely.
 
I want to include some Pagan/Seasonal stuff. I want to include some of my “activist poetry” stuff, but a lot of that is old, so… limit that end of things. I want to include some erotic and specifically kinky poetry, in part because I’m also going to be reading kinky prose and the segue would be good.
 
But I’m not sure where to go from there.
 
Wish me luck. 🙂

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Crow Maidens – The Continuing Saga (literally)

So. Years ago, I wrote a short story. Paranormal porn. There was a shape shifter. There was a hot hook-up at a Pagan Fest (because that’s never happened). There was… a remarkably unsatisfying second half of the story and a mediocre ending and the feeling that this was not actually supposed to be a short story, but was supposed to live somewhere on the Lesbian Paranormal Romance spctrum as a novel.
 
Fast foward past a couple of nanowrimos and a lot of dust collecting on that story, to now.
 
And suddenly my characters are talking to me again.
Not… loudly. Exactly. And I have no fucking clue where this is going to go. (So far, I’m just trying to avoid Massive Information Dumping during Chapter One, and trying not to get side-tracked by the part of me that wants to edit the original short story before getting on with the rest of the thing). But they’re talking. I know that my Corvae gal has lousy eating habits and dresses neat but also kinda punk-ass. I know that my working (successfully!) artist human chick is vegetarian. I know that there’s a bit of long-standing animosity between the Corvae and one of the other shape-shifter clans/societies/cultural-groups/whatver-the-fucks that may wind up playing a more significant role in the story, though I have no idea what at this point. I know that my crow-chick’s (very extensive) family isn’t going to give two hoots (ha! Okay, wrong species) about her getting involved with a human girl, so that’s not going to be a source of Drama.
 
I know there’s some kind of race-against-time going on, there may be a bomb of some sort involved (although fucked if I know how the hell some chick with a paintbrush is going to be any use on this one)
 
I’m not entirely sure that my human MC is 100% human – and it might be convenient if she wasn’t.
 
I’m not at all sure where the non-sexual Action for this story is coming from.
 
…Is it just me, or do a LOT of paranormal romances involve some kind of cross-over with cop-dramas? Some kind of whodunit for civilians to solve, or a Major Mythic Disaster that needs to be averted… by the Department of Elfland Security or whatever.
 
I mean, I suppose I could just mix together… an unusually-specific artistic commission for a wealthy recluse, a country house with a secret, a megalomaniac with a thing against shape-shifters, an unknown birthright, and a time-sensitive ritual to Raise The Minotaur (or something) and call it day.
 

 
Fuck it. Let’s run with it and see where it goes. 😉

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Submission – The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica

I realize that submitting a trans/cis lesbian story to a hetero-targetted anthology is a long-shot to say the least, but I wanted to give it a try.
 
I sent “Wolf and Scarlet” to The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica.
 
For my next trick (I hope), I’ll be reworking “Sweet Jane” (editing out the first chunk of text, which is kind of slow, I think) and submitting it as a Fun Romp to something along the lines of Best Lesbian Erotica 2015.
 
Wish me luck! 😀

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