Calling All Erotica Writers!Oct 03, 2017



Editor: Rob Rosen

Submission Deadline: January 5th, 2018 (Please submit sooner rather than later)

Submission Guidelines: short stories are now being accepted for Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volume 4. Length: 2,500-5,000 words. Original stories strongly preferred, though reprints will also be accepted. Reprints must solely be owned by the author and must not have appeared in print during the past three years. BGEv4 is not a “themed” anthology. All genres, kinks, and fantasies are fair game, just so long as the work is intensely erotic and exceedingly literary. M/M or M/M/M only. No “confused straight men” stories will be accepted; all sex scenes must be between gay identifying characters. Please send your best and hottest work for this prestigious collection. Absolutely no scenes of rape, bestiality, incest, or underage (below 18) sex. Safe anal sex, when called for, is mandatory.

The editor has a strong preference for unusual settings, unique sex scenes, multi-genre stories, humor, romance, and anything out of the norm. Trite stories (frat sex, cop sex, older men/younger men, etc,), if you really want to submit them, should be highly original.

The below formatting is mandatory. Stories not meeting the below will immediately be declined:

  • Times or Times New Roman 12-point black font.
  • Word document or RTF.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph half an inch.
  • Double space; do not add extra lines between paragraphs or do any other irregular spacing.
  • One space only after a comma, period, etc. Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong, unless you’re typing on a typewriter. The editor, BTW, will also not accept typewriter-written stories.
  • U.S. grammar (double quotation marks around dialogue, etc.) required.

Please do not submit more than one story. Include real name/pen name/address/ maximum 50-word bio. Payment is $50 for accepted stories.

Submit your best work to:


An Interview with The Combat Zone's Author Vincent WildeApr 27, 2017


This week Cleis Press sat down with writer Vincent Wilde to get a behind the scenes look at his writing process and inspiration for his most recent book, The Combat Zone, which came out in January 2017.


What was your inspiration for the book?   

Vincent Wilde: I’ve always been interested in mysteries and the detective genre, but, in this case, the seed for The Combat Zone came many years ago and arose out of my increasing frustration and horror about the tactics used by right-wing groups, particularly those opposed to the gay rights movement. I felt they needed to be called out, and my fiction was the best way I could find a strong voice without being polemical. Under ever-increasing pressure, we must continue the fight for equality and justice. Just when you think the battle is won, another enemy steps forward.

Your book is an interesting example of cross-genre fiction. What inspired you to write a book that combines the erotica, suspense, and crime genres?

VW: To be honest, I never really thought of the book in that way. The best way to present the story, I thought, was to take a killer who preyed upon the “underbelly” of humanity, and write a protagonist who had known that life and had no real shame about coming to terms with his past. Cody Harper’s strengths lie in his loyalty to his friends, knowing his true self and also knowing his limits. The Combat Zone, Boston’s sanctioned red-light district, is no longer there, but I felt it was the perfect setting for an antagonist whose sexual and social worlds violently collide.



Instead of just being a traditional sleuth, Cody is also a cross-dresser. What was the thought process behind that decision?

VW: I thought Cody would be a nice addition to the genre, but I also have friends who enjoy drag and are practitioners of what I would characterize as an “art form.” Drag also delivers wonderful and engaging benefits to the community. Thanks to those friends, I added realistic detail to the story by combining their knowledge with Cody’s love of drag and leather. It also gives him the option of becoming another personality—Desdemona—when the story requires it. Drag keeps his enemies guessing as he tries to solve the crime.


Where there any writers that you looked to for inspiration?

VW: Quite a few LGBTQ writers paved the way for my addition to the genre. John Rechy’s City of Night, was a revelation in its candor and stunning presentation. I’ve always been a fan of our groundbreaking mystery writers such as Richard Stevenson, Nathan Aldyne, and Michael Nava.



Photo by Calum Macaulay/ Unsplash


I also want to touch a little on your writing proccess so let’s just jump right into that. Did you have any difficulties or was there anything that you struggled with while writing the book?

VW: No writer wants to admit a struggle with any book, but The Combat Zone was a novel near and dear to my heart, and one, as I pointed out, that sprang from my concern about gay bashing. The most difficult thing about writing a mystery, I think, is discovering a plot hole in the middle of the story that the writer hasn’t planned for. Thus, you’ve written yourself into a corner and sometimes it’s hard to get out. I found myself in just such a disaster about half-way through the novel. My first response was to scrap the book, but I loved Cody and had too much invested in him as a character. It took about three months of creative thinking for me to get back on track. I find that when the writing stops something’s wrong with the plot. The character usually lets you know what needs to be fixed because he or she won’t go the direction you want to take.


Wow, three months. I definitely think it’s safe to say that you’re a pretty determined and self-disciplined writer, but how do you deal with the archenemy of all writers: writers block?

VW: Some days it’s hard to go to the keyboard. I get over that by tricking myself into believing I only need to write 100 words—that’s hardly more than a typical e-mail. Of course, I find myself writing more and more, and pretty soon I’ve written two or three pages. Usually that works like a charm. But I think it’s fair to say that on some days you don’t need to write. I don’t subscribe to the theory that you MUST write every day. If you don’t feel like writing, give yourself a break and take the day off. The next day, I find I’m charged and ready to go back to work. Also, writer’s block exists. I know because I experienced it. For me it wasn’t a question of not wanting to write, or failing to put myself into the chair. There’s a huge difference between being lazy and true writer’s block. Severe writer’s block stems from a deep psychological concern. The writer who suffers may need therapeutic help to solve the underlying issues.


That email trick is a great idea and I might have to steal it to use when I’m writing. But let’s face it, even if you want to write sometimes you just don’t have time to sit down and get out a few pages. How do you find a balance between your writing life and your everyday life? 

VW: Writers make time to write no matter whether they work full-time or not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly difficult to crank out pages when you have job and family obligations. But, it can be done. When I was working full-time, I wrote on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and on weekends. I was happy with an hour’s worth of work on weeknights, but usually I did more. On weekends, I worked between loads of laundry and bouts of cleaning house. It can be done. I balanced my life by giving myself Monday and Friday nights and weekend nights off. Now that I don’t have to work full-time, I set a daily word goal that I strive to meet five days a week while I’m working on a book.


You’ve already given some great tips, but do you have any other advice that you’d like to give to writers who are just starting out?

VW: The best advice I can give to anyone wanting to get started in this business is: start now. I’ve heard so many would-be writers say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” And I ask, “So, what’s stopping you?” Unless you’re a genius, your path to publication most likely will involve writing hundreds of thousands of words and a couple of failed novels before you get on track. I know there are always exceptions, but I think most writers have a period of breaking in, almost like an internship, when everything is up for grabs, including subject matter, stylistic formation, etc. The sooner you know what you want to write the better. Also, read, read, read! I think all true writers are readers. And you need to read outside your genre.


The “reading outside your genre” advice is fantastic! Finally, my last question: Now that this case is closed, what’s next for Cody Harper?

VW: There is a sequel: An Absent God, scheduled to be published in November 2017 by Cleis Press. Cody has always been a loner, but in An Absent God, he finds a love interest, Anthony Vargas. “Settling in” is something new for Cody and, in its own way, the process is just as scary and challenging as dealing with a murderer. The sequel also brings back a few characters from The Combat Zone, including Cody’s old nemesis, Rodney Jessup. It’s my hope that Cody Harper entertains, but also makes readers think seriously about social issues that affect us all.



Vincent Wilde is the author of the Cody Harper mystery series about a cross-dressing sleuth who enjoys wielding a whip as much as slipping into a silk chemise. He also is the author of numerous novels and short stories in other genres. Some of his influences include Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Oscar Wilde, Daphne du Maurier, Richard Matheson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and any work by the exquisite Brontë sisters.



Writer & Editor Sacchi Green Talks About Her Newest AnthologyApr 24, 2017


This weekend on the website Women and Words, writer and editor, Sacchi Green talked about her newest erotic lesbian collection Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms which is coming out in a few weeks. In this guest post, she also talks about her past with writing speculative fiction and fantasy, as well as, her inspiration and drive for creating an anthology solely on lesbian centered fairy tales and fantasy stories. Below Sacchi talks about the different elements of the fantasy and erotica genres that each writer brought to the book:

For Witches, Princesses, and Woman at Arms: Erotic Lesbian Fairy Tales I wanted erotic romance and wild adventure with women who use their wits and/or weapons and come together in a blaze of passion. These twelve wonderful writers (I’m in there, too, though not necessarily wonderful) gave me all I hoped for and more. Some adapted traditional tales, and some updated old stories to contemporary times, not merely changing the gender of a character but making the female aspect essential. Some created original plots with a fairy tale sensibility, while others wrote with just a subtle aura of fantasy. Their heroines are witches, princesses, brave, resourceful women of all walks of life, and even a troll and a dryad. There are curses and spells, battles and intrigue, elements of magic and explorations of universal themes, and, yes, sex, sensuality and true love, all bound skillfully together into complex and multi-layered stories.

Now make sure you head over to Women and Words to read the rest of her post and to enter for a chance to win a free copy of Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms!


Call for Submissions: Raised by UnicornsMar 28, 2017


Are you the child of LGBT parent or parents? Are you a fantastic writer with a keen sense of wit and retrospection with a unique, true story to tell? If so, you now have a chance to be a contributor in Raised By Unicorns, a new book by America’s favorite “Gay at Home Dad”, Frank Lowe.

Raised By Unicorns: True Stories of People Who Grew Up With LGBT Parents will be published by powerhouse Cleis Press, and aims to be an anthology that reflects on the experience of being raised by a gay, lesbian, transgender, or otherwise queer parent or parents. While stories of promise and love are of great appeal, we also seek tales of discrimination, defeats, and setbacks. This volume ultimately seeks to portray a true representation of this particular niche of the human experience.

In order to be considered, you must have a US mailing address and your story must be 3,000 to 5,000 words. Potential contributors need not identify with a particular gender. All submissions are due by July 16, 2017 and can be submitted to Frank Lowe directly at

Frank Lowe is a contributor to The Advocate and is a self-proclaimed “Stepford Gay”. He has an active YouTube channel and can be followed on Twitter as @GayatHomeDad.


Call for Submissions: JanelandJul 12, 2016


Call for Submissions

Working Title: Janeland: Women Write More about Leaving Men for Women (Cleis Press, 2017)

Editors: Candace Walsh and Barbara Straus Lodge

Essay length: 2,000–4,000 words, Deadline: September 15, 2016

Six years have passed since the publication of Lambda Literary Award finalist Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write about Leaving Men for Women, a groundbreaking exploration of sexual fluidity through intimate, firsthand stories. This anthology remains a crucial resource for women who find themselves deliciously (and distressingly) floundering in the knowledge that although they have always identified as straight, they are now madly in love with another woman.

It’s time to update, extend, broaden, and strengthen the conversation. The last six years has also been a revolutionary time for all LGBT people, and this book will be expansive enough to contain a full spectrum, including Trans perspectives, that could have only manifested over half a decade of turbulent and triumphant social change. Janeland will include continuations of many of the original writers’ stories, but we also seek new voices and unique variations on the now-familiar Jane story, including submissions from women who found the first book to be a catalyst, resource, and a way to connect with other women going through the same transformation.

This new cadre of women will write from a place of community and support, while also acknowledging repercussions, bad and good: custody battles, exes both furious and supportive, estrangement from and reconnection with family and friends, as well as mind-blowing sexual and emotional awakenings and the life-changing transcendence that comes from living one’s truth.

Although this book will evolve as we receive submissions, we welcome first-person, literary non-fiction essays from women who:

 1) were aware that they had always felt same-sex/gender desires, but wanted to try to make it work in the straight world, and

 2) identified as heterosexual at one time, but found themselves embarking on a romantic, same-sex/gender relationship.

We seek a diversity of voices, and welcome submissions from a variety of perspectives, including essays from women who don’t fit precisely into the above descriptions.

Here are some questions that your piece might consider or use as a point of departure. Please don’t feel like this is an essay question test and that you have to cover them all—we want the format of your essay to feel organic and not be explicitly dictated by our questions. Feel free to add other great ideas that we haven’t considered here. And don’t shy away from humor.

  • How did you come to your moment of truth?
  • Were your actions in any way dictated by the temperature of society and its views on homosexuality?
  • What were your first times like with a woman—holding hands, the first date, kiss, sexual experience?
  • How did your cultural/religious/racial/ethnic/economic background shape your experience?
  • Did your perception of yourself change? Do you feel that others’ perceptions of you changed? Did they surprise you with either an unexpected positive or negative reaction? How did this affect you? Did their reactions change over time?
  • What do you miss? What do you not miss? Everything from in the bedroom to out at dinner, at a wedding, as a parent, as a family member, at the gym, in the workplace, on a picnic—whatever comes up for you.
  • If you have children, how were the children affected by this change?
  • Do you feel like you surrendered heterosexuality or elements of heterosexual privilege? Do you feel like your new life has yielded rewards? What were the rewards you expected and which ones were surprises?
  • What is this journey like for you? How did you feel as you were setting out on it and how do you feel now? How do you mark your progress? Were there stages? Illustrative moments? Looking back, do you feel like you went through certain phases?
  • What is it like to shift your identity? What about you is the same and always will be? What about you has changed or altered?
  • How did you feel as you began your relationship with a woman? Did you get flak from individuals who second-guessed you? Did you feel like you had to prove yourself? How did you keep your internal balance (or not)?
  • How did your socialization as a straight person prepare you (ill or well) for pursuing a same-sex relationship?
  • How do you define yourself? Do current labels work for you, or are you not yet defined by a word or phrase? What paradigm do you imagine?

As editors, we value specificity, detail, “showing, not telling,” honesty, epiphanies in the form of clean, polished, crafted writing, and a sense of resolution. An arc of transformation. As Cheryl Strayed says, the invisible sentence at the end of a good essay is “and things were never the same again.”

Deadline: September 15, 2016

We strongly encourage you to send us a query well beforehand, so that we can review it, give you helpful feedback, and have a good sense of what will be coming our way that month. If you are able to submit the piece earlier, we prefer that you do.

Submit: Please send your proposal or (around 2,000–4,000-word) submission (Word document, double-spaced), along with a short bio and full contact information to:

Payment: Upon publication. Amount varies, depending upon experience and amount of editing required. Please include a list of any previous publication credits (with links, if applicable) with your query or submission. Contributors will also receive one electronic version of the book.

About the Editors: Candace Walsh co-edited the Lambda Literary Award finalist Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write about Leaving Men for Women, and is the author of the NM-AZ Award-winning Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity, both by Seal Press. Barbara Straus Lodge is a widely published essayist and a contributor to Dear John, I Love Jane.



Sexual Pleasure and FictionJun 23, 2016


by Avery Cassell, author of Behrouz Gets Lucky

What would happen if novels were rewritten with the sexual stories included? Not just included as an afterthought, but as important narrative devises. Having sex or BDSM play is typically a crucial component to developing romantic intimacy. If we want to see our characters fall in love or lust, let’s see it all. Show us flesh, skin, sensation, and heart. What day of the week was it? How did their skin taste? Where did this happen? And let’s just call it fiction, rather than compartmentalize get it by naming it smut.

What would the iconic dyke coming out novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, have looked like if detailed, lascivious sex was included? What if Molly and Loeta’s night together didn’t end teasingly with “And I soon found out”? In Molly’s torrid affair with Alice, sex was described as, “Alice steamed and shook and sighed…she loved being touched and she loved touching back”, but I longed for a more visceral description of sexual pleasure and bodies, instead of this delicate hint. Sensuous yet explicit sexual guidance would have soothed many a baby dyke’s nerves and provided affirmation of her sexual self-worth. Internalized homophobia would begin to dissipate.

Fiction that includes explicit sex is categorized in several ways, and the major ones are erotica, pornography, artsy, and erotic romance. With the possible exception of artsy, none of these categories are viewed as having any literary merit and are often scorned. The exclusion of sexuality and bodies in fiction perpetrates sexual shame and leaves us without fully realized literary role models. Although this lack of modeling in fiction is problematic for all people, it is particularly problematic for anyone struggling with their gender identity or their sexual orientation.

At what point does fiction cross the line from fiction to erotica, pornography, or erotic romance? How many explicit sexual acts, say blowjobs, are permitted per book? Does it make a difference if the blowjob is mentioned fleetingly, or if it is described graphically? What if it is described sensually or using metaphors? Does it make a difference who is sucking who? Do silicone or trans cocks automatically make it a sort of situational smut, even if the blowjob is the smallest fraction of the story? Is smut the narrative of sex without life, making fiction the narrative of life without sex? Why do we compartmentalize our lives, subtracting such a primal and basic pleasure from art? I believe that we censor pleasure from fiction due to a conglomeration of religion, shame, and power. If the power of sexual pleasure were shown and was culturally acknowledged without shaming, the world would change.

What would happen if sex was not compartmentalized in art or life? What if it wasn’t the dirty, private, faintly shameful function that it so often becomes? Could novels include realistic depictions of sex, side-by-side with the rest of the storytelling narrative? I long for that expansion of fiction, the inclusion of sexual pleasure.

Sex and sexual attraction are incredibly powerful. Is that why we are reluctant to depict it? Romance novels sometimes depict sexuality in all its fleshy glory, but I am not interested their narrative tropes. I found such tropes as the powerful hero, the inexperienced younger woman, the millionaire, broken birds, and the rescue a turn-off at worst, and uninteresting at best. Then there’s bad boy fiction such as Henry Miller’s, but that sex was too misogynistic and gloomy.

These are some of the questions that I asked myself before writing Behrouz Gets Lucky. Like most of us, sexual pleasure is crucial in my life. I start many days with masturbation and an orgasm, have ended romantic relationships when the sex didn’t work, and stayed in relationships past their natural expiration date because of amazing sex. I’m 61 years old and hope to be having orgasms until I die.

I knew that I wanted to treat sex with as much importance as any other action in my book; a blowjob had to include as much detail as morning coffee and conversation. I wrote a list of sexual and BDSM situations that I wanted to include in the book, making a sex storyline. Then I added a nonsexual storyline to the sex storyline. Behrouz Gets Lucky was the story of a kinky, sensual couple’s courtship, from their first date onwards; if I glossed over the sex, it would not be realistic.

It is important to tell our stories, the ones that we hold in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. This is how we know that we aren’t alone, and how we build a world where sexual pleasure is given the dignity and respect that it deserves. Silence and shame do not beget sexual healing. As writers, we need to begin the habit of incorporating sex into our fiction. As readers, we need to ask for it! Ask our favorite authors where they’ve hidden the sex, ask librarians and bookstore owners for fiction with depictions of sexual pleasure in their plots, write reviews on Amazon and Good Reads commending books that are inclusive of sexual pleasure and asking for it in books where it is missing. This is how we change the world, orgasms flanked by grocery shopping, walking the dog, and grousing about the rising cost of living, one book at a time.


The Lear Method of MysteryJun 10, 2016


by James Lear, author of The Sun Goes Down

I’ve read some very interesting, complex and fanciful accounts of how and why mystery writers construct their books. They say the mystery genre allows them to interrogate social and moral issues, to plumb the depths of the human psyche or to question the nature of truth. I wrote my first mystery novel because I thought it would be a good way of getting my detective hero to have sex with a lot of different men. The investigation started out as little more than a pretext for him to seduce the suspects. At the time I was obsessed by Agatha Christie, and I’d always felt there was an interesting sexual subtext in her books that needed to be made explicit. I’d also been watching a documentary about life in an Edwardian country house – this was long before Downton Abbey, which I think of as James Lear-light – and the rigid hierarchy of class and status that puts handsome young men in subservient positions to rich, horny aristocrats.

When I plotted The Back Passage, the first of my mystery novels, I came up with a crime, a household of characters both above and below stairs, and a solution or denouement. Then it was just a question of maneuvering the hero, Mitch Mitchell, into situations where he had to interrogate the suspects, usually by means of seduction. The book is structured around a series of sexual episodes, each of which has a twofold purpose. Firstly, it gives the reader some exciting erotic material; secondly, it reveals information which moves the plot forward. That’s remained the key to the ‘Lear Method’ ever since. Sex and detection go hand-in-hand, and it’s my job to keep the balance right. Some readers think there’s too much sex getting in the way of a good detective story, others feel that the mystery elements detract from effective erotica, but most people seem to enjoy the combination as much as I do.

There are now four Mitch Mitchell novels, each of them using a recognizable ‘cosy mystery’ trope: a country house, a long-distance train journey, a ‘closed room’ murder, an exotic island resort. And I’ve added a second detective to my roster – Dan Stagg, an ex-US marine, embittered, hard-boiled, permanently horny. He has so far appeared in two contemporary thrillers that were directly inspired by Lee Child’s super-butch Jack Reacher novels. The plots in the Stagg books are a little more complex, but the method is the same: a crime, a list of suspects, a series of sexual encounters that lead the plot to its conclusion. In both series, I have to do the plotting and planning twice over: once for what I write, and once for what really happened – the hidden mystery that will be gradually revealed through the story. If I don’t know exactly what the baddies are trying to conceal, what is the truth behind all the lies and red herrings, I can’t keep control of the story. And that means only one thing: confused, annoyed readers, no matter how much sex I give them.

There is one more element in my mystery novels which I think is the hardest one to get right: human emotion. One of the reasons I love Agatha Christie is because her characters are like robots: they have very little depth, they exist only as functions of the plot, and their inner life only matters insofar as it serves the story. In a way I’d like my mysteries to be the same, but when you’re writing about sex it’s impossible not to let emotions in as well. Both Mitch Mitchell and Dan Stagg are looking for love, but keep letting sex get in the way. Mitch has his adored sidekick Morgan, who’s basically straight but enjoys sex with men; Dan mourns the death of his lover Will, killed in an ambush in Afghanistan. They know they should move on to more satisfying, sustainable relationships, but struggle to let go of their obsessions.

It became clear with the first of the Mitch novels that readers enjoy the romance aspect of the books as much as they like the crime and the sex, which makes planning each novel like a game of 3D chess. For something that started out as a light-hearted romp, writing erotic mystery novels has turned out to be the most technically challenging thing I’ve ever done – harder, even, than thinking up the punning titles that adorn each cover.

James Lear is the nom de plume of a prolific and acclaimed novelist. As James Lear, he is the author of The Back Passage, The Secret Tunnel, Hot Valley, The Low Road, and The Palace of Varieties. He lives in London.


The Joys of Solo SexMay 17, 2016


By Jenny Block, author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex

Happy National Masturbation Month!

Masturbation is definitely an activity to celebrate. It relieves stress, insomnia, depression, and pain. It improves your circulation. Perhaps best of all, it can improve you sex life and your relationship with your body.

My new book, The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, was released on May 10th and it couldn’t be a better time for it to come (no pun intended…well, maybe a little pun intended). In a world plagued with body and sex shaming, it’s high time women reclaimed their bodies and their sex lives.

Masturbation is one of the very best ways to fall in love with your body and yourself. It also keeps you juicy and wanting sex more than ever. Orgasm begets orgasm!

If you find masturbating a challenge, here are some tips that may help.

The key to happy masturbation is to limit distractions. Turn off the clock. Lock the door. Relax. Treat yourself the way you would treat a lover you adore. Take care of yourself. Take your time. Don’t be shy. Explore.

And don’t be afraid of toys. Betty Dodson’s vaginal barbell is life-changing, and sites like Good Vibrations offer toys in every size, shape, and variety.

Masturbating allows you to know yourself, connect with yourself, fall in love with yourself in the most connective way possible. Only when you truly adore yourself can you truly adore someone else. When you know your pleasure, you can open yourself and share and explore and enjoy your pleasure with a partner in a more profound way then you may have ever imagined possible.

It can also improve your partnered sex life in a very practical way. When you masturbate, you learn so much about pleasure, your body, and the relationship between the two. And that is exactly the kind of information you want to share with your partner. When you know your body and your pleasure, you can better inform your partner so that s/he can can come to understand what you desire and what you don’t. If you’re game, masturbate in front of your partner. Not only is it incredibly sexy, it will also show your partner just what makes you go wild without you have to say a word.

Having a regular masturbation practice can also improve your communication skills. As I mentioned above, when you masturbate, you not only become more familiar with how your body works and what you like, you also become more comfortable with it and confident about it. And being more comfortable and confident about pleasure and sex and your body, makes it easier to talk about those things, both when you play with as partner, as well as outside of that.

Sometimes the best communication about sex happens outside of the bedroom when you are both calm and happy and undistracted. Talking about what you’re doing while you’re doing it can be hot, but it can also cause a lot of undue pressure if it is not something you’ve previously discussed. So save the how-tos for outside the bedroom and take the dirty talk to the sheets!

So, celebrate – get yourself a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex and get down to some solo play of your own!


Sexual Self-Knowledge: The Key to FulfillmentApr 21, 2016


by Mark Michaels and Patricia A. Johnson, authors of Designer Relationships

Self Knowledge in Human History

Throughout recorded history, in cultures around the world, self-knowledge has been seen as a highly important, if not the paramount, value in human life. This was true even in societies that had little in common with contemporary America and in which individualism, as we know it, would have been a thoroughly alien concept.

There’s a Taoist aphorism, “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” The inscription on the Oracle at Delphi, “Man know thyself”, while obviously sexist, reflects the same fundamental belief, one that was espoused by many other Greek philosophers. Variants on the saying “Unless you know yourself, you cannot know God” have been current in various branches of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for many centuries. Our training in Tantra included a very strong emphasis on cultivating the ability to observe ourselves and examine not only our mental processes but also our bodies and how we experience them.

Exercise: Self-Knowledge and Attention.

Cultivating the ability to focus and observe is one key to becoming more self-aware. Not only is this exercise about your mental processes, it also addresses how you experience embodiment.

Close your eyes and bring as much awareness as you can to the tip of the index finger on your dominant hand. Spend a minute or so focusing on your fingertip; then move your consciousness to the middle finger, and do the same. Repeat this process with each finger and your thumb. Finally, bring all of your attention to the palm of your hand. It may help to imagine that your palm is getting warmer and warmer. Keep focusing on your palm, and take note of any sensations you feel.

Self-Knowledge Today

Given this history and the near universal recognition that self-knowledge is central to living a meaningful life, it is somewhat ironic that contemporary Western culture, for all its emphasis on individualism and personal fulfillment, often treats self-knowledge and meaningful self-exploration as mere self-indulgence. We live in an age when chemical and behavioral interventions have replaced slower-paced therapeutic modalities that were designed to foster self-knowledge. This is not entirely a negative, but ours is a time of quick fixes, “life hacks”, and ever increasing demands on our time and mental energy.

This is so, notwithstanding the recent explosion of interest in and popularity of mindfulness-based approaches to personal growth and wellness. Mainstream society still privileges activity and productivity, over self-awareness. Social media, with their Pavlovian triggers, impel us toward reaction rather than reflection. It isn’t easy to resist these intense pressures, many of which affect us on multiple levels and may even be restructuring our brains. Nonetheless, there’s value in making the effort.

Sexual Self-Knowledge: Still Taboo

When it comes to sexuality, self-knowledge is perhaps an even bigger taboo. The sensibility that gave birth to the Kama Sutra and other erotic classics had no place in the Judeo-Christian world, even if there are hints of it in the Old Testament Song of Solomon. The value of sexual self-awareness went almost entirely unrecognized (and indeed was generally forbidden) until the modern era, and the rise of psychoanalysis. For all his conventional Victorianism, Freud and Wilhelm Reich, who was considerably more radical, deserve great credit for recognizing that sexual self-knowledge is central to living life fully and that the process of getting to know yourself sexually is a crucial step toward becoming a liberated human being.

ExerciseThe Kinsey Scale and Beyond

Most people are familiar with the Kinsey Scale in which a person’s orientation is given a number from 0 to 6, with 0 representing an exclusively heterosexual orientation and 6 representing an exclusively homosexual one. In the original, Kinsey also included an asexual category (X). For Kinsey, orientation was based on both desire and experience. It’s a start, but why not try examining additional facets of your sexuality: the nature of your attractions, your fantasy life, your dreams, and so on. From there, start applying the scale to other sexual interests, with 0 representing not at all interested and 6 being very interested. Some categories might include: BDSM and kink, exhibitionism, voyeurism, group sex, role playing, and anonymous sex.

Freud and Reich’s psychoanalytic approaches have fallen out of favor today, and their ideas about sexuality—especially Reich’s—were never fully embraced by mainstream American society, notwithstanding their influence in some circles. If self-knowledge is no longer seen as an admirable goal, sexual self-knowledge remains even more deeply taboo. We’re still conditioned to believe that sex is something that should come naturally and that we shouldn’t really think about it.

Knowing yourself sexually is a process. This is true not only because we change and grow, and what is intensely pleasurable and exciting at twenty may not have the same appeal at forty, but also because even the most self-aware person can never attain complete self-knowledge. While you may know that something specific turns you on and may be able to articulate some of the reasons for that response, there will always be an element of mystery in the realm of sexuality. Sexual self-knowledge can not only provide us with more access to pleasure, it can deepen our awe and reverence for our own mysterious and paradoxical natures.


Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson are the authors of the new book Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory, and Optimistic Open Relationships (Cleis Press 2015). A devoted married couple, they have been creative collaborators––teaching and writing about relationships, sexuality, and Tantra––since 1999. In addition to Designer Relationships, they have written Partners in Passion (Cleis Press), Great Sex Made Simple, Tantra for Erotic Empowerment, and The Essence of Tantric Sexuality (Llewellyn).


How to Maintain Love in the Face of StressApr 12, 2016


By Keston and Andrea Ott-Dahl, authors of Saving Delaney.

love vs stress


The kids are fighting with each other and trying to get our attention to tell on the other, the baby is sitting on the top of the dining room table holding the salt shaker upside down (very amused and laughing as all the salt is pouring off the table and onto the floor), our big dog Joplin is freaking out as she is creating a ruckus trying to squeeze out the dog door and can’t fit because she has the kitchen trash can lid around her neck (all the kitchen trash is scattered on the floor) and our little dog Molly is in a barking match with the neighbors dog!  By the way, the TV is blaring cartoons in the background.

Meanwhile, Andrea and I have to work, cook dinner, clean house, drive carpool to school, dance and theater lessons not to mention the baby’s three therapies every week! Oh, and we have our blog deadlines that must be done by Monday.

This scene is the norm at almost any given hour at the Ott-Dahl house!  Sounds chaotic, and trust us — it is!   It would be so easy to get lost in our daily grinds and unconsciously begin neglecting our relationship – we are not perfect. There are times when we have to put ourselves and our relationship “in check.”

The bottom line is we know we have a good thing and do not want to lose what we have, but it takes commitment and work. Our established family routines, traditions and rules help.  They not only make things predictable and fun for the kids, but also ensures that we get our adult time, the coveted hours for just us.

Where do we find time for each other, for love and for sex?    The majority of our time spent is “family time” or “work time,”, but we make sure that we have the time to connect with each other.

These are some of the things we do to keep our love fresh and alive!

  1. We are committed. The first fast hard rule is that we are committed to making our relationship a priority. We never give up, we know the grass isn’t greener on the other side and we both are on the same page.

  1. We have an amazing sex life!  While fatigue wins over our moods at times, we rarely go for more than a week without sex.

I just can’t stress enough (which is why we list romantic sex as  #2, even though I believe it runs a close tie with #1) how important romantic connection is especially during sex.  You MUST make time for it and I am not talking about just going through the motions of having sex, but going through the E-motions of having sex. Connect.

While the term making love may seem corny, it’s corn that keeps the spark in relationships.

If things seem to become mundane, we mix it up – take a trip to Good Vibes (a female friendly sex toy shop), spend a weekend away, read erotica to each other or just get silly and get playful.

  1. We understand and practice the Five Languages of Love.  Andrea and I practice Gary Chapman’s Five Languages of Love.  It’s easy! We know what each other needs to feel fulfilled and loved. Whether it’s Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, Quality Time or Physical Touch we take steps to make sure the others “love bucket” is filled.

And guess what, it’s OK to ask, “How is your love bucket today Babe? What do you need to fill your love bucket?”  I know this sounds silly, but it can be so important for your relationship. Especially if you have gotten yourselves stuck in a rut, are having communication breakdowns or find yourselves lacking fulfillment.

  1. We are committed to having “Date Nights” or a monthly “Get-A-Way”.  We never stop “dating” each other. This is our favorite!  We typically plan a date night at least once a month when the kids spend the night with their grandparents or friends.

We are on a fixed income and extremely frugal, so Andrea scours the Internet for local deals on Yelp, Groupon or from one of our frequent member clubs.

Our favorite is our hotel getaways. We typically do not drive more than an hour away, but our nights away staying at a hotel near San Francisco or near a beach seem like we are as far away as Hawaii!  Sometimes we never even leave the hotel.

Some of our favorite dates have been: wine tasting, using buy-one-get-one free restaurant vouchers, hikes up in Tilden Park and romantic nights on our own private island on our houseboat (sounds luxurious doesn’t it?  Remember I said we are frugal? We traded an old jet ski for the houseboat, fixed it up and now we have a vacation home out on the California Delta).
Next we are planning on a painting class!

  1. We have our kids (if you have them) on routines, routines  routines!  Our time is our time and the kids know this.  After dinner the older kids have their “personal down time” which means they can watch TV for an hour and then its reading or playing on their own until bed time. They know to leave us to unwind after dinner. It’s a coveted rule in our house.

And the baby?  The baby usually falls asleep around 7:30 so that leaves plenty of time for “us,” that is if we are not too tired.

Even just spending time together; watching a movie, holding hands, cuddling on the couch while drinking a glass of wine or eating one of Andrea’s favorite desserts (she is a dessert-a-holic) just the two of us helps us stay connected.

  1. We accept each other “as is.”  It’s not possible to love everything about your partner;  they are messy – you are neat, she works too many hours, has a mullet, picks her nose in public – whatever!

As long as our actions or tendencies are not disrespectful to our relationship we embrace – unconditionally—the overall “package” that is our partner. This may mean shifting your focus away from your partner’s imperfections and towards the qualities you like and appreciate.

  1. We work on projects together.  We love accomplishing our goals!  Together we are a powerful team and one of our favorite things to do together is to work on projects. Whether it be tiling our kitchen, painting our bedroom or building a play structure (by the way we found one for FREE on Craigslist) we always have a sense of “togetherness” and team when we complete our projects.  Projects actually DO bring us closer together.

Look, relationships ebb and flow. There is a reason long term couples describe their marriages as hard work. It’s not always going to be easy, we all go through hard times but remaining committed to not just staying together but “staying in love” can be very rewarding.

Every couple goes through trials and tribulations – I call it “storming to norming”.

What matters most is how you work together to stay connected and strong.

Keston and Andrea Ott-Dahl are the authors of Saving Delaney, the true story of how they became parents “by accident” to a very special girl with Down syndrome. Saving Delaney comes out April 12th and can be pre-ordered here