Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday shopping and a last chance...

OK, so I already pitched the Cafe Press stuff, (http://www.cafepress.com/lantoniou) that all remains the same. If you want timely delivery, order soon; I can't guarantee their shipping times.

But just a note for those of you who are big enough fans to follow this group and read what I write...

If *I* were *you* I would take advantage of the chance to buy any books I have in stock at my website. Because...well...it might be your last chance to get these editions.

Just saying.

Order now for Yule/Xmas/Solstice/New Year/etc. If the website is wonky, write to me directly at Laura@lantoniou.com and we'll work it out.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

After "Passionate Bonds"

I have to say, it was an amazing weekend.

I have always wanted a chance to really sit down with people and work on what it means to have a personal protocol at home. It's something I have a passion about (see the workshop title) and it's something I think can actually be so useful for those people attempting a more encompassing D/s relationship, something they can feel as an ongoing, exciting, real, nurturing and yes, sometimes very difficult and complicated way of life.

To be able to set aside so much time in privacy, without the distractions of 100 other workshops and a contest and a formal dinner and a vending space and a fashion show, and, and...

To be able to have the ability to break into small groups, to chat casually, to sit on the floor with lunch and tell stories, and then get up and continue the discussion. Not just 90 minutes of the basics, hurriedly presented, with maybe ten minutes of questions, but lots of questions, lots of comments and stories and "what if?" scenarios. The freedom to return to something we talked about the day before. The chance to revisit the same questions and see what might have changed.

Not to mention the fun of teaching with fetish-diva, sex rockstar and close-personal-friend Midori. We found that hey, we still like each other just fine and I had a wonderful time working with her and the student/participants to make a good atmosphere to create, question and expand relationship magic.

I sincerely hope some of the people who couldn't attend this time around will be able to consider the next one we plan! We have already started reaching out to different cities, doing research on where and when it might make sense to schedule the next. Because we will do it again, having learned a bit from our virgin experience.

Laura

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday shopping

Just a reminder to get your orders in - for books, via my website, and assorted paraphernalia via my Cafe Press store. The books I have left include some limited first printings, and once they are gone, they are gone forever. And Cafe Press is offering free shipping on certain dates when you use their codes! There are also new *black* (and other colored) shirts with the "You Must Be This Tall..." logo on them. Oh...look, I have a pitch!

Hello, fans, friends and fellow holiday shoppers! This is a gentle reminder to get your orders in early for the best presents reflecting your style and preferences!


Get an "I (heart) to serve" doggie bowl for your favorite pet!


Sip your pumpkin spiced latte in an insulated travel mug with "Patience" on one side, reminding you not to kill the kids in the back seat as you battle your way through holiday traffic!


Confuse the relatives in your "I play Mandarin style" sweatshirt! They'll still be puzzling over it while you tackle them on the lawn and win the football game.


Attend your local SM club holiday party in your "Middle Aged Guard" t-shirt and let 'em know you were around before they were a tweet in their parent's eyes. Or a twitter. Or whatever those damn kids are doing now.


Shuck down to your "I (heart) service" undies to make that special someone giggle as they prepare to service you well and truly under the holiday candles.


From stocking stuffers to grab bag gifts to nice things to reward yourself for being extra naughty, this is a great time to support your local author and pick up a few goodies for Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, the New Year, or just because you can't bother going to a mall.


The Official Laura Antoniou/Marketplace Store


Just FYI...there are shipping deals at Cafe Press.


November 30th (Cyber Monday) - Free economy shipping on orders of $60 or more with coupon code: MONDAYSHIP

December 7th - 9th - Free economy shipping on orders of $50 or more with coupon code: HOLIDAYSHIPS

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sex scenes and other thoughts

Health issues have been what I am sure I will think of as a minor challenge in years to come. But when you are in the middle of things, it does tend to feel overwhelming, don't it? Fortunately, things seem to be looking up.

In the mean time, instead of telling you what I have been reading, here's a glimpse of the writing side of my life.

I have started again to work on The Inheritor. It's been in fits and spurts (see the first paragraph) but it has been so much on my mind that it occasionally interrupts my sleep. I'm working on chapter 14 now. I passed two of the hardest chapters I ever worked on in my entire life, one because of research and a desire to recreate a life story in 15 pages, and one because...it was just hard. You'll see it when it's done.

Part of the shift in my brain that says "time to write!" is a desire to revisit what I have written before. Some of it I do to make sure I am not contradicting myself. (Where did Chris say he did this? What was that girl's name? What year is this supposed to be anyway?) Part of it is to see what I left out - can I add this piece into the history here, or have I written myself into a corner again? And part of it now, is to see where and how I worked in the sex scenes when I had just so much other STUFF going on.

Yes, I admit it - I write porn and have to remind myself to put in the sex.

It's not that I'm a prude, and it's sure not that I find sex beside the point. But I have found that I no longer structure a book to frame the sex. When you look at my earliest works, it's clear that the entire outline was created to showcase a series of erotic encounters, from little moments to full-blown set pieces. Some of it was obvious - The Catalyst was basically a "sex scene per story" anthology. Some was more organic - training and histories in The Marketplace and The Slave. But since then, I have become much more story driven, rather than inspired by the "if I don't have another sex scene, my publisher will complain and my readers who don't give a shit about story will get bored and they won't buy the books and I'll miss the car payment."

These days, I have to admit, I don't care about readers who don't give a shit about story. There's a ton of free or cheap porn out there which is one sex scene followed by another.

For The Academy, Reunion and now The Inheritor, even though I still call myself a pornographer, I have to admit explicit sex scenes are simply taking the same place in the story as the sex scenes in any modern novel - thrillers, adventure books, and the sort of Jeffrey Archer-esque romances where wealthy people romp. In other words, I write novels in which the major characters do have sex - *and* they are sadomasochists, therefore the sex they have tends to be kinky. But the sex occurs to aid the story, not the other way around.

In a way, this is reminding me of a shift in the whole queer novel world. In the beginning, queer lit was either dark, deep and depressing or it was porn. The deep and depressing stuff occasionally found real publishers - the porn was pulp. Gay people read both, just to see themselves in print.

So, too, did the kinksters. Whether the lead character of the tale died at the end or it was nothing but a series of one encounter after another (each one ramping up the stakes, of course) we read what we could find.

Now, look at the collection of gay books out there and there isn't a single genre not represented. Romances? Check. Paranormal? Oh, yeah. Mysteries? OMG, yes. Tons of them. Action/adventure, political thriller, fantasy and science fiction, even religious tales, the gays have something for everyone.

Now, some of them will still have sex scenes; some of them more explicit than others. But the writers do not feel like they have to include the two standard tropes of the early days - a depressing ending where people get punished for being queer, OR some mechanical sex scenes just for the sake of showing that we have sex too.

I no longer read books about gay characters for personal affirmation. (OK, maybe I never did.) I read them because I like the author, the story, the genre. I enjoy knowing that the gay characters have partners and have sex, even when I don't read explicit descriptions of it. After all, I know a bit about what sex looks (and reads) like. I enjoy a good sex scene when it's written well and especially when it has something to do with the plot. But I like the assumption, in the story, that it's simply THERE, whether I see it or not.

I don't think the SM readership is quite ready for the SM themed book with no sex scenes, at least not yet. Nor am I really interested in writing one quite yet. But it has become much more important for me for my sex scenes to not just be a part of the story, but to show something necessary to the tale. Some of them will show the growth of a relationship; some will show how someone's life has evolved and changed since the last time the reader saw that character. Things like that come out naturally; when I write them I don't feel forced or bored.

My issue today is...how long will my story-driven readers wait for the next such scene? This is a complex book with some heavy issues in it. To interrupt the flow of what is a major story in order to toss in a sex scene, even if it does suit the story overall, seems awkward at best, insulting at most. As the pages stack up, I will continue to write as the story drives me, but this is a nagging thought in the back of my mind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Someone sent over a muse?

I wrote yesterday. Not the painful, one word at a time torture of - well, far too long - but simply paragraph after paragraph, until pages stacked up. The way I used to write.

Don't know what did it. Don't know why. But I am hoping to do the same today. If you have been out there thinking/praying/committing indescribable acts of sacrifice, saying "jeeze, whatever it takes, make her finish the damn next book!" thank you for the muse. I'll treat her well as long as she stays. I hope she likes Greek yogurt.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reading by the bucket

When I say I like long sagas, I am not kidding. (That's also why I write them.) It's always disappointing to me when a series seems to peter out under the weight of its own vast universe or the exhaustion of an author who just needs to crank out another formula book to make the payments on...well, whatever.

Rarely, a series seems to just enthrall me so much that I can't bear to read the final book. I put off reading Colleen McCullough's The October Horsebecause I dreaded the murder of Caesar. Finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallowswas painful, although I respected the vision of the author very much.

But as I am in a stage of recovery, I found reading the final two books in the Thomas Covenantseries *excruciating.* Just..wow. I could not take the relentless doom, gloom, confusion, frustration, impotence...the miasma of bad questions and bad answers and "hey, didn't we do this already?" scenes of artificial peril.

Now, a logical person would ask, why did I bother? Well, I first read the series as a teenager, and lemme tell you, the self-absorbed stubborn, rapist, anti-hero *leper* was about as aimed at a teenage audience as any other way to wail about how unfair the world is and how alone you are in a sea of pain. It was, in fact, the antidote to a spate of mild Tolkien rip-offs that filled the fantasy shelves at the time, lots of magic swords and dragons and unlikely teams of wiseass adventurers who were seeking the Golden McGuffin. Not that I minded those - but you know, candy is for snacking. And if you looked at my fantasy collection *now* you'd see very little from that time.

But I held onto the Covenant books, for two reasons. One was that I always felt I was not getting a complete picture of the story, I needed to know more, reason more, to be able to appreciate the full spectrum of the tale. After all, the first one was really good; the second and third not that bad, etc. What could I be missing? And two, his amazingly turgid language.

When I read Steven Donaldson, man, I need my dictionary handy. I like to think I have a pretty good working vocabulary and a better reading one, but whew, this guy wears me out. Reading a few days ago, I was amazed to find three words in ONE SENTENCE that I didn't know. In one sentence! Now sometimes, I look a word up and find it's a really cool word to know. Penumbra was one of those. (Lord Foul has one around his form as he becomes real.) I looked that up and thought, oh, that is a good word, I gotta use that somewhere. Things like that make me happy.

But there is a line between learning a new word, phrase or concept and feeling stupid. There's also a part of me that thinks, "couldn't you have just said the forest was dark and creepy? Just a thought."

So there I was, feeling ill and tired and slogging through this morass of cold, uncomfortable things - and I mean this, his main character is always cold, bathes in cold water, scrubs her wounded body with SAND, sleeps on slabs of rock...in 30,000 years, no one in the Land invented SOAP? Running water? The idea that maybe a bathtub closer to the fireplace might be warmer? I dunno, have they all been sitting around muttering cryptic, dire warnings to each other and forgetting to, maybe...write shit down?? Come up with a warmer outfit than a thin belted tunic? (Which everyone wears, regardless of weather.)

The Despiser doesn't have to ruin this world - it's stuck in a massive dysfunction already. (Hm. New thought. Maybe that's WHY he's so desperate to get out. The place IS a prison, of unimaginative, rigid, short-spoken people who wouldn't know a happy day if it came wrapped in rainbows and unicorns. People who never invent things, never grow, never question, and above all, never get freaking WARM. I'd be ready to destroy the Arch of Time myself after a few hundred thousand years like that.)

So...I couldn't do it. Couldn't finish the final book in the series. It has my place marked and I think I will put it on the shelf for a while, maybe hit it up one last time in the future. I still think there's something I am not getting. Or, maybe I am just not that teenager any more.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blatant Commercial Message

In today's Blatant Commercial Message, I would like to announce...

(drumroll)

The Official, Real, True, Total, Absolute, Fashion Statement of the YEAR...

The "You must be this tall to ride this ride" T-shirt!

And mug, sticker, post card, and assorted other sundries.
(Don't know what it means? Read my latest keynote speech.)

Available NOW at The ONLY Middle Aged Guard store in the WORLD!

*GASP! as you spot the very reasonable prices.
*CAVORT! when you pull on your rare mark of distinction.
*FLIRT! with the eager hordes who approach you with that basic come-fuck-me-now line, "Hey, where'd you get that cool t-shirt?"

And if you act NOW, you can see the ARRAY of STUNNING, AMUSING and did I mention RARE? shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, mugs, greeting cards, posters and even teddy bears and pet bowls, available for YOU, the discerning consumer and knowledgeable insider.

JUST in time for HOLIDAY SHOPPING!

Gaze in AWE at new items with older designs - PLUS sizes! ORGANIC materials! MATERNITY sizes! Stylish drinking accessories!

Let people know who you are with your MIDDLE AGED GUARD hoodie; let them know who you crave as you announce you are LOOKING FOR CHRIS PARKER. Declare your love of service, or your exalted role as a true, lifestyle, etc. type. And most of all, SUPPORT your author, who needs some income occasionally.

This has been a commercial message from the Official Laura Antoniou Marketplace Cafe Press Store. Act now! The web is standing by.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I know it's been a while

I've been out of commission a bit. But I am on the road to recovery, helped along by copious amounts of chicken soup and the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals.

Here's some quick catch up -

I keynoted and taught at Master Taino's Master/slave conference in DC. The speech is now available on their website! Just scroll to the bottom of my bio.

If you had intended to register for the weekend intensive class that Midori and I are teaching/leading, the time is now. The cut off for registration can be met in two ways very quickly - when we reach capacity, or when we decide there is not enough interest to sustain the class financially.

This really is a unique opportunity. Having just been at the Master/slave event in DC, I can't tell you how many people were frustrated by 90 minute classes in complex topics, 5-minute Q&A sessions, competing schedules, time spent in fun but ultimately non-relationship related activities like shows and auctions and festive meals. 12-16 hour days.

Here there will be no stages no shows, no auctions, no contests. After some general concepts are shared, the rest of the time will be about YOU; what do you want, what are your dreams, what are your limits and strengths? The things Midori and I water down (and occasionally dumb down) the things we gloss over or simplify can instead be sharpened, deepened, made applicable to you and your relationships. You will have the time and space to really talk about your triumphs and challenges with other people who want what you want - the best, most conscious, personal D/s relationship you can have, complete with goals and protocols that come from your desires.

So to remind you:

"Passionate Bonds: Weekend Intensive for Conscious D/s & Protocol"

2 Locations / Dates
November 6 – 8, Washington DC
November 27 – 29, Toronto, Canada

Registration is now open

I am still on Facebook, and have my own little corner on Fetlife. Friend me at either place according to your tastes and free time. Join my mafia.

I am still writing. I hope to pick up the pace soon, ideas are sort of crashing into each other in my brain.

I am aware that The Marketplace, The Academy and The Reunion are all currently very hard to find. I personally have many of the other books though, and you can get them from me via my website and I'll sign 'em. If anyone knows of a store that has stock in the harder to find volumes, please let me know so I can tell people who are looking for them. And yes, of course we are working on a way to get them back into print and distribution.

I am still reading, although I have been re-reading quite a bit, recently the entire Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Including her concordance. Highly recommended, which might seem odd, as they look like a romance series, right? But add in time travel, feisty characters, travel, adventure, surgery, kidnapping, torture, and men in kilts...I like 'em a lot.

And since it was summer, I rounded things out with some Star Trek novels of light distinction and an old (1997) collection of violent porn called A Metropolitan slave Anthology, by jeb. Complete with illustrations by Beau. This is raw stuff; jeb has some strong fetishes and a weak writing styles, but I have to admit, sometimes that sort of "Plot? what plot? torture him some more!" format has its charm. But it reminded me of what fun their magazine was - back when there were porn and SM magazines that didn't look like catalogs for muscle milk products and/or very expensive clothing.

(No kidding, I actually thought a copy of Instigator was a recent protein supplement catalog I'd misplaced. Then I flipped it over.)

So anyway, I'm back and hope to be continuing to regain energy and focus.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A song for these troubled times

For those of you without Facebook...yesterday I left a message reading "Laura Antoniou
would like a moratorium on the words Fascist, Nazi, Communist, Socialist and Marxist unless the person using the term can define what it means. Who's with me??"

In the comments, Tim Brough said, "Why not just make it all one word? SociafashaNazalisticmarxpialidocious!"

And then, Graydancer DID.

Put coffee down before listening, please!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Reading, writing, etc.

It's no secret I've been crippled by an awful writers block for far too long. Part of it has been, no doubt, depression. Part has also been knowing I had to write something I knew was going to be painful. Amazing, sometimes, how involved I can get in my own story, to the point where I emotionally react to something *I planned and plotted* when it actually starts appearing in typed words. I suppose it's just ego, like laughing at my own jokes.

Well, that chapter is saved and I am on to the next. Now I get to see if I was really stalled because I didn't want to write those pages, or because I suck.

****

Meanwhile, my "to be read" shelf has seen some pretty major ups and downs. My recent birthday increased the size of that shelf quite nicely - thanks, Daddy! Plus, I have kept with my habit of re-reading alongside new books. Believe me, when I am without a book nearby, I am very unhappy.

I picked up Arslanfrom Paperbackswap because I read in a review that the military take over of the US is hammered home, so to speak, by the invader/dictator raping two teenagers in their school gym, a girl and a boy. This appealed to me in that "sick fuck" way, sort of a more explicit Red Dawnsort of thing. (We all have our guilty pleasures.) It was also highly reviewed. However, I found it...lackluster and dull. It actually went into the short sample of "books I never bothered to finish." I leafed through it a bit, but it completely lost my interest. One of the things that bothered me the most was how we are given almost no information how a third-world nation could so easily and quickly take over, well, the world, and why on earth their leader would park his ass in a small Midwestern town in order to annoy the locals. If it's because this is a parable about how human beings can suffer...nah, I can't even give it that. Dystopian stories can be so freaking EASY - come on, what's more fun than destroying a civilization? This one was a big yawner. Back to PBS it goes.

Now, on the other hand, Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Swordwas great fun. You might know her from NPR, by the way, she is the one whose soothing voice accompanies the show Sound and Spirit. (I only hear her by accident when I leave the alarm clock set over the weekend and wake up early on Sunday morning.) I didn't know she also wrote swashbucklers on the side - and this is just a grand little example of such a light, romantic tale. Nice culture, amusing characters and a great central heroine I grew to really enjoy. I'll be putting more of her work onto my wish list.

Another fairly new author for me is Mary Gentle, and the book I got, just for the back cover text, is Grunts. Hysterical, especially for those who have read their share of high fantasy. Everyone knows the story as told by the warriors for good, light, etc. But what of their massed foes, the classically huge army of brutal, tusked, ugly cannon fodder known as orcs? This was a laugh out loud and bother-my-loved-ones by reading out loud sort of book. No one comes off looking good in this tale, from the vicious orcs themselves to the cannibal-assassin halflings who get thrown in to handle the more subtle wetwork. And did I mention the dominatrix halfling? Orcball? Kinky, masochist, elven reporters from Warrior of Fortune magazine? (Read for the ads, of course.) This was great summer reading, and another author I will look for again, even though I wasn't that impressed by the last book I read by her, A Secret History: The Book Of Ash. #1

And in the realm of re-reading, I picked up the early Harry Potter books, mostly because I channel surfed past a few of the movies lately. I never realized that three props necessary for the penultimate book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, appear first in book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. When the Malfoys, père et fils, go to Borgin and Burke's shop of evilness, Malfoy the younger admires the hand of glory, Harry hides in the vanishing cabinet, and Hermione points at the cursed necklace.

I'd love to see her codex.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Logo contest reminder!

Are you good at logo design? Midori and Laura Antoniou are looking for someone to design a simple, neat logo for our new weekend intensive, Passionate Bonds.

This special, limited registration class is intended to allow people involved or interested in D/S relationships to discover and create for themselves the optimal way of expressing and getting what they truly want. The themes of the classes and workshops include personal discovery, values, power dynamics and protocol.

Some advice and ideas:

It needs to include the words Passionate Bonds.
Don't make it too complex. See the Wikipedia article on logos for some information on what makes a good logo.
Stay away from well known BDSM symbolism - no leather pride flag, no little zen thingie, no handcuffs.
Ditto, no gothic visuals, cartoons, or cheap clip art.
Although color can be used, the logo should not depend on it; it must be acceptable in black and white.

The entries must be submitted as a scalable vector graphic in EPS format, and also as a JPG. All submitted work must be original and not based on any pre-existing design. Files may be sent to Laura@Lantoniou.com

The winning artist will get a handsome selection of autographed books from both presenters, including at least two first edition books (hand numbered) from the Marketplace series. Plus, you will get bragging rights and mitzvah points. And, if you intend to attend one of these events in the future, you will be fast-tracked past any waiting lists.

This contest ends at 11:30 PM, EST, July 31. These instructions may be announced, e-mailed, cross-posted and otherwise distributed at will.

Contest sponsors:
www.PlanetMidori.com
www.FHP-inc.com
www.lantoniou.com

Monday, June 29, 2009

Speaking of death...

Two books that came off my "to read" shelf and were quickly enjoyed, both keepers. First was Mistress of the Art of Death, which I put off reading a while ago because it didn't suit my mood at the time. This time, I flew through it, basically finishing it in two days.

Historical mysteries are a favorite genre of mine - this one also had historical *medicine* which is another favorite. Now make the lead character a woman doctor-sleuth and give her a couple of decent companions and a rich background - it's a grand combination. Some fairly typical additions - the love-interest-who-starts-off-as-a-suspect, the nasty-obvious-suspect-who-didn't-do-it-but-we-hate-anyway, and it still entertained. I put the rest of the series on my wish list to investigate later.

And to match the Mistress of Death, who else, but the first Death Knight himself, Arthas? Warcraft novelizations have suffered from every sin of media novelization and then added some. First sin? Assume anyone reading the books is nine. Several of the books are SO simplistic, and so packed with stereotypes, cliches and very lame attempts at dialogue it made me want to go find the author and personally beat them about the head with a copy of The Hobbit. Bound in steel.

Second sin? Pay no attention to the source material OR be so slavishly devoted to it that anyone who has actually played the game would say..."But I know all of this!"

For example, Richard Knaak is one of the more prolific WOW hacks, and we are all the worse off for it. The man needs a thesaurus, fast. Every dragon is "a behemoth." Repeatedly. Knaak manages to disregard almost every aspect of magic in the actual games. His mages either perform tiny cantrips which manage to annoy the enemy, or they hurl huge fireballs. The spell mechanics of the game, which are ripe for plundering, are completely ignored. Knaak has no problem writing a gory scene of arms being ripped off or chests being torn open, but can't write a love scene without adolescent sniggering going on in the background.

I mean it, he really pissed me off in his depiction of the love triangle between three of the games uber-characters. We're talking the master of all the druids, the high priestess of the goddess of the night elves and a chief villian for over ten thousand years, and it reads like a junior high school drama. Complete with elbow nudging from supporting characters. I kept waiting for one of them to ask someone to pass a note. (Malfurian to Tyrande: Do u like me? Y or N?)

Naturally, to Knaak fell the task of writing one of the biggest epics of the Warcraft storyline. It's enough to make me ponder the wisdom in writing adult fiction. Maybe I should have gone into gaming novels.

Anyhoo, Arthas: Rise of the Lich Kingis written by Christie Golden, who has written Ravenloft and Star Wars novels. She wrote two previous Warcraft titles, Lord of the Clansand Rise of the Horde. Lord of the Clans was problematic because of a weakness in the source material, but I found the writing pretty good. Rise of the Horde was better. Arthas would be her first foray into writing about the Alliance, and I was more than curious to see whether the sympathy she obviously had for the Horde would flavor her Alliance characterizations.

I think this is the best Warcraft book yet. Naturally, that doesn't say much - it's still a genre inside a genre. Its limitations are pretty clear, and for this one, it is absolute devotion of the source material. Almost every cut scene from the games is here in text, for example. But for some reason, this didn't annoy me - possibly because these scenes have become part and parcel of the story of Arthas. We need to see him waving his men away from trying to save the young Jaina Proudmore as she blasts her way through the Plaguelands. The friendly confidence he had in her and her magical powers were not only scene setters - they indicated the level of trust and affection between the characters.

But about half way through the book, I began to look forward to spotting in-game references. Even certain lines one hears from famous characters come to life here; for once, Sylvanas makes sense when she asks, "What are we, but slaves to this torment?"

Golden walked the line between devotion and creativity quite successfully for my taste. Her characters sound more realistic than they ever have in previous novelizations, and the slow deterioration of Arthas' morality is a satisfying glimpse into a descent into panic, fear, and ultimately, madness. She even managed to add new elements into his story which, importantly, not only do not contradict established lore but actually make it deeper and richer. That is what a good novelization does; that is what an author brings to the table.

My only regret was that the complete story could not be told in one volume. The book itself was also handsomely name, cloth bound with a striking dustcover. Well worth it for Warcraft fans - unlikely to win many fans who come to it cold, though.

But I'll tell you this - it made me want to make a new death knight, just to interact with Arthas in game again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer reading without any sign of summer

Something like 18 of the past 22 days have been gray, rainy and gloomy. And oddly enough for someone who does not like to go out much, I get very cranky when spring and summer come by and I do not get enough sun. Maybe that's why my summer reading spree started with those Harry Dresden books; it was my way of demanding the weather fit my reading mood.

It hasn't worked.

However, having finished every book, (through Turn Coat (Book 11)I am now a certified fan of The Dresden Files, at least in written and comic book form (The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle.) The show, not so much. If you like your reading light-hearted with monsters and mayhem, not a lot of deep philosophical thought required, Jim Butcher can deliver. Good luck finding them on Paperback Swap though...maybe that should have indicated to me how much fun they were.

One of the reasons why I enjoyed them so much was the skill Butcher has in compacting maximum information in minimum of space - when he introduces a character, you can immediately get a feel for them. He is not above using the standard tropes of mysteries - the "one day I will tell you all about this matter you hadn't thought of until I mentioned it," sort of thing. But eventually, he does seem to get to that point, and without repeat visits to the tease. (A la that other Harry I enjoy, one Mr. Potter. How many times did someone promise to tell him everything he needed to know?)

Butcher had started out wanting to publish his swords, horses and magic books, but found the Dresden books were snapped up first. Now that he has established his name, he found publishers more willing to print up some fantasy novels for him. I'm somewhat gun shy of high fantasy - read far too many dreadful examples of it in my teens, and actually wrote some myself. (Shudder.) But like his publisher, I will take a chance on his fantasy - Furies of Calderon
- having read his horror.

While waiting to assemble my Dresden collection, I filled in some reading time with the final book in the Jaran series, The Law of Becoming. I almost wish I hadn't. It's huge, which I find encouraging. But the author had apparently decided her previous leading characters were no longer interesting, and this other guy, a third-string dude who made a pair of stupid choices in the previous books, was much more interesting. I obviously do not agree. But by shifting the focus from the small world where our romantic heroes struggled in low-tech battles into the larger universe and the incredibly complex alien society which holds humans in a rather benign pax-aliana, she threw her previous heroes into the dustbin of history, lost and forgotten, literally kidnapped in one case and nearly completely impotent in the other.

I felt like I had been baited and switched. By the end of the book, I was actually offended. It was like Elliot had simply written herself into a corner - how can a bunch of low-tech barbarians help topple an empire old enough to have seeded other planets with early humans?

Well, they can't. (Ewoks included.) So instead, the aliens, who have been so mysterious anyway, mysteriously elevate one of said barbarians to their ruling class, and who needs a coherent explanation for that? Did I mention they were mysterious aliens?

I am pondering whether I will keep these or pop them back on PBS. I liked the earlier books just fine.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Logo contest for Passionate Bonds

Are you good at logo design? Midori and Laura Antoniou are looking for someone to design a simple, neat logo for our new weekend intensive, Passionate Bonds.

This special, limited registration class is intended to allow people involved or interested in D/S relationships to discover and create for themselves the optimal way of expressing and getting what they truly want. The themes of the classes and workshops include personal discovery, values, power dynamics and protocol.

Some advice and ideas:

It needs to include the words Passionate Bonds.
Don't make it too complex. See the Wikipedia article on logos for some information on what makes a good logo.
Stay away from well known BDSM symbolism - no leather pride flag, no little zen thingie, no handcuffs.
Ditto, no gothic visuals, cartoons, or cheap clip art.
Although color can be used, the logo should not depend on it; it must be acceptable in black and white.

The entries must be submitted as a scalable vector graphic in EPS format, and also as a JPG. All submitted work must be original and not based on any pre-existing design. Files may be sent to Laura@Lantoniou.com

The winning artist will get a handsome selection of autographed books from both presenters, including at least two first edition books (hand numbered) from the Marketplace series. Plus, you will get bragging rights and mitzvah points. And, if you intend to attend one of these events in the future, you will be fast-tracked past any waiting lists.

This contest ends at 11:30 PM, EST, July 31. These instructions may be announced, e-mailed, cross-posted and otherwise distributed at will.

Contest sponsors:
www.PlanetMidori.com
www.FHP-inc.com
www.lantoniou.com

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I'm world famous!

Look what I found in a brochure for a series of workshops given in Hong Kong!

Lucifer, Ling Hung(洪凌):”A time out of joint; a place for enigmatic quest:
Reading three trans-men in their BDSM way of being” <時移事不魍,物換星
不移:從跨性男的愉虐敘事分析酷兒時空模式>
This paper showcases three approaches of transsexual man’s mode of desire,
emphasizing on their articulations of temporality and spatial locations in regard
to an excruciating, intoxicating enactment of queer gay relationship embedded
within the locus of sadomasochistic power play.
The first part is a re-writing (or reverse writing) based on the Hegelian model of
“bondage and lordship”, in which a trans-man slave undertakes his trajectory on
a process of bodily transfiguration, branding his identification by way of a
Nietzschean discipline that trains a (masculine) animal into a promising being
across the boundary of time and space. I will read this remarkable and strenuous
bildungsroman via a close textual and inter-textual analysis of a serial queer
BDSM literature, Marketplace Series by celebrated author Laura Antoniou. This
cycle of stories vividly invokes a politically sensitive and phantasmatically
constructed reality in which a centralized anti-hero figure, a closeted trans-man
Chris Parker, posits as an emblem for this pansexual backdrop of an unruly
leather community. His is a story told in unyieldingly tricky tone, both densely
agonizing and perversely compelling, finally reclaiming a status by recourse to a
complicated (re)inscription of bodily modification, liminal subjectivity, and a
dialectical struggle between memory and amnesia, stigma of the past perfect
tense and stigmata in this present “after-life” which allows for his relocated
embodiment as a slave man per se.


Wow!

(Goes off to look up some words...)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Midori & me in a new weekend intensive. Interested?

We've been working on it for about a year now, and we're ready to take it out in public.

Anyone who has seen me present knows how much I loathe anything that smacks of "one true wayism." For years now, I have been limited to mostly 90 minutes in which to get people as much information and personal attention to create their own best relationships - their own personal best "lifestyle."

Midori, a long time friend and absolutely not the model for Ken Mandarin, shares many of my values about SM, relationships, and the romantic, wonderful ecstasy that can come when things work out well. Some time ago, we wondered...could we teach this together? Not as a simple 90-minute class in a busy event, but as an intensive, personal, educational and, yes, passionate exploration of what a smaller group of people really wanted to work on.

Limited class size, one location, one weekend of uninterrupted access to two people who want the same thing - for folks in the scene to have the best relationships for them.

No bondage how-to classes. No safety 101. No auctions, dances, awards or sashes. Nothing but how to make your personal world work for you and your partners.

It's coming, this autumn, to a location we'll choose based on what sort of interest we get and where we can have a good mix of privacy and comfort.

If you might be interested, let me know. You are welcome to post here, of course, but you can also write directly to me at Laura@lantoniou.com. We're looking for serious players ready to commit time, money and personal effort for a weekend they'll never forget.

Passionate Bonds: Creating Empowered Relationships

DESCRIPTION:

Tired of searching for the ultimate guide to your D/s or SM relationship? Do you want to make your BDSM relationship the best it can be for you and your partners?

Join Marketplace author Laura Antoniou and internationally acclaimed educator Midori for a special weekend intensive designed for real people who enjoy power dynamics and want to have quality relationships that suit their hungers and needs.

Learn about the many styles of relationships we enjoy and discover the hidden and vital aspects of your own special way. You will be guided through a special curriculum designed to clearly identify your value system, behavior preferences and relationship goals.

Participants will develop insights to help them get what they want in current and future relationships. This unique curriculum will provide the tools for each individual or relationship unit to create their own customized manual of effective protocol, rules, etiquettes and codes of conduct. The instructors work closely with each student through out each step.

This weekend will include lectures, group discussions and exercises, with time for reflection and time for pure fun.

While experience or current D/s relationship is not necessary, students must be prepared for hard but fulfilling work. Sincerity, willingness to communicate and full participation is required.

Open to anyone with an orientation or a strong interest for a relationship which includes some variation and expression of power exchange or dominance and submission. Any experience level welcome. The weekend is excellent for those in current relationship or domestic units of 2 or more people. It is also highly effective for those who are not currently in relationship but wish have clear visions, goals and structure in place for future relationships.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Unacceptable

Antisemitism, if you use that word. Jew-hatred, if you want to argue semantics about semites, as many Jew-haters do, when trying to change the subject. It's a disgusting, backward, fucked-up, paranoid frame of mind in which someone believes canards such as how Jews simultaneously are both the worlds communists and socialists and the greatest capitalists. That the Jews control the banks, the media and the government, yet are vile, vermin-like creatures who use subterfuge and crafty pressure to be accepted among polite company. Or that Jews were not targeted and murdered throughout history, most especially not by Hitler and his enthusiastic helpers and passive cowards. And also that the Nazis didn't kill enough Jews.

It is unacceptable from the right. Especially so when they advocate and use violence to spread their hate.

And it is unacceptable from the left, even if all they use are words.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Turning Japanese

Recently, I also caught up with a Sano Ichiro mystery I had missed, and a neat little book on the Japanese bath.

My attraction to mysteries seems to include a few necessary elements. I like a lengthy series of books, the better to collect and re-read, and I prefer settings which have an element of unfamiliarity - historical mysteries, psychiatric evaluations, that sort of thing. Add to this my quirky fetish for things Japanese, and bingo! A detective operating in the 17th Century Shogun's court, with his wife as an occasional aid and occasional plot device. I do not grab them reflexively as I do with other novels; they are fast reads which seem to find their way into my briefcase while I am in airports, mostly. This is not a series to be read for the rich depth of the plots or settings. But they are fun, and I have a library card, so The Assassin's Touchwound up in my stack of books to be read. It is about the same as the other books in the series and I tore through it in a day.

I actually enjoyed the non fiction book, Getting Wetmore than the mystery. Our friend Tom brought it on his last visit - more, I suspect, because of our repeat visits to the local Korean bath house, Spa Castle. But I liked the breezy, conversational writing of Eric Talmadge, a Tokyo based editor for the Associated Press. I also appreciated the pictures included. Sometimes, no matter how well something is described, only a picture will make it clear for me. Seeing a classic style vs. modern style home bath, a rustic spring in the mountains, a public bathhouse, a sort of bathhouse amusement park and a Soapland room beats reading the descriptions by a long shot.

It's not a scholarly work, and it sure isn't for anyone who actually has real life experience in Japan, but I will keep this one on my reference shelf.

Second verse, etc.


Depression, for the record, sucks rotten donkey dong. I hate whining about it, and to tell the truth, it's been pretty well managed with drugs for years, but this year, (and part of last) - not so much. The adventures involved in trying new substances which my insurance will pay for have been annoying and distracting. For the slower of thought, I might add that being depressed makes me not want to write. (Big "duh," right?)

But every once in a while I try to push though. The worst part this year seems to be that I want to read less than I usually do and am far more entertained by passive entertainment - i.e., TV shows - than I usually am. Blech. I am so ready to move on and get better. If only my pharmaceuticals would get on track.

Not that I haven't been reading. But the volume is way down from my usual level. So, playing catch up again, here's what has passed my way since the last time I updated:

Two more Dresden novels, Summer Knight and Grave Peril. Still like them! I like Harry Dresden and his various friends and issues, I like the other worldly aspects both for the honoring of standard horror tropes and for the gleeful skewering of them. I'll probably read more of them as I find them.

However, the The Dresden FilesTV show, which lasted for one season on the newly re-branded Ski-Fee, er, SyFy...whatever...channel - yeah, those who warned me against it were right. They got rid of some of the things that make me like the books - little fairies who eat pizza, holy knights wandering around Chicago with swords, tons of gore - and made Harry into a ...whiner. They also stripped him of his iconic mantled coat (very Dark Shadows), his not-so-Blue Beetle, and made his cop friend Murphy into yet another girly police officer with Issues. I did like his using a drum stick for his "blasting wand" and a hockey stick for his "staff." And...um...Ok, I liked Bob the elemental spirit being changed to a ghost who can manifest because, well, he was played by Terrance Mann who is Teh Hawtness. (See photo above. Look for white hair and pale eyes in an upcoming MP character, that's all I am saying.) But I watched the entire season and, well, my verdict is, "Meh." It was OK. But if it was still on, I'd forget when and watch it online from time to time while playing solitaire on the side. Of course, I included the link to buy the set on DVD, but I think you can still watch it for free on the aforementioned cable channel's website.

More books, other updates later.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shameless self promotion moment

The Leather Archives in Chicago is having a poll on "BDSM" works of fiction. They are launching a new exhibit and they want readers to tell them all about the good stuff.

Do I have to hold up the cue cards?

To be featured in this exhibit, a book must be FICTION and it must contain EXPLICIT BDSM.
If you really like your favorite book, then please consider also submitting a comment of 100-200 words, describing any or all of the following:
+ a brief synopsis of the book,
+ how the book represents BDSM,
+ historical significance of the book,
+ other work the author may have done within the BDSM community.

The best book descriptions might be used in the exhibit. So if you want your description to have your name or pseudonym on it, please include that name at the end of your description! Sadly, we cannot pay people if we use their descriptions.


So, go do that voodoo that you do so well!

Laura

Hey! There's a new spouse here!

So, Republican National Committee head Michael Steele wants to reframe opposition to same-sex-marriage from "teh gays! they are icky!" to "the gays! they will want health insurance!"

"Now all of a sudden I've got someone who wasn't a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for," Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. "So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money."
- RNC chief: Gay marriage will burden small business

To which I had to...well, blink a lot in confusion. Isn't this an argument against hiring...SINGLE PEOPLE?

I mean...notice the lack of gender in that example. So, if Bob Heterosexual starts working for Janes Small Business and then gets hitched...hey! There's someone who wasn't a spouse before! OMG! WTF??

And, um...there's that "who pays for it?" question. Judging from the costs of single coverage vs family coverage, Bob Heterosexual just saw his insurance premium co-pay at work...double. He might even pay more than double. The last corporate job I had, the "family" coverage was 3X what a single person paid, because it also covered children.

So...of there are (at least) 9 hets for every gay person, and hets marry more than gay people do...and have more children than gay people do...

In order to save money, a small business should ONLY hire gay couples.

But in my own weak attempt at doing the math, I missed an even bigger picture. What about all the small business that won't get the money from all the new gay marriages?

For example, in my wedding, we paid for rings, decorations, catering, music, clothing, printing, art, yarmulkes, food, wine, fabric, prayer shawls, and legal advice - all from local small business or crafters. (OK, the printing of the invitations actually came from one of those huge catalog places.) And we had a small, small wedding. Let Keith Olberman do the bigger math.


Keith asks WTF? about the "cost" of gay weddings
.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Housekeepers and beaming butlers

So, according to a new survey by Time magazine, the happiest people in their profession are priests and other clergy. The second most happy at work?

Housekeepers and butlers.

Hmm.

LTNS; I've been distracted

Way behind on my reading accounting, I know. I've been on the road (Michigan, Illinois) and I've been training for a new part time job and then doing it, and pondering life's oddities. In Michigan, I saw many dancing white people, crossdressing and parading up and down the streets like nobodies business. Shameless, I tell you! But the elephant ear was tasty. In Illinois, I saw many kinky people, several of whom seemed to want to be half dead. It's a long story.

In the mean time, as I have been enjoying this jet-set almost-working lifestyle, I have read...more books than I can remember. But these are the ones which come to mind (and hand) with the greatest of ease...

Finished Ring of Fire II, enjoyed it, forgot most of it already. But that's my pattern with Eric Flint, et. al. Just for comparisons' sake, after my last post on the subject, I reread S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Timetrilogy, and yep - far more memorable and enjoyable as a story. It's always good to check these things.

Picked up three books via PaperbackSwap, and greatly enjoyed them. This is a new author for me, Kate Elliot. She popped up on my "books you might like" list several times, and sometimes appears on lists of gay SF/fantasy stories. The first book I read by her was Jaran (The Jaran, Book 1).

Technically science fiction, most of the action takes place on a low-tech world with a bunch of pseudo-cossacks and their Mongol-like roaming lifestyle. Tess, the heroine, is hiding from her brother, a powerful galactic figure, by hanging out with the nomads for a while. What made this book and its sequels interesting for me was the culture of said nomads. Instead of dropping in the standard "men are warriors, women cook and make babies" sort of lazy importing, Elliot made a few tweaks into that narrative and made the men warriors - duh, strength, stamina, thick heads - but made the women the owners of the tents, the hunters, and pretty much the tribal political leadership. Women choose lovers; men choose wives. All of a woman's children are hers and her husbands - absolutely no import is attached to the "biological father," who might be any man a woman fancies at any time. In fact, they have difficulty even picturing what "biological father" means.

So what's gay about this? Not much, actually. There's a band of leathermen, er, manly outsider men, who contain a certain number of dudes who prefer another dude in their tent, so to speak, and later in the series, it becomes clear that although the nomads really disapprove of that sort of thing, well, see, this one lead male character might have had this one great love in the past...yadda, yadda. It's about as gay as a novel-of-the-closet, really, and if that was the reason I set out to read them, I'd feel cheated.

No, the centerpiece romance is between Tess and...you guessed it, the leader of the male nomads, (he-who-had-a-boyfriend-once) - and they bicker for a while until they wind up admitting their great love, a sort of science-fiction-mongol-russian-sitcom thing. Everyone around them rolls their eyes and says, "sheesh, finally!" Everyone who is still alive, that is. This is not a series in which you should develop favorite characters too early.

And then things get interesting. The following books are An Earthly Crown and His Conquering Sword. Note that the numbering is confusing; the first book is followed by a book sometimes called book 2 or, book 1.

I read three books out of a total of four. The fourth is out of print, so after hunting around, I found a cheap copy and splurged actual money for it. That's how much I want to know how it all ends.

While lounging in Michigan and not being entertained by klompen-stalkers, I reread the final two Harry Potter novels (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows) because 1) they were there in the cottage, and 2) I didn't think I had enough new material to last me all the way home, and 3) I hadn't read them enough yet. Oh, and also because I am waiting for the next movie. Once again, I lamented the fact that there ARE movies at all. Clearly, these books were meant for a series option, preferably produced with deep pockets and sterling production values, ala HBO/Showtime. There is just so much in the story I'd love to see on the screen. Ahh, well.

Back at home, I have been enjoying the first two Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher. Apparently everyone else enjoys them, too, because not even one is available at PBS and even used copies are more than the usual amazon .01 plus postage. They're fun! Sort of a wizard-private eye thing, set in Chicago, with predictable supporting cast (wiseass spirits, coldblooded gangsters, ferocious, bloodthirsty vampires, werewolves, demons, etc.) Downright Dexter-esque in the splashes of blood everywhere, the lead character, one Harry Dresden, is a standard combination of tough PI, wily mage and sensitive new age guy. He dresses like he just walked out of a Stephen King apocalypse novel, has a lousy romantic life (so far) and breaks electrical equipment by looking at it. He comes equipped with other standard trope of the genres - mysterious deaths of his parents (which he didn't know were mysterious), a former lover who betrayed him, and a mentor, ditto; hell, in Storm Front, the first book, he came complete with all that and a stalker, ready to execute him for past crimes. Obviously, he was intended to launch a franchise. I'm OK with that so far; we'll see how long this ride lasts.

Oh, and finally, I read When the Focus is On Care: Pallative Care and Cancer. It's research.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fabulous ad for Iowa

Iowa recently celebrated a court decision to allow for same-sex couples to get hitched there. This is a fabulous ad put together by OneIowa, to help influence people not to work for or support a reversal of that decision. Unlike some statewide campaigns, this one actually shows gay people in it, hopefully helping those who watch it realize there are real people involved here and not just an abstract theory or religious "principle."

Watch it here.

And, if you can afford it, toss them a few bucks. I admire their donation suggestions! They range from an "anything helps" level of $5 to a note that $5000 would keep that ad running in a particular congressional district for a whole week.

And if you can't send money, send a nice note, or spread the video and donation suggestions around. They have a matching grant for $25,000 if they can raise that amount by April 30. And let's face it, volunteers can always use some nice words, especially when their opposition is so batshit crazy and foaming at the mouth. And have you ever noticed how, when religious extremists and the far right start talking about the "homosexual agenda" someone ALWAYS seems to have one sex act on their mind? Methinks some people spend a lot of time thinking about having things "shoved down throats." Just saying.

Words from the opposition in Iowa (and outside agitators)

“Sen. Gronstal has formed a pact with the rabid homosexual rights lobby in Des Moines and is now working to ram their hostile agenda down your throat!”
- Flyer from Iowa Biblical Families

“The Flood of 2008 is arguably the most destructive disaster that the state of Iowa has seen — at least, that is, until last Friday.”
- Baptist Pastor from Cedar Rapids

“I believe this case is actually about going into churches and going in and attacking churches and saying you can’t teach anything else.”
- Glenn Beck on Fox News, despite the Court’s message that religious doctrine is unaffected

“I suppose, a father and a son or a mother and a daughter… They can come to this state and get married and then go back to the state where they reside.”
- Rep. Steve King

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Got any Dresden Files books?

Someone left the first one at our house. During the library reorg, we discovered it and stashed it on the "to be read" shelf and found it was great fun.

However, they are simply not to be found on PBS and used copies seem...pricey! So, since it's a series, and sometimes people will buy a bunch of books in a series and then realize they have no great desire to keep them, I am asking...

Do you have these books and would rather have the shelf space? I will be happy to trade other books for them and/or pay for shipping costs. We have a loving home for books here and will treat them well. The author is Jim Butcher, and I am especially interested in volumes 3 and up for the Dresden Files series.


And if anyone knows - how is the TV show?

Ring of Fire, the biggest world around

Right now, I am 3/4 through Ring of Fire II (v. 2), edited by Eric Flint, who has apparently found a way to do without sleep. The Ring of Fire books, also known as the 1632 Series, belong to that small genre of "a large group of contemporary Americans find themselves sometime in the past for no discernible reason and proceed to change the world."

For example, S. M. Stirling has for his group the entire island of Nantucket. (And never a limerick anywhere in the books!) In the first volume, Island in the Sea of Timehe slams them into 1250 BCE, and if you have trouble picturing what the world was like then, they run into Odysseus. An interesting twist for Stirling is that he has two different series of books - one about the misplaced Nantucketeers and one about what happens on the world they left behind. (Given my druthers, I would have rather stayed with the Nantucket people. Just saying.) It's a sweeping world-wide story full of high fantasy tropes, engagingly improbable characters, dastardly villains and occasional lengthy and bloody battles. And one of the lead characters is a black, lesbian, martial arts master, Coast Guard Captain. (For which many people have condemned the books, saying that Stirling is PC and/or obscene, blah, blah. Whatever happened to SF people being the smart ones?) To say that his works are among my favorite for engrossing adventure and entertainment is an understatement. And his Draka books...woof. It's like the darkest of SM fantasies brought to life. When I reread those, I will go into more detail.

Flint, however, takes a small West Virginia mining town called Grantville and plops it into Europe in the middle of the 30 Years War. This series is impossibly huge, because Flint openly shares it with not only other professional writers, but with thousands of fans, who produce their own stories, some of which wind up in the supporting magazine and published anthologies and on the amazingly badly organized website for the series. I mean it, their website sucks rocks. For a bunch of people who get all geeky over the precise methods of manufacturing and warfare, they need a better web master.

That aside, I must say I enjoy the Stirling "Americans lost in time" more than the 1632 series, because of his masterful and epic writing style. (Plus, Flint looks like a High School teacher and Stirling looks like the guys I played D&D with.) But both the weakness and the strength of the 1632 series is the fact that it is a shared world. Sometimes, the novel or short story seems pedantic to the point of fetish. Other times, characters seem to change speech patterns and behavioral tics. But put together, there's this huge and varied world under construction here, spreading in all directions. So, an Italian action-adventure which has at its core a bunch of bumbling but well meaning teenagers off to rescue Galileo can act as a nice rest from reading way, way too much about various church doctrines of the time and their giant committee meetings. (At least for me.) Both the displaced Americans and the various locals appear as major and minor characters, and famous historical figures pop in for cameos or become major parts of the story. These books give me a good workout with Google; I am always looking up this king and that philosopher or artist. But then, I like that.

However, I do find myself skipping pages and sometimes entire stories of some of the contributors. It could be the topic, or the style. And there are events which unfurl over literally thousands of pages in the series; sometimes I need a codex to figure out in which volume this group gets rescued from the Tower of London, and in which book does this character die, etc., etc. A particular author can spend an entire story telling how various townspeople I can't really remember met and lived, while a central character who winds up being a sort of country-western version of James Bond seems to simply rise out of the text from nowhere.

And yet, when a new one comes out, I get it. And I enjoy...most of it. It's clear that Flint, et. al. want a more "reality based" version of the displaced Yankees story than the one Stirling tells. Stirling can't resist throwing some elements of fantasy and/or wishful thinking into the mix; but I appreciate that. But with a whole team of writers and fans constantly sending manuscripts, it's plain to see there will be simply *more* of the 1632 books. And among the quantity, there will always be some quality.

Moving right along!

Passover is done, the kitchen has been changed over (and reorganized), and I've been both avoiding writing and reading, a very odd combination for me. For some reason, visual entertainment has been more fun lately, and more interesting. I've indulged in Bones, House, M.D., The Office; (Thanks Kim!!) caught an annual viewing of some biblical epics, relaxed with Stewart and Colbert, some King of the Hill and Family Guy. Really wanted to like Kings on NBC, but wow, they missed the opportunity for some good storytelling there. (sigh) I have also enjoyed the HBO #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which is funny because I never warmed to the books.

Not that I gave up reading, per se. I reread my collection of Boondocks, devoured some cooking magazines, skimmed Haggadot for the holiday, and packed in a few books while reading at bedtime.

James Patterson had one more chance to impress me as I got Pop Goes the Weasel in the mail after I had decided his work was far too repetitive for me to appreciate. As this one came "out of order" with the others, I decided to read it before popping it back on the PBS list. Bad idea. More 3-page chapters, yet another serial killer who e-mails other killers (and would-be-killers) and yet another way for Alex Cross to lose a girlfriend.

I also read another of Daniel Silva's spy novels, this one called The Secret Servant. They also tend to be much of a muchness? I mean there are just so many stories that can be told about spies trying to catch terrorists, stop terrorists, kill terrorists. But in this case, there is enough character development and minor character involvement kept my attention, as well as the interesting descriptions of European locales and complicated political twists.

After seeing it on Amazon's "other books you might like" list for years, I gave a chance to Jaran, by Kate Elliot. This one was delightful. A soft-SF adventure novel about a woman hiding from the responsibilities of being the heir to a galactic duke (her much older brother) slips away to a pre-industrial world half filled with a people who seem a cross between Cossacks, Mongols and just enough "newly made up" cultural differences to provide the element of "strangeness" required in something from another planet. It's primarily a travel and personal relationship story; actual conflicts are spaced far apart and brutal in their lethality. But the culture of the nomad bands and their rivalries and the various mysteries woven into the story are satisfying and fun. I ordered the next two books in the series and am annoyed to find that book 4 is out of print and apparently very rare.

I'm sure there was more mixed up in there, but we reshelved a lot of books in the Passover cleanup and recovery. However, I have a nice stack of "never read before" books on our new "to be read" shelf and I am sure I will find the right balance between staring at a screen and staring at words again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Taking a break

So, I have a huge stack of eggplant slices salting, and it seemed a good time to sit down with an ice cold kosher-for-Passover diet Pepsi. Not that there's anything in a diet drink that should not be kosher for Passover; it's the corn syrup in regular drinks which is against the rules this time of year. Which is why we have 32, count 'em, 32 bottles of kosher-for-Passover Coke in the house. That should keep Mrs. Pornographer happy for the rest of the year. Debbie Friedman is singing in the background, reminding me of the melodies for tomorrow night's Seder.

I love to cook. Which is odd, because I am not very adventurous in cooking, at least not by the standards I see around me. If you are coming for dinner, you'll probably get my pasta with red meat sauce or skirt steak; easy things I can cook (and eat!) pretty much every day. I have decidedly pedestrian tastes, despite wanting to appreciate the "better" things with all my heart. I was devastated when I realized that deep down, I didn't like most sashimi; I'm a tuna and salmon and "is this one cooked?" philistine. I have to tread very carefully with curries; my mouth can't even interpret cilantro correctly, it tastes like nasty, dry soap. So Thai food is also tricky. I have learned what I can eat without seeming too picky in different sorts of restaurants, and every time I order an old standby, I feel like I have failed some sort of cultural taste test. When I discovered I didn't like fois gras I almost cried. I'm a peasant.

Yet when I get into the kitchen with my inadequate knives and cheap pots, I really have a good time. In the past few years, I have schooled myself to experiment more and accept an occasional "what was I thinking?" moment as part of the price of getting to something that makes dinner feel special. I have unearthed some nice childhood memories - not very easy - around food and brought my mother's side dishes to my own table with success. White beans dressed with fresh parsley, garlic and a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice makes people ask for "the recipe." But that's it.

Dinner for over a dozen, and a long dinner with the chance to run overtime, is a bit of a challenge. Pasta would be great if it wasn't for the fact that Passover pasta is sucky beyond belief. There's a reason why people have bad memories of the food at Passover dinners; roasts become overcooked, vegetables become limp and tasteless, and gefilte fish is...well. Chopped, bland fish mixed with bland filler in fish jelly with a slice of raw carrot. Blech.

So, my aversion to traditional (and Ashkenazi style) dinners led me to determine that when I converted to Judaism, I converted to be a Sephardic Jew. Middle Eastern versus Central and Eastern European. Thus, my Passover contains rice dishes, lamb, and instead of a brisket, I make the moussaka. (We did actually get a rolled lamb roast for the first Leather Seder. It was delicious, but wow...kosher lamb for so many people was...um...pricey.)

And I try, every time we do a Seder, to at least vary some of the recipes. I made a traditional tsimmes a couple of times, with carrots and apricots, but this year I roasted sweet potatoes with carrots in date syrup and cayenne. I did make a traditional charoset with apples and walnuts and honey, plus a Moroccan one with dates, figs and almonds.

Next week, I'll probably broil a nice skirt steak, toss some pears and nuts into a green salad and when the holiday is over make a rich, thick red sauce to have over penne. But this week, I am giving my spice rack a work out and pondering, as I do every year, whether I should actually get decent knives or a cast iron pan or one of those fancy stewpots. Or a food processor with more than one blade?

Time to rinse the eggplant and make more charoset.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The menu

So, for the Leather Seder, we will have...

Fresh Bitter Herb Salad - assorted leafy greens chosen for their tart and sharp flavors, accented with mint and dill, dressed with a lemon and pepper dressing.

Sephardi Roasted Eggs

Charoset Two Ways - classic style, with apples and walnuts, and Moroccan style with figs, dates and flame raisins.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Date Syrup and Cayenne Pepper

Moussaka, Sephardi style - layers of eggplant, tomatoes, and spiced beef and lamb, accented by cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cold Beet Salad with Sweet Red Onions

Roasted Cauliflower with Saffron, flavored lightly with lime and sea salt

Matzoh

Mock Chestnut Tort & surprise desserts brought by guests

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Leather Seder

The wife and I put together a Leather Seder in...wow...2001. (I had to look it up.) It's called Avadim Chayenu, which means "Once, we were slaves." Over the years, we've had a few of them here in Queens and this year it looks like we'll be having another "honey, ask the neighbors if they have another folding chair" size crowd.

The Haggadah is available for free to anyone who would like to see it or use it. Use this link to download the PDF file. This is an abbreviated version - the one we use has the lyrics to several Debbie Friedman songs and a few other items which would not fall under "fair use." If you would like to know what music we use, The Journey Continues is Debbie's awesomely fun CD, available for downloading, too.

The theme of a seder is familiar to anyone who has enjoyed Anne Baxter crooning, "Moses, Moses, Moses," or Edward G. Robinson trading in his double breasted suit jacket for a robe and headcloth. ("We're not gonna go with Moses, seeee? We're gonna make us a golden calf, seeee?" Kills me every time.) Every year, Jews around the world settle in at a table to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt and slavery into the ultimate in contracted relationships with the Ultimate of Tops.

So, why not appropriate this ritual for people who still negotiate relationships, fetishize rules and love to see Chuck Heston in a teeny little loincloth and a ton of chains?

I don't talk about "spirituality" and leather very much, because I am one of those people who actually believes ones personal religious beliefs are exactly that. But this is a rare exception for me, mainly because a Seder is supposed to open the way, to escape a narrow place and engage in something new. The stranger is welcomed to the table and made family. Wine flows and laughter is mixed with introspection. Someone will find what is hidden and ask for what they really want. The door is opened for a guest no one will see, but everyone knows.


I'm writing this surrounded by the middle of the kitchen transition; my cookware is still in storage, my favorite matzoh was not in the stores I went to, and this is one of those times when I really, really wonder where my f*cking houseboy is. But I think the menu is set, I'm pretty sure we can borrow enough chairs, and the leeks look especially robust in the market this year.

I wish a Chag Sameach to fellow MOTs and a joy-filled spring to everyone who finds something to celebrate. This year in Queens...

...probably next year, too. (wink)


By the way, The Ten Commandments really is just one of the best movies, evah.

NY Queers, take note!

LGBT New Yorkers: Don’t be invisible to New York State! Be counted!

Take a short survey on LGBT health and human services issues at:

www.nylgbtsurvey.org

Be a part of a historic effort to research and document the needs of LGBT New Yorkers, to ensure those needs don’t go unaddressed by government and health and human service providers. The information you provide will go toward fighting for policy changes and funding to make services to LGBT people in New York equitable and LGBT-friendly.
This survey is open to all LGBT New Yorkers ages 18 and over. We’ve never been counted before. This is a historic opportunity.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My appearance at kink.com

Oh, yeah, they filmed me doing an interview, too. I'd wondered what happened to the footage; it seems they edited in Peter and James saying nice things about me and a few shots of hot girls doing nasty things. And one shot of me whacking the lovely (and easily bruised) Satine. Need I remind people this is Not Safe For Work?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not used to seeing this in the news

Usually, when SM is mentioned in the news, it is relating to some whackjob serial killer or what sounds like one of the worst dates ever, or a relationship that really could have used some counseling, oh, long before the people MET. Say, in the womb.

This is cute, though.

Study: Spank Together, Stay Together

Despite a spike in stress levels, couples who engage in sadomasochistic activities (S&M), may end up strengthening their relationship, according to a new study published in the magazine New Scientist this week.

Two separate studies, one from Northern Illinois University and one from the University of Pisa in Italy, researched hormone levels at S&M parties.


See? Awwww!! But wait...there's still trouble at hand!!

When the activities go well and are enjoyable, couples told researchers they felt closer to each other. However, the opposite was true of negative experiences with S&M.


Blink. Blink.

You don't say?? When you have bad sex, it doesn't help you feel closer to someone?? When sex is good, it makes you feel good?

Wow!

What a strange thing to feel necessary to add there. It's like saying, "Hammers used on nails can be very useful! When used on fingers, not so much!"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Clearing out some books on PBS

If you are a member of Paperback Swap, know that I am making my bookshelf 2-for-1 for a bit. I need to clear out my books and figure out which ones will become pulp and which ones will be donated to the nearest place that will take them. I would rather they went to fellow readers, of course. Request one book and send me a personal message (using the PBS message system, please, so it doesn't wind up in my e-mail backlog) listing which one you spent a point on and which additional title you'd like.

If you are not a member of PBS, maybe you should be. If you join, please consider listing me as your reference.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Patterson is so over.

Done with Alex Cross and James Patterson. I just out down Roses are Red and I am amazingly pissed.

It's the same fucking story.

Crazed serial killer is a genius using a pyramid scheme of other serial killers. Ultimate bad guy turns out to be NOT the obvious mental case...NOT the slick professional...but an actual insider on the investigative team. Detective Cross' girlfriend is once again...killed. (And mutilated.) And the entire book is written in 2 and 3 page chapters.

Nope. Not interested. This man is obviously the real serial killer - every cop, FBI agent and woman who sleep with him gets attacked, threatened, kidnapped, raped, murdered, or kidnapped, raped, murdered and mutilated. He's deadlier than Jessica Fletcher. No wonder Patterson is writing YA stories about teen girls with angel wings. Cross must have run out of people willing to be in the same space with him.

Giving anonymously

Things are tough all over, so the saying goes. It's unlikely anyone now lives in a bubble where they are not directly affected by, or have had friends and family fall prey to job loss and reductions, retirement and investment fund losses, housing difficulties, or health care crisis' made worse by and insane system of mismanaged care.

Of course, it's all perspective; those with *a* job, some healthcare, a home they can afford, little things like that, might feel worlds better off than others they know and/or love. Ditto people in the fields which benefit from economic downturns.

If you are in that category and have wondered how you might be able to help a friend of acquaintance without making them feel uncomfortable by an outright gift, there is actually a charitable organization that will act as a middle-agent for you.

It's even called Giving Anonymously. Its not free, but it is an option.

Of course, you can always just have a bank check, gift check, or gift card created somewhere and mail it to your friend, as well. When we used to answer Santa letters from the Post Office, we'd try to include something for the parent(s) in the package, usually a gift card from a local drugstore or supermarket, or a long distance calling card.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Leaving modern detectives aside

In between the adventures with Patterson, I also read one new period detective novel and revisited an old science fiction classic I hadn't read since I was a kid.

I have a great fondness for ancient Rome; the era of the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire being my favorite place to meander in fiction. Thanks to the wealth of period commentators and their later historians who had access to primary documents we can only dream about reading today, many authors can find ancient Rome a well-documented playground for storytelling.

My favorite books on the period are the books which begin with The First Man in Rome, by Colleen Mccullough. Once better known for The Thorn Birds, she has really stamped a mighty mark on the historical fiction world with this huge and amazingly researched series. (My only real quibble with her is that she maintains Julius Caesar was solidly heterosexual. Other researchers are not so sure about that. He was, however, absolutely a tomcat.)

My favorite mysteries set in that period are the ones by Steven Saylor, who is also a rather talented writer in MY genre, albeit under a pseudonym. His Gordianus the Finder series, aka Roma Sub Rosa, have his curious, cynical, clever detective rubbing elbows with all the big names of the day and finding bodies everywhere.

But happily, I have found another Roman sleuth who seems to have the bad fortune to stumble on mysteries while trying to keep a Legion healthy in the wilds of Britannia. Yes, he's a doctor; another of my favorite things to read about! I just finished my second book by the author, and Terra Incognita was as much fun for me as Medicus, the first one. And there's a new one this year! (Adds it to my wish list)

Gaius Petreius Ruso, Medicus, has a familiar kind of life; low on romance, high on bureaucracy and complaints, too many bills to pay and too many relatives with their own money problems depending on him. He's got the footloose womanizer best friend, a sullen and conniving slave who keeps more secrets than her owner would want to know, and bosses with irrational requirements at the most inconvenient times. Oh, and bodies show up from time to time. Fun! Not deep. (For depth, see Mccullough.)

The revisiting was spurred by the recent death of three-time Hugo winner Philip Jose Farmer. Turns out I didn't have a single book by him on my shelves, but I was sure I'd read him years ago. So, I popped a quest with Paperback Swap and re-read To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first book in the Riverworld series. Now, I had remembered these books fondly as a sort of "what if all the people I always wanted to write about were resurrected in this odd SF environment with, oh, the rest of humanity?"

I figured it would be fun to reread.
It really wasn't.

I found it shallow. I found the set-up to be more interesting than the characters. I hated that Hermann Goring was a major character who actually set about killing Jews again. Female characters? Prude, tool or slut, all shallow and not important to the story.

Ah, well. I will not bother to get the sequels.