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Eclusive Excerpt: Kissing USA

Apr 09, 2019
 
William Cane achieved international notoriety when he published his bestselling book, The Art of Kissing nearly 30 years ago. A spark of creative genius guided him to turn his book into something that would take 400+ American colleges and universities by storm: The Kissing Show – a loosely-rehearsed, skit-based show that brought his book to life for young adults living in the sexual evolution in the 90s.
In his new book, Kissing USA: The Story behind the Story of the Legendary Kissing Show, we get to follow his comedic and unexpected journey from starving artist to international kissing expert. Some people may love his rom-com like adventures as he follows his various “muses” to success and fame. Others may develop a very different take. Was he truly an entrepreneurial genius, something less, or something more?
Regardless, you cannot argue the fact that this book is a one-of-a-kind, nostalgic snapshot into the 90s and into just how risque and jaw-dropping a simple Kissing Show could be.

But having a college student as your muse can sometimes lead you into making a fool of yourself—that was always the danger. And I had the kind of reckless energy that compelled me to take those kinds of risks, always pushing my luck in an attempt to improve audience reaction. So when I got my next brainstorm I rushed it into production without considering any negative consequences

it might cause. First thing I did was call my friend Bryant Alvarez to tell him what I was going to do. Bryant is an attorney whom I met while working at a real estate office in Newton, Massachusetts, when I was in law school.

“Don’t do it, Bill!” he said.

“Why not? I think I’d enjoy trying stand-up.”

“But what if you bomb?”

“I’m not afraid of that.”

“But for the rest of your career you’ll have an inferiority complex. You might not be able to speak in public anymore.”

“I already have an inferiority complex,” I said, “and I do fine speaking to audiences.”

“Not funny.”

“Trust me, I’m working on some good jokes.”

Bryant thought for a minute, and then he offered his final argument: “I speak to groups all the time. They’re elderly people who want estate planning advice. My method is simple: I just keep talking until I say something funny. I don’t even plan it in advance; an idea just pops into my head while I’m talking, and I say it and people laugh. But I would never try stand-up. It’s too risky.”

When I got off the phone I told myself to ignore his advice. Bryant was smart, but he wasn’t me. I knew what I could do and what I couldn’t do. I bought a portable tape recorder, and whenever something funny occurred to me I would ad-lib into it. Then I transcribed these monologues and worked on making them shorter and punchier. At this time, in 1998, I also started visiting comedy clubs in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge. While doing this I met Chance Langton, one of the most hilarious professional comedians I had ever seen. Chance used a lot of one-liners, and he had one specific joke that I loved above all his others. After he did his set, he would pause briefly, smile at the audience, and then say: “Are there any requests for any of the jokes I already told?” He usually killed them at the Comedy Studio, which was located over a Chinese restaurant in Harvard Square. Chance and I became friends, and he also became my mentor. I even took a class with him on comedy technique. Naturally, I also ran my jokes by Cathy.

In the summer of 1999 I had mailed a video on spec to an MTV producer, and although he didn’t use it he suggested that I submit a few interstitials—short promos for the network—to their sister channel MTV2. I invited Cathy to act in one of these film projects, and during a break in shooting I tried one of my jokes on her. We were in the kitchen of the house that I had rented for the shoot, and I told her a silly story about how I used to get disciplined as a kid, put in the corner, spanked, and sent to bed early.

Cathy cracked up.

“You think it’s funny?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“How come?”

“’Cause I know exactly what that’s like.”

“Are you serious?”

“My father was a strict disciplinarian.”

I think Cathy’s strict upbringing and closeness with her dad had a major impact on her personality. Although she possessed a rebellious streak, she also had a pronounced tendency to act extremely compliant around men who had authority. For example, when I directed her in the MTV shoot or in class she slipped into an almost automaton-like state. She once told me, “I’d like to find a man who could tell me what to do, and I’d do it. But I’m afraid of that side of myself.” In some ways she had a Jekyll and Hyde personality: when she wasn’t being rebellious and bossy, she treated me like a father figure and respected my ideas and instructions. I respected her opinions too, so after she gave me this positive feedback on my joke I decided to lead off with it in the stand-up routine that I was developing. I planned to do my first performance in downtown Boston at an open mic night hosted by a local comedian. I set up my camcorder in the back of the room to record my show, and I sat waiting my turn. I had decided to use a new stage name for the set: Jack Hackensack. Folks, I was stunned because when I was announced people started laughing even before I walked up to the microphone. It turns out that they thought my name was funny, and let me tell you, it’s a wonderful thing for a performer when an audience has a positive feeling about you before you even open your mouth. I was nervous, but I had spoken before so many audiences that I thought I might have an aptitude for doing live comedy. Unfortunately, I learned that my ability as a lecturer on the subject of kissing didn’t exactly translate to the comedy arena.

That first stand-up experience got me a decent amount of laughs, but I felt naked on the stage. The problem was that I didn’t have my kissing demonstrators up there with me. I even included a few jokes about kissing, but again I felt they would have worked better with the couples present. All the focus was on me at the comedy club, and even though I had rehearsed my material thoroughly and didn’t forget any of my jokes, I didn’t feel comfortable with the setup. In fact, when I compared myself with other young comedians who tried out their material at these open mics, I could see that they looked relaxed whereas I felt too nervous to enjoy it. Still, I pushed myself to perform seven or eight times in Boston, Cambridge, and New York. Ironically, about twenty years later Cathy started doing stand-up too—and she got more laughs than I did.

Now here’s where stand-up harmed my speaking career. While researching material to add to my performance, I studied the work of successful comedians, including Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, and Andrew Dice Clay. Clay had a technique of dealing with hecklers that I thought I could incorporate into my kissing show in the event that I encountered troublesome audience members. Most college crowds were friendly and polite, and up to that point I hadn’t encountered any hecklers, but I wanted to be prepared just in case. His technique, which is used by many professional comedians, is to call the heckler an asshole. There are actually two common put-downs that the pros use: one is to insinuate that the heckler is a drunk or so intoxicated that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and the other is to call him an asshole in hopes that he’ll shut up.

Shortly after I started dabbling in the world of standup, I was booked to do a gig at a school that had a reputation for late-night parties, especially on weekends. My show was scheduled for Friday night, and when I started speaking, I immediately realized that this was a terrible crowd. Although the room was overflowing with about four hundred students, I couldn’t hear myself talking because they were so noisy and disruptive. I figured I had to shut them down, and fast. The room had a balcony, and it too was filled to capacity with students. One girl yelled out some nonsense, and I looked up at her and used Clay’s line.

“I think you’re an asshole.”

The room instantly became quiet.

“And by the end of the evening everyone here is going to think you’re an asshole.”

This shut the girl up, and she promptly left. So, in that sense, wouldn’t you say I did the right thing?

Oh, noooooooo! Not by a long shot.

When I got home I received an angry call from Kevin.

“You’re in trouble,” he said. “The school wants its money back. You called one of the students an asshole.”

“I know, but they were a bunch of drunks. I mean, you literally could not hear me talking even though I had a microphone. And I was worried for my demonstrators, the kids who had rehearsed for an hour. They weren’t being treated right either.”

“But you can’t use that kind of language.”

“Why not? I got the idea from Andrew Dice Clay. He’s very big and he uses it.”

“But he’s a professional comedian working in nightclubs. He’s not beholden to a college that paid him to speak to students.”


 

 

Kissing USA by William Cane is available today everywhere books and ebooks are sold. Or, even better, support your local independent bookstore and place your order through them!

Amazon • iTunes • Nook • Google Play • Kobo

 
 

Exclusive Excerpt: The Kamah Sutrah

Mar 12, 2019
 

 

Note: For an extra-special experience, imagine your favorite “Bawston”-based character’s voice reading the excerpt below. Options include, Ted the Bear or Mark Wahlberg from the Ted movies, this classic SNL skit with Rachel Dratch and Jimmy Fallon, or Will (Matt Damon) or Chuckie (Ben Affleck) from Good Will Hunting.

. . .

Did you know that Bawstonians ah the freakin’ best at makin’ sex? It’s a fact. Just ask any Bawstonian. Fuh hundreds of yeahs, they have followed the lessons and guidance of this book: You may have heard of The Kama Sutra, but you’ve nevah known sex until you’ve read The Kamah Sutrah. This book will unlock ya deepest curiosities when it comes to sex. It will ansah ya toughest questions like “What do I do with my junk?” and “What if I can’t get any sex?”

It has passion. It has positions. It has penis puns. So hold on to ya “Fenway Franks” and ya “Dunkin’ Donuts”, because we are about to go down to Bean Town!

. . .

 

Chaptah 1:

Is Sex the Only Thing I Need to Be Happy?

 

Absolutely nawt ya big dummy! Theah ah so many othah things in life that ah just as impohtant as sex. The Hindus believed that each person needed to achieve foah life goals, and Kama (desiyah) was only just one of ’em. The othah three ah Dharma, Artha, and Moksha. Dharma is to be knowledgeable in ethics, Artha in wealth, and Moksha in freedom and salvation. Howevah in Bawston, theah are only three life goals you must practice that will lead to you livin’ a well-balanced life. ’Cause ya see, life is all about balance, just like ya diet. Except, with life, theah ah no cheat days. So, ya bettah fuhget about ya Weight Watchers subscription, because it ain’t gonna help ya heah. You gotta get ya life in shape, and this book is gonna help to be ya fitness instructah. The three life goals fur every Bawstonian to achieve balance in ah Loyalty, Pride, and Kahmah.

Loyalty is pretty much livin’ in every Bawstonian’s blood frum the day they’ah boahn. If ya frum Bawston, ya bettah be Bawston Strong because if ya nawt then what ah you even? Bawston Weak? That just sounds stupid, and I bet it doesn’t look half as good on a T-shirt. Bein’ loyal to ya city is just as impohtant as bein’ loyal to the pahtnah ya havin’ sex with, because Bawston is the only pahtnah that will nevah leave ya. Theah’s gonna be times when ya wanna travel the world. Ya may even wanna move away furevah and live in New York like a Gawd damn Stahbucks-drinkin’ traitah who mastahbates to Derek Jeter’s fat face, or whatevah those stupid idiots do. Nevah fuhget Bawston, because Bawston nevah fuhgets you. Besides, she’s had worse lovahs who have screwed her ovah. Lookin’ at you Johnny “Darth Vader” Damon.

Pride is what drives the people of Bawston. We may be a smallah city, but by Gawd we make up fur it in a giant unexplained amount of confidence. We ah like a shawt guy at a bah who picks fights fuh no reason, but then buys everyone a round of drinks. That’s Bawston Pride. We ah like a drunk girl on the T who throws up, but then takes a swig frum her handle of Georgi vawdka and yells at the cops that she “can do whatevah I want” because “it’s my eighteenth birthday.” That’s Bawston Pride. We ah like a city who keeps diggin’ a big hole undah the city just to make a few small changes to the highway despite financial setbacks, design flaws, and even one death. I mean that actually did happen and it was called the Big Dig, but we would do it all ovah again in a hahtbeat! Ya know why? ’Cause we ah Bawston Proud, and so should you be.

Kahmah is one life goal that Bawstonians need to talk more about. Don’t get me wrong, Bawstonians love sex, but nawt all of them are educated completely on it as a subject. Whethah ya live on Beacon Hill with the wealthiest Blue Bloods of Bawston, or ya live in sin in the city of Lynn, you should be educated on the tawpic. It’s nawt just gettin’ the dirt on doin’ the dirty. It’s about really gettin’ to know yaself and ya pahtnah’s ins and outs (no pun intended). Who ah you as a lovah? What ah ya interests? What ah ya desiyahs? These are all questions that ya may have nevah asked yaself because you “don’t have time” and ah “just too busy.” Bullshit. Make the time to get to know ya bawdy, ya mind, and ya self. I might sound like ya mothah heah, but heah me out. Ya gotta take a break frum Facebook, or Instagram, or that personal website ya creatin’ to become a “professional photographah.” Ya took one good pictcha of a tree without leaves in wintah with portrait mode on ya iPhone and now ya think ya Andy Warhol. Chill out. Take a break every once in a while frum everyday life so you can staht to fully enjoy ya sex life.

Don’t know how to disconnect frum the preshah’s of everyday life? Here ah some tips frum Bawston on how you can best cleah ya mind so that ya bawdy can be ready fuh sex.

  • Light a scented candle ya bawt frum the Christmas Tree Shawp that’s called Pine Tree Forest Whitaker.
  • Lie on Carson Beach and have ya best bud perfoahm acupunctcha on ya with some of the used needles frum the beach.
  • Meditate fuh six houahs while you wait fuh ya Megabus at South Station that’s running six houahs late.
  • If ya down the Cape, play a calming round of miniatcha golf at the iconic Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf in Yarmouth.
  • Find a bubblah, and while the watah dribbles out, close ya eyes and pretend like ya listenin’ to the crashing waves of Nantasket Beach.
  • Drive by the iconic Rainbow Swash gas tank neah Intahstate 93, and breathe in the mixtcha of gas and old paint until ya high as a kite.
  • If it’s summah, sit at night in the Commons and listen to the calming sounds of crickets chirpin’ and the distant sounds of bickering tourists who ah lawst and tryin’ to find the nearest T stawp.
  • If it’s wintah, take a stroll right aftah a snow stoahm and listen to the beautiful crispy crunch of the freshly fallen snow undah ya boots as you carefully try to avoid stepping in dawg shit.

Some people may think that sex is a taboo subject. They’ah worried about learnin’ moah because they were always taught that sex is a bad thing. But sex isn’t a bad thing. You know what is a bad thing? When some sociopath fahts on a crowded T train durin’ rush houah. Even a priest would condemn a psycho like that to burn in the eternal flames of hell. Sex isn’t soundin’ so bad now is it? If we don’t educate ahselves, then we won’t know how to educate ah kids and they won’t know how to educate theah kids, and so on, and so on. Then we’ll be stuck in a world filled with people like Jamie Lynn Spears and Casey Aldridge. No awffense to Jamie Lynn Spears; I’m a huge fan of her work.

.  . .

 

 

The Kamah Sutrah by Cian Smith is available today everywhere books and ebooks are sold. Or, even better, support your local independent bookstore and place your order through them!

Amazon • iTunes • Nook • Google Play • Kobo

 

 
 

Happy Valentine's Day ft. an exclusive excerpt from Erotic Teasers

Feb 13, 2019
 

This year at Cleis Press we’re tossing Valentine’s Day (and even Galentine’s Day) out the window! This year, we’re all about advocating for self love. Whether it comes to your career, family, relationships, or the bedroom, you will won’t be able to live your fullest and best life until you love and appreciate yourself!

So this “Self Love Day” treat yourself to some well-deserved “me time” and enjoy this sneak peak from Rachel Kramer Bussel’s newest erotica collection, Erotic Teasers— a very BDSM-friendly collection that is all about the art of the tease. After all, the journey is more important than the destination and every journey in Erotic Teasers will get you there. You may even be inclined to make a few round trips just because you deserve it (or you can’t help yourself)!


Excerpt from “Aphrodite’s Garden” by Rebecca Chase

 

The night started like all weekend events, with the lineup.

Stephanie’s heartbeat thundered and her nerves nearly choked her as eyes slowly slid down her form.

It was as if she were back in gym class—eyes inspecting her, opinions being made of her performance. Then, it was a popularity contest she couldn’t win. Here it was different. In Aphrodite’s Garden, she held queen status. Instead of being ridiculed or ignored, she was regularly the first chosen.

“It has to be her,” she heard a soft voice call out. “Athena is the only one I want serving me.”

Stephanie, or Athena as she was known in Aphrodite’s Garden, felt the familiar weekend thrill electrify her body.

Mondays to Thursdays, Aphrodite’s Garden was a normal, expensive Greek restaurant, but during the weekends it became something more decadent. It was still a restaurant but with a sexual tease and unspoken promise.

Casually, she glanced at Electra and Hades, both of them enjoying that their presence alone aroused strangers. They adored their weekends here. They didn’t serve for the money but the satisfaction and power that came with being desired.

Fifty pairs of eyes investigated every inch of Stephanie’s golden skin, or as much as her short Grecian dress allowed. White chiffon draped across her shoulders before plunging at her breasts, stimulating the clientele and suggesting that for the right price she could be theirs.

At the start of the night, the waiters and waitresses, known as the servers, would line up for those who had booked a table. Each table made their choice of who would serve them and, depending on availability, they’d be allocated that person.

The rest was up to the server. It was their challenge to spend the evening gaining a hefty tip, in whatever way they chose. There were rules, lines that couldn’t be crossed, but generally it was known that they had an “anything goes” policy.

The server who earned the largest tip would be taken into the Secret Garden, a room designed for fornication. There they’d be joined by a member or two from the winning table to enjoy an hour doing whatever pleased them. Everyone was a winner.

The restaurant was the brainchild of Stephanie, Dean, and Pam, or rather Athena, Apollo, and Persephone, as they were known in the Garden. It had begun when they were poor and horny at university but over the years had developed into a successful business.

Stephanie surveyed the scene in front of her once more. Which table would pick, or win, her tonight? She was hot property in Aphrodite’s Garden, a goddess who usually got her own way. Need throbbed at her groin, making her subtly roll her pelvis back and forth to enjoy the stimulating touches as her sex rubbed against her panties.

Once a month, a ladies-only night reigned over the restaurant. It pushed her to work every angle to get the biggest tip, including once stripping down to her underwear and offering herself as a sushi plate, a brazen act that had been rewarded by a night with two beautiful actresses in the Secret Garden.

As with a typical ladies’ night, there was a heat in the room and all the groups, a mixture of bachelorette parties, birthday celebrations, and work social events, felt it. It was a hunger accompanied by unspoken wants. Could they express their long-held desires safely here?

Athena’s eyes skimmed the groups, considering who she’d like to serve that night. There were many beautiful women, respecting the dress code in a variety of colors and styles. She didn’t have a type; curves, long legs, tiny waists, or rounded butts turned her on. All women were beautiful to her and she loved showing them how much allure they could have if they learned to harness it.

Staring unashamedly at one group, a work social, she felt the flush of lust that had been absent recently. Standing in the center of the group, her eyes wide, her fingers nervously twisting her long blonde hair, was Megan Stone, who’d been the most popular girl at Athena’s old high school.

Megan had never worried about gym class. Her friends would spit out derogatory names at Athena based on her Greek heritage, but Megan herself was never a bitch. Athena had been an odd-looking teenager, with lips too big for her face and dangerously bushy eyebrows, a contrast to Megan’s blonde perfection. Megan was the stuff of fantasies and at university, when Athena had started to understand that she was attracted to women as well as men, she fondly recalled her. The rumor was that when the graduating class had moved on to work or university, Megan had headed down the aisle with her boyfriend, her pregnant belly barely showing.

Since then, there had been other rumors, the most recent that Megan’s husband had ditched her for a younger model. Athena glanced at Megan’s bare ring finger, a white mark visible.

“I have to get that group,” Athena whispered in Persephone’s ear as she crossed the restaurant, her dark eyes never leaving Megan’s face.

“You know you won’t win.” The pretty, ginger goddess nodded in the direction of a rowdy group of ladies sitting at table six. “They have money to burn.”

Athena moistened her lips, wondering how Megan would taste. “Surely you’re not doubting me. You know from experience about my skills, honey.”

She teased Persephone’s neck with her warm breath.

A quiet moan escaped from Persephone’s lips. They both knew how acutely aware she was of Athena’s abilities. “If you insist. But play fair, okay?”

Athena walked away with a smile; she had every intention of playing tonight, but fair wouldn’t come into it.

Unsurprisingly, she had gotten her way. Rolling her hips, which had developed late in life along with her beauty, she wondered whether Megan would remember her. Megan had always been stunning, but something had changed, Athena thought, as she appraised Megan’s shape in a tight, cherry-red dress that clung to every curve. She was plumper than Athena remembered, with curves replacing toned limbs and a slight podge at her stomach. Megan was a woman now and Athena had to claim her.

What I wouldn’t do to have her between my legs, she considered, eagerly imagining the sight of the blonde waves below her. It was time to earn her tip.

“Ladies,” she said. “I am Athena, your server this evening. I will do and be anything you wish. If the food you desire isn’t on the menu, I will find it. If my outfit doesn’t please you then I will change it. Your pleasure is mine.”

The women looked at her with a mixture of curiosity and disbelief, but not with the naughty gazes she was hoping for.

“Have any of you eaten with us on one of our weekend nights before?”

Two of the more confident-looking women raised their hands.

“We’re not at school now,” Athena replied with a lingering look at Megan. “First I want to thank you for returning to Aphrodite’s Garden. Is there anything you’d like us to improve upon based on your previous experience?”

Athena stepped closer to the willowy beauty, whose eyes matched her emerald silk dress.

“You have stunning eyes. What’s your name?”

“Carol.”

“Well, beautiful Carol,” Athena replied, bending in front of her and displaying her cleavage in an attempt to entice her. “What could I do better for you tonight?”

“I would like my salad to have a bit less feta this time,” she explained, clearing her throat awkwardly.

Seducing this group wasn’t going to be easy, Athena realized, plastering a smile on her face and leaning closer so that her bum brushed Carol’s hand as she topped up her wine for her. Encouraging the consumption of alcohol wasn’t forbidden, as long as your table didn’t cause trouble.

“I shall ensure your salad is perfect. Any other requests?” Maybe tonight wouldn’t be her night. She could already see Electra being dragged willingly onto the laps of table six.

“I was wondering,” a quiet voice caught the attention of the entire table. Athena felt a tremor in her thighs when she saw the words were coming from Megan’s lips.

Athena nodded her encouragement for her to continue, hoping this wasn’t another feta-related request.

“If I wanted your hair to be a little different, could you change it for me?” Megan stood. Her hands trembled as she reached out.

“Of course.” She fought her craving to close the space between them instantly; seduction was a game, not a demand for gratification.

She slid closer, her eyes meeting Megan’s. “Please do whatever you desire with me,” she said, slipping herself between Megan and the table, hoping the invitation would be accepted by the end of the night.

The rest of the table was incredulous. Was Megan acting out of character?

Soft fingers stroked the nape of Athena’s neck, causing goose bumps to rise on her arms.

“You have a beautiful neck, feminine and yet strong. It would be a shame to hide it,” Megan whispered next to her ear, her breath teasing the nape of Athena’s neck.

“I need to pin up some of your waves.” Megan’s fingers stroked through her hair, twisting it slightly. Pleasure traveled all the way up to her scalp, drawing a shiver of longing, her sex pulsating slightly in expectation of more. Deftly, Megan worked, taking tendrils between her fingers, caressing them, inflaming Athena’s body. Desire radiated between her legs as if it were the first time she’d been touched by a woman.

“Turn and look at me,” Megan requested.

With a dry throat, Athena turned and stared. Her tongue swelled in her throat as they gazed into each other’s eyes. Megan’s fingertips continued to brush across Athena’s skin, her nails gliding across her bare shoulders, her temptation constant.

“You’re stunning,” she uttered.

Normally, Athena would have used this to her advantage, skill and experience enabling her to maximize her tip, but she was speechless.

To be looked at by Megan with hunger and adoration was unexpected, and the extent of her reaction frightened her. Weekends at Aphrodite’s Garden were about lust, the scent of sex hanging in the air, but this was clearly passion and love.


Need to see how Megan and Athena’s story ends? Lucky for you Erotic Teasers is now available where anywhere books are sold. Or, even better, support your local independent bookstore and place your order through them!

Amazon • iTunes • Nook • Google Play • Kobo

Follow Rachel Kramer Bussel!

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Don’t forget that we are running a Valentine’s Day Sale on all our print books purchased on our website. You’ll get a whopping 40% off your entire order if you use discount code VDAY2019.

Not sure if you are ready to buy? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be entered to win a book bundle featuring Erotic Teasers among many other recently published books from Cleis Press.

 

 
 

Guest post from author Autumn Bardot (ft. a Bonus Excerpt from Legends of Lust!)

Jan 23, 2019
 

This month Cleis Press is proud to bring you not only a delicious excerpt from Autumn Bardot’s debut collection of short stories, Legends of Lust: Erotic Myths from around the World, but also the inspiration behind her writing – her passion for history, myth, and travel. We will start things off with an excerpt from Autumn’s blog about a recent trip to the Greek Isles. After we’ve gotten you in the scenic mood, you’ll find an excerpt from “By Sword Tip,” an epically arousing encounter between the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, and the ancient hero, Theseus.

Sexy vacations. Who doesn’t want to go on one?  Actually, any vacation is sexy in my book. I get to visit a new place, learn history, sample different foods, and pretend, if only for a week, that I am a globetrotting Jetsetter. I get to unwind, spend some quality time with hubby, and explore the world beyond our little corner of Southern California.

One of my favorite vacation destinations so far was rambling the countryside of Kalamata, Greece. We went with another couple. Leah spoke pretty good Greek—or so she thought until she conversed with the natives! Oh, and during the flight over the pond Leah read a very early version of “By Sword Tip”, one of the short stories from Legends of Lust (excerpt featured below).

Kalamata. Sounds familiar? Yep, that’s right. That’s where all those yummy Kalamata olives come from.

We went a week before high season, so the rates were low and the Aegean not yet warm. But no way did a little brisk water stop us from swimming. It was warm once you were in for a few minutes.

This was the view from our room. Stunning, right?

We made a three-hour side trip to Athens to see the Acropolis. O.M.G.  I wanted to sit there all day and bask in the aura of ancient gods, goddesses, muses, and nymphs. Hubby asked the tour guide all kinds of questions. I merely wanted to feel its history. And if it had been possible, I would have sat down with my laptop and pounded out several stories.

I was in awe. Tried to imagine how the Acropolis looked in all its glory, before time and wars had left it a mere skeleton, only the bones left for us to admire.

I tried to imagine the people milling about….their voices and songs to the gods…

Here I was, standing amid history, among the very buildings dedicated to the gods of Greek mythology!

“Shhh,” I told hubby, “I want to hear the gods.”

“You’re weird,” he smiled and began reading the informational placard in front of Zeus’ temple.

Then after the muses took pity on me and whispered a few story ideas, we looked out over the Acropolis hilltop and marveled at the view of Athens from our vantage point.

We spend about three hours wondering the Acropolis. And sadly, we arrived too late to tour the museum at the base of the Acropolis, which I heard is fabulous.

“Are you history buffs?” asked our petite, curly-haired, perfectly English speaking tour guide as we set off in her BMW SUV up the Peloponnese coast. “I can talk for hours and give you all the local history if you like.”

“Yes!” Four eager tourists shouted.

The blood of the ancient Spartans runs through the Mani people who live in the Peloponnese countryside. They were a tough people living in a harsh land too arid and rocky for farming.

The Mani is a culture of blood feuds, kick ass warriors, fierce family loyalty, and about a million miles (well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration) of waist high rock walls built helter skelter to divide their wee bit of property.

Those are my olive trees, not yours!

Yes, our tour guide said, blood was spilled over olive trees and boundary lines.

We stopped at Diros where we climbed onto small boats, and rowers guided us through the waist-deep water into a confusing maze of gorgeous caves.

There are many sunken pirate ships in the small bays along the coast. A haven for scuba divers. From the road above we could see a few of them.

We dined on Aegean fish caught that day by local fisherman, gorged on succulent enormous octopus, slurped delicious Greek coffee, supped on many local Greek dishes, drank too much ouzo, and danced the night away at a local Greek club.

I guess the muses worked overtime on this writer, because I got several solid stories ideas from the trip. Any trip that provides that kind of fun and creativity is definitely SEXY!

Hippolyta, at his immediate right, could scarcely keep her eyes off of Theseus as they marched to the palace. He was a strapping man, taller than she, and with a presence so commanding she knew the stories about him must be true. Here was a man who might be worthy of her respect. Even more so because not once did he leer at the warriors’ shapely buttocks swaying back and forth in front of him.

Hippolyta inhaled his scent, a blend of sea and air and male, that for some strange reason she found quite enticing. She snuck peeks at Theseus’s hands. They were large and muscular, with thick fingers and clean, square-shaped nails. Hands that were more suitable for pummeling a Minotaur to death than writing treaties or caressing a lover. She imagined what such powerful hands might feel like on her body, then looked away, horrified by her lewd thoughts. Theseus was just a man! And men were…well, Amazons had no use for men.

When they entered the great chamber, the squadron moved into formation, rows of Amazons at attention in front of Hippolyta’s lion-skin throne.

Theseus stood before the vacant throne while Hippolyta, standing with her squad, waited for him to grow impatient. He did not. In fact, Theseus never shifted his weight or clenched his fists.

The Amazons stood silent as statues, a show of military training that Hippolyta knew Theseus would appreciate. After a few noiseless minutes, Hippolyta issued a silent “at ease” and strode past Theseus to sit on her throne.

Theseus bent down on one knee and dropped his chin.

“Arise,” said Hippolyta.

Theseus stood, his handsome face and confident stance indicating nothing less than utmost respect.

Hippolyta felt a strange heat creep into her cheeks. “To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”

“I had to meet the illustrious Queen Hippolyta.” Theseus’s bright blue eyes pierced her regal demeanor.

“You’ve met me. Now you may leave.” Hippolyta shifted about. The man unsettled her, his gaze too penetrating for comfort.

Theseus rubbed his bearded chin. “I had hoped you would be interested in discussing our common interests.”

“What are those?” Hippolyta rested her hands on either side of the throne, her long fingers dangling over the arm in seeming disinterest.

“We are both bold leaders seeking to enrich the lives of our people, we are both skilled warriors who thirst for adventure and conquest, and we both have mutual acquaintances. Surely, a multitude of topics might warrant any number of discussions.” Theseus touched his chest. “I, for one, would enjoy hearing your side of the whole Hercules girdle-stealing incident.”

Hippolyta tilted her head. “Why?”

“Hercules is proud. And pride and truth are poor companions.”

“Ah, so you are a seeker of truth.”

“Truth, as you well know, comes in many guises.”

“A philosopher king,” Hippolyta teased, her dimpled smile taking Theseus by surprise. “I also seek truth.” She leaned forward. “Join me for dinner and explain those adventures of yours that are beyond belief.”

“I would be honored.”

Their eyes locked, not as two rulers vying for dominance but as two people confessing their attraction.

Melanippe went to Theseus’s side. “I’ll show you to your chambers.”

As Theseus was ushered from the great chamber, he looked over his shoulder to steal another glance at the Amazon queen. She was fierce and sexy. A heart-breaking combination.

Once the warriors departed, Hippolyta joined her mother on the balcony.

“Mate with him,” said Otrera.
“Mother!” Hippolyta sat on the low stone wall. “Don’t tell me you didn’t think about it. The man oozes sex, and he’s far superior to any of the Gargareans we visit in the spring.”

“He is well built.” Hippolyta threw her legs over the wall and stared at the sea. Just thinking about the size of his muscular thighs caused a rare stirring.

“It’s time you had a daughter,” said Otrera after giving her daughter time to consider her suggestion.

Melanippe joined them on the balcony. “I locked Theseus in the room.” She gave the key to Hippolyta. “Is dinner to be a formal affair?”

Formality meant braided hair and wearing heavy dresses from head to toe.

“No, informal attire.” Hippolyta straddled the wall. “Let’s see how the noble Theseus handles a roomful of breasts and legs.”

 

Not tempted enough? Check out the book trailer!

Legends of Lust is available for purchase at all eBook retailers. Or feel free to purchase a copy at your local bookstore!

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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: BEST OF...

Dec 28, 2018
 
What a way to end the year! The latest additions to the steamy illustrious “Best of…” anthologies will resonate with you long after you’ve finished them! In Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4, award-winning editor Rachel Kramer Bussel has gathered the hottest sexy stories starring outspoken women who daringly pursue love and lust. Much like a fine wine the Best Gay Erotica series just keeps getting better with each passing year. Enjoy erotic stories about dominant men standing tall and powerful over their submissive, to dashing men with looks to kill for in Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 edited by Rob Rosen! Wait, it doesn’t stop there! Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 proves to be a successful addition to this body-tingling series—the gold standard for erotic lesbian fiction. Edited by award-winning editor Sacchi Green, this latest edition is sensual, inventive, and utterly breathtaking as it pushes lesbian lust and desire to new heights! So dress down and cozy up with any of these hot erotic additions! They’ll keep you warm all season long!

What makes these additions stand out from the rest? Find out from the editors themselves who sifted through piles of entries and selected the ones that truly captured the desired themes like Rachel Kramer Bussel of Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4:
 
The first three volumes of Best Women’s Erotica of the Year didn’t have official themes, but when I was compiling Volume 4, I decided I wanted stories on the themes of Outsiders and Risk. While on the surface those may seem incongruous, both spoke to me regarding current events and seemed urgently relevant. At a time when outsiders of many kinds are being ostracized, discriminated against, and shunned, I wanted to explore what being an outsider
feels like on a deeply personal level. I always want the authors I publish to turn readers on, but this time, I also want to make you think.
 
I left it to my authors to define what exactly an outsider means to them, and their characters. All of us have likely been outsiders at one time or another, depending on the circumstances. Outsiders may be able to learn something about themselves via insiders, and in the process enjoy some hot sex…Taking risks in the face of fear has certainly cropped up in past volumes, but the risks the characters take in these stories are heightened. Sometimes these risks are erotic in nature, like trying something new for the first time, for instance posing for an erotic calendar, as the heroine of “Take the Shot,” by Mica Kennedy. Sometimes the risk itself is a turn-on, such as the illicit but utterly arousing behavior of the naughty narrator in “The Dressing Room,” by Alessandra Torre.
 
Sometimes these risks, while sexual in nature, involve confronting aspects of these characters’ core selves that require a great amount of bravery. In “Her Invisible Prison,” by Jocelyn Dex, Eden faces a battle between her desire and her agoraphobia. Her steps out of that “prison”are hard fought and all the more exciting. And lest you think a story involving mental health can’t be scorching hot, Dex will surely prove you wrong. While passion and desire are at the heart of these tales, there’s more happening than simple arousal. There’s a little something for everyone, I’d like to think, within these pages…I hope, at least in some small way, this book entertains you and gives you inspiration to take the kinds of risks these characters do.
…..
Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 is available for purchase at all eBook retailers. Or feel free to purchase a copy at your local bookstore!

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Rob Rosen of Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volume 4:
For those of you who are unfamiliar with my writing, I’m a romantic-comedy author by trade, frequently in the speculative genre. And so, whilst whittling—and since reading and enjoying what one is reading is oh-so subjective—I found myself choosing stories for you that fall into three categories: comedy/madcap, sci-fi/speculative, and general fiction, almost all of it of a romantic nature, a hundred percent of it of the high literary caliber that you’ve come to expect from this annual collection.
 
For comedy/madcap, there’s Clare London’s after-hours romp in a dentist’s office in “Open Up”; Nelson House’s “Dirty Tricks,” with its dirty double-crosses and sneaky Republican senator; Richard May’s naughty Hanukkah-present-filled “Eight Nights”; the farcical romp through the streets of Florence, “Renaissance Miracles,” by the superbly imaginative Michael Ampersant; and closing out the collection, Richard Michaels’s “Forward into the Past,” featuring a private dick you won’t soon forget.
 
Sci-fi/speculative takes center stage in Jordan Castillo Price’s vampiric-virus tour de force, “Appetite.” Kyle E. Miller chooses humanity over the divine in “The Temptation of the Gargoyle.” Vincent Meis’s “Blade of Grass” takes us on an unexpected journey into Turkey. And Michael Roberts has us howling with his cloning mishap tale, “Reflections.” But, of course, there’re even more stories to follow, all of them expertly written and deeply erotic, all by some of today’s best and brightest M/M writers, hailing from all over the United States, plus Canada, the United Kingdom, and France. So, sit back and relax—perhaps spread-eagle or on your knees, just as a suggestion—and enjoy Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volume 4!
 …..

Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 is available for purchase at all eBook retailers. Or feel free to purchase a copy at your local bookstore!

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Sacchi Green of Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3:
We open a book hoping to be taken somewhere—to faraway places, into the lives and inner thoughts of intriguing characters, or into times past or even unexplored depths of ourselves. If the book is classed as erotica, we also expect to be intensely stirred both sensually and emotionally. The beauty of an anthology is that we can expect to be taken in multiple directions, and meet an assortment of characters with a wide range of viewpoints.”
 
“Here are some hints as to where the stories I chose will take you, and what you may find there. Could there be a better start than the fantasy-fulfillment story, “Ninjutsu,” set on a plane high above the Pacific en route from Tokyo to Honolulu? And what could feel more real than longtime lovers waking in the “Morning Fog” of San Francisco? How about touring the South of France in “Perfume,” a massage in a Moroccan public bath in “Fuck Me Like a Canadian,” a cabin “Where There’s Smoke” in the snowy North Country, and the surveillance area above the ceiling of a Las Vegas casino where “Oliver: Twisted” begins?”
 
While most of the stories have contemporary settings, two more are set, at least partially, in the past. If you’re old enough to have been swept up in the rock and blues bands frenzy of the ’60s and ’70s, you may catch the significance of September 1970, and even if you aren’t that old, you’ll find out in “Jani-Lyn’s Dragon.” On another tack, “The Night Shift” proves to be just the right time for accidental phone sex. Then the familiar professor/ former student theme of “Rules” travels in unexpected directions and gets as steamily entertaining as they come, while the queer bookstore in “Rainbow’s End” provides an ideal place for a hesitant would-be writer to find just what she hardly dared hope for…Yes, all of these stories include hot, intense sex, in its many splendored manifestations… A word of caution: you may not get jet lag from this journey, but a suitable recovery period between stories is highly recommended. Trust me.
 …..

Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 is available for purchase at all eBook retailers. Or feel free to purchase a copy at your local bookstore!

Amazon • iTunes • Nook • Google Play • Kobo

 
 

Special Brief: What is the sudden obsession with Furries. . . again?

Nov 16, 2018
 

Interest in the Furry subculture seems to ebb and flow over time and it appears we are heading into another period of Furry curiosity. And perhaps this time it is here to stay in the mainstream.

We’ve all seen “Kigurumi”—whimsical animal-themed onesies reminiscent of the costumes worn by the Lost Boys in Disney’s Peter Pan— growing in popularity. And this past Halloween, it was hard not to notice that vendors like Walmart and Amazon were all about adult-sized “maskimals,” animal heads meant to be worn with one’s everyday clothes.

Joe Strike, author of Furry Nation: The True Story of America’s Most Misunderstood Subculture (Cleis Press 2017), was recently interviewed on CNN.com in a piece that has the same aim as the book itself: to dispel controversy and misunderstanding of the Furry subculture as a whole. One can argue that this piece was meant to generate some hype for CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling, which will be airing a new episode this Sunday at 10pm ET/PT about the Furry subculture in America.

Now you may be saying, “So what? People have covered this before…” But was there ever a time where a major TV network was about to launch a new hit singing competition show that is so steeped in anthropomorphic and Furry culture you can almost taste it?

FOX, that’s right FOX, is premiering a new reality show January 2nd called The Masked Singer, where Grammy-nominated singers and Grammy winners will appear in elaborate masked, animal-themed costumes to conceal their identity. Hosted by Nick Cannon, the panel of judges will include Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong, Robin Thicke, and Nicole Scherzinger. The show was apparently such a big hit in Thailand, so FOX is bringing it to the US.

To get your mind spinning even more, apparently Furry dance competitions have been a “thing” at conventions for years with suited competitors doing moves that would put non-suited dancers to shame. Here is just one of many examples that can be found all over the internet and at conventions nationwide.

Is this all just a clandestine co-evolution or can inspiration be intrinsically tied to the Furry subculture itself? Does this signal a shift in the mindset of the American public? Is there a growing atavistic desire to bond with the animal world as an alternative to our technology-obsessed society? Are we becoming more tolerant, more desensitized, or just hungrier for new forms of highly visual entertainment?

If you are interested in covering this story. . . you may need an expert to weigh in! Author Joe Strike is available for comment and interview to help you fill in the gaps and spin your own story about this amazing, misunderstood, and re-emerging subculture.

Contact Allyson Fields at afields@cleispress.com for more information.

 
 

Exclusive Excerpt: Until Autumn Falls

Nov 07, 2018
 

We’ve read the previous stories of Sophie and Mont in Until Summer Ends and of Jared and Millie in Until Winter Breaks. Now it’s time to return to Redwood Bay, a sleepy little Pacific Northwestern fishing town that may appear calm and quiet on the outside, but supplies us with non-stop, drama-bespotted, contemporary romances.

Here is a little sample of what you can expect from the burgeoning romance between Tripp Thurgood, a lifetime resident of Redwood Bay, and mysterious newcomer and fishmonger, Hilary Finnegan, a transplant from Miami who wears scarves over her gaze-inducing scars. But does she wear those scarves to protect her past or to protect herself?

Tripp sensed Hilary the moment he stepped onto the pier. He couldn’t see her, but her recognizable scent lingered in the space where she’d been. He finished with one customer and glanced up, searching for her.

He caught himself and focused on the couple in front of him. The sous chefs from the nearby national park. He wasn’t sure why today he suddenly needed to sell fish to Hilary. Sure, he liked her. Maybe he’d started looking at her differently these past few weeks. He didn’t think she’d seen him as more than an acquaintance—at least she’d never acted like she had.

Her watching him eat a meal after his date had abandoned him could hardly be counted as romantic.

He finished with the couple, and Hilary appeared. Her grin lit up her face as she held her phone to her ear. He smiled back at her, and she lifted her hand before turning to complete her call. Only seconds passed, but Tripp felt like the world had paused.

He wasn’t quite sure what to do with these new feelings for Hilary. He wasn’t even sure when they had sprung into existence. Simply having Jared suggest a relationship was possible with Hilary hadn’t awakened something that wasn’t previously there.

While she wasn’t looking, he enjoyed the curve of her hips and the length of her legs. The dark black romper she wore seemed almost criminal, and a flush flooded Tripp’s whole body.

She turned back to him, and he dipped his chin to his chest so his eyes would fall on the fish in front of him. He cleared his throat, trying not to make too much noise, as she said, “Morning, Tripp.”

At the genuine, sweet sound of her voice, Tripp glanced up. Her beauty nearly stole his breath, but he managed to inhale without sounding like a squeaky balloon. “Hey, Hil. What’ll it be?”

“I heard you had swordfish.”

“I do.” He turned toward the cooler behind him. “I was up all night,” he said, his words running away from his brain. “Thinking about you.” He spun around. “I mean—not that I was thinking about you. Thinking about how you ate that ice cream. I shouldn’t have eaten it so fast. I was sick for hours.”

Hilary tucked a lock of hair that had escaped from her bun. “Wow, I didn’t know big, strong men like yourself got sick from eating ice cream.”

He thrust her package toward her. “Eating ice cream too fast.”

She took the fish and handed him her card. “Want to go get some more tonight?”

“Heavens, no.” He counted out her change. “I mean—” He took a deep breath to try to find his center. It didn’t work, but he really wanted to stop saying stupid things. “I can’t go tonight.”

“Oh, okay.”

“What about for lunch?”

Hilary’s eyes locked with his. He couldn’t seem to look away from their foresty depths, and he wondered what she saw in his eyes.

“I’m meeting some friends for lunch,” she said. “Sorry.”

He handed back her money and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “That’s okay.”

She backed up a couple of steps, stopped, and cocked her hip. “You know, you should go out with my friend Andrea.”

Tripp’s heart crashed to the soles of his feet and stayed there. “Andrea?” Now his voice sounded like he’d sucked in a lungful of helium.

“Yeah, she’s—”

“I’m not really looking to date anyone right now.” She pressed his lips around the lie.

“Oh, I just thought—you were out with that other woman, and….” She lifted her free hand up, palm forward, as if to say, Never mind.

Tripp watched her walk away and collect a couple of packages from Ben, who then went with her carrying twice as much as she was. A hole opened inside Tripp, but he ducked his head and did what he’d always done: He worked.

Hours later, after he’d sold his entire catch, after he’d scrubbed down his fishing boat, after he’d settled behind his desk in his office, he let Hilary’s words rebound through his mind. Had she really tried to set him up with another woman? Why would she do that?

Tripp pulled a folder toward him and flicked it open. He couldn’t focus on the contents though, and he ended up pulling out his phone. “Call Hilary Finnegan,” he commanded, and the phone responded with, “Calling Hilary Finnegan.”

She’d claimed she was having lunch with friends, but Tripp had detected the hint of a lie between her words, in the way her chin lifted just a notch, in the false quality of her voice.

“Hey,” she said, and the distinct sound of restaurant chatter in the background came through the line.

“Who’s Andrea?” he asked. He hadn’t meant his question to sound like a police request.

“Oh, uh, she’s my landlady’s daughter. She’s nice.”

Tripp didn’t care about Andrea, but he couldn’t say that. Maybe he should just go out with her so his interest in Hilary wasn’t quite so obvious.

“She’s a manicurist. Has a salon out of her house.”

“The house where I dropped you off last night?”

“Sort of. The two-story one on the other side of the pool.” Something very much like silverware on dishes clanked on her end of the conversation. “I’ll text you her number.”

Tripp’s mouth went dry. He didn’t want to call a perfect stranger and ask her out. How did he even phrase that? He had a hard enough time asking out women he knew.

“Can’t you, I mean, maybe you could set it up?”

Hilary laughed. “And then you can debrief me afterward. Is that it?”

“I’m not cold-calling someone I’ve never met.”

“Just a sec.” The chaos on her side of the conversation dimmed and then disappeared. “So you want me to set up a meeting?”

“That would be nice, yes.” Tripp hated the direction this conversation had taken, hated that he’d called Hilary at all. He wanted to go out with her.

“So I get to be your matchmaker?”

Tripp rolled his eyes. “This call was a mistake.”

“No, no,” Hilary said. “Don’t hang up.”

“Why would I hang up?”

She laughed, but now it had a nervous edge. “I don’t know. Listen, we should meet this afternoon. I can find out what kind of woman you’re looking for and go from there.”

“I don’t—” Tripp couldn’t finish the sentence. He wanted to see her, and if that meant he had to pretend to be interested in dating her friends…. It wasn’t his worst option. “What time?”

 

 

Until Autumn Falls is available for purchase at all eBook retailers. Or feel free to purchase a copy at your local bookstore!

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Exclusive Excerpt: A Dirty Word

Oct 09, 2018
 

 

It has always been a challenge, at least in the majority of recorded human history and modern history, to be a woman. It seems that only in the most modern times can women finally have, generally speaking, socially acceptable platforms to give voice to issues that are important to them and the right to even do so.

Sexual harassment. Sexual assault. Sexual abuse. Misogyny. Fair pay. Maternity leave. Fair, safe, and affordable healthcare. The list can go on…

Thanks mostly to the #metoo movement and feminism in general, women are, now more than ever, seeking to further their stance in society and the world, and to live their own personal truths — from the married, stay-at-home moms of four, to the childless and husbandless CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, despite this herculean agenda, perhaps the hardest thing 50 percent of this planet needs to accomplish is furthering the understanding of women’s issues, across and within genders, sexes, generations, and within yourself, too. Perhaps this is necessary before women and men could ever hope to affect positive change.

When it comes to our sex organs and sexual health, the most recent research seems disproportionately inclined toward the study of men’s sexual health as compared to women, despite the fact that women have more complicated reproductive systems when compared to men. And women’s reproductive processes put women at a much higher risk of death than men. But, then again, this is nothing new. Yes, it must be traumatic for those dealing with erectile dysfunction, but then again women go through menopause, too. (Granted, most women can still orgasm after menopause: I wouldn’t wish an orgasm-less life on anyone…) But before we even get to those wonderful mid-life crisis years, one study found that in their most recent sexual encounter, 95 percent of men reported orgasms, as compared to 69 percent of women. So why is more research not being done on women’s sexual health? Why is the range of experience so different? Shouldn’t women be getting off just as much as men?

There is obviously a divide here and there are A LOT of factors that play into a woman’s level of arousal and sexual fulfillment, from the errand she forgot to run this morning to the size and shape of her labia. How can women who feel unsatisfied and “less than” (even through they are not!) ever hope to help an outsider understand? How can they ever hope to move past the “what’s” and get to the “how’s?”

Steph Auteri has boldly volunteered her own personal experiences in A Dirty Word: How a Sex Writer Reclaimed Her Sexuality. She touches upon many subjects of interest to the modern woman, most notably her battles with female sexual dysfunction — which is much more wide-ranging than you would initially think. In a recent study, it was found that 40 percent of women have sexual concerns and 12 percent of women report distressing sexual problems. Women are complicated creatures…

So, read on. Whether you have been diagnosed or not, whether you feel at your peak mental and emotional health or at your lowest, whether you have the sexual ego of a award-winning porn star or a forty-year-old virgin, whether you have only had one partner or have more notches on your bedpost than you can count… you are not alone.

 

 

[Note: Travis was Steph’s boyfriend for several months in college. An experience that was beautiful at times, but was more traumatic than anything else.]

I was twenty when I finally succumbed to Travis’s appeals for a blowjob. We had just shared a shower and I was feeling generous, so I knelt down on the bathroom floor as he stood before me, the hair on his legs dripping, making golden loops and whorls across his shins and down his calves. The mirror over the sink was fogged, and the air was damp and heavy. My knees were slick, tender as they dug into the tiled floor; wet strands of hair striped my cheeks and my forehead and inched between my lips, requiring me to spit them out before returning to the job at hand. Travis’s knees shook, and he gasped. “Where did you learn to do that?” he asked.

Back when I still lived with my parents, I sometimes watched fuzzed-out porn at three in the morning. I stared at bodies twisting and humping on the screen, squinting to get a glimpse of things I’d not yet experienced. What was taking place on that bathroom floor was not nearly as bow-chik-a-bow-wow as what I had seen on TV. But as for sex education, that was all I had to go on. Apparently, it was enough.

You should never, however, underestimate the sex toy industry’s ability to make you doubt yourself. Like a SkyMall for sexy time, adult toy developers love creating unnecessary doo-dads and whatzits that promise to elevate the in-and-out experience.

The BlowGuard was one such whatzit. Years after that first blowjob, when I received a review unit just before a romantic anniversary trip to a B&B in upstate New York, I slipped it into my suitcase. In the fullness of that first day upstate, I almost forgot about it. Leaving our luggage at the inn, we drove along the Canandaigua wine trail, turning in at small vineyards, poring over lists of whites and reds, swirling the wine in our glasses as if we knew what we were doing. We sipped Chambourcins and Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs and, later in the evening, gulped down large, full glasses of wine at the farm-to-table restaurant where we had our dinner. By the time we made our way back to our room, we were thoroughly soused. Especially Michael. Because my tolerance for alcohol was lower than his, I often used his glass as a personal dump bucket when we were at tastings.

A drunk Michael is a particularly frisky Michael. So as I bent over the sink in our private bathroom, brushing my teeth, he took the opportunity to remove all of his clothing except for his boxer briefs, clamber up onto the elevated canopy bed, and stretch out in a come-hither position. I looked at him when I emerged from the bathroom and shook my head. I was wearing bulky, fleece pajama pants emblazoned with a Cookie Monster pattern. We were still in our twenties, but we had never been what I’d describe as sexy. At least not in that performative way you see on TV and in the movies where the woman shimmies out of her negligee or the man backs his partner against the wall, and then they both magically orgasm while they’re still standing there, dry humping each other. But I did have one ace up my sleeve.

I whipped the BlowGuard out of my suitcase and brandished it in the air. “Ta-daaaaa!”

Michael sighed.

The BlowGuard was a toy meant to be used during partner play in order to prevent you from nicking your partner with your teeth during oral sex. With its built-in bullet vibrator, it also promised “mind-blowing” plea- sure. It looked like a mouth guard but, since we weren’t winning points for sexiness anyway, I was willing to look silly if it meant we would soon experience staggering levels of orgasmic bliss.

The first speed bump came when I couldn’t fit the bullet vibe into the dental guard. Michael grappled with it for a while before finally prevailing over imperfect manufacturing. Then, I realized I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to place the BlowGuard over my upper or lower teeth. The instructions that came with the device were less than illuminating.

I eventually decided to try it both ways (I am nothing if not thorough) but couldn’t stop myself from giggling as I slow-motion approached my husband’s penis.

Not only that, but I couldn’t stop worrying that the BlowGuard would fall out of my mouth. This thought made me tense my jaw, which in turn made me worry that teeth nicks were inevitable. My tightened jaw also made it impossible for me to actually fit my husband’s penis into my mouth. (He asserts that this is because his member is so large.)

Finally, we were forced to abort the experiment.

“Besides,” he said, “it’s scary to see that thing coming at my penis.”

Luckily, we were able to laugh about it. But it wasn’t always that way. When Michael and I weren’t laughing, I was crying, the guilt and pressure I felt around my sexual issues suffocating me. If it were up to Michael, we would probably have sex every damn day. But night after night, when he turned to me in bed to run a hand down my arm, I turned away from him and stuck my head in a book. The want I’d felt for him at the beginning of our relationship had faded, and I could go for long stretches of time without feeling that tingling sensation that signified my desire. At the time, I hadn’t yet learned that, for many women, physical arousal is the thing that sparks desire. I hadn’t yet learned about the waxing and waning of desire that is normal throughout the course of everyone’s life. And so, I resented him for pushing me, even after I told him I wasn’t in the mood.

All of this was made worse by the fact that I continued to experience pain during intercourse for several years. Lube didn’t help. Penetration wasn’t the problem. It was when he was inside me, thrusting his way to completion, that I felt a sharp, stinging agony, like needles biting into my vaginal walls. Why would I want to participate in that? How could I not resent the person who wanted to forge ahead anyway, despite knowing what I was being forced to endure?

At the same time, I always felt that he deserved more. Better. And my experimentation around sex toys and my immersion in the world of sex positivity—an exploration enabled by my sex writing—were the vehicles I had chosen in my efforts to fix myself. I wanted to be more like everyone else. I wanted to have the sex life I imagined everyone else was having. I wanted to want. I wanted to feel comfortable and capable in bed. And if the pain I felt was all in my head—as my gynecologist at one point intimated—I wanted to get down to the very essence of who I was, deep down inside, and fix that, too.

A Dirty Word is available for purchase at all major retailers in print and digital formats. Or feel free to order a copy at your local bookstore!

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Exclusive Excerpt: Tongue Tied

Sep 12, 2018
 

Most of us have been there — caught somewhere between expressing our own needs and suffering in silence. It isn’t easy to talk to someone you care about, especially if the it’s about a sensitive topic, like finding new heights of passion in the bedroom.

According to Marriage.com, poor communication is the third most frequent reason for divorce and in a study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, it was found that communication and sexual satisfaction can independently predict marital satisfaction. However, if the communication was bad, sexual satisfaction did not contribute to a relationship’s overall health and success.

And that does not only apply to the married couples. Having solid communication skills is imperative to a person’s success in life, in work, and in the home. We’ve all read the articles, taken the advice, filled out the surveys, read the self-help books that promise you a solution, only to let you down when it comes to practical application. That is where Stella Harris, certified intimacy educator and sex coach, stands out from the crowd. She is not only informative and emphatic, but provides sound advice for improving communication skills in the home, with partners, and in kink play. But, even better, her advice has real applications in every type of relationship from love to business.

Below is an excerpt from Stella’s new book, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships on one important key factor in communicating with your partner: setting apart time to have serious conversations in a safe space.

WHEN TO TALK: MAKING TIME TO TALK

This might sound silly, but we don’t always take time to talk to the people who are the most important to us. Maybe you chat about your day, what’s going on at the office, or the movie you just saw, but when did you last talk about your feelings?

Or maybe you and your sweetie(s) don’t get to see each other that often, and you feel reluctant to “ruin” date night by having hard conversations. You just want to enjoy your time together and not risk derailing the evening.

Either way, sometimes the most important things are the hardest to bring up.

Whether you’re simply giving your partner a heads-up that there’s something you’d like to talk about and asking if it’s a good time, or actually scheduling time to talk, it’s important to differentiate “talks” from simply chatting about your day.

You need to be in a different headspace to really share—and hear—heavier stuff about how you or a partner are feeling. That’s why it can be helpful to have a scheduled time on the calendar to talk about how things are going. Depending what your organizational style is, you can even make an agenda for these talks.

Whether you set these talks for once a week or once a month, it can be helpful to know that you’ve got a time coming when you can raise any concerns you’ve been having, set your shared schedule for the coming week or month, and make sure you’re on the same page about the relationship.

If you’re a note-taking type, like I am, you might even keep a running list for yourself of things you want to talk about at the next meeting. Putting something on the list and knowing you’ll get a chance to sort through whatever it is can help take it off your mind in the meantime.

When you have your first scheduled relationship talk, set some ground rules about how you’d like it to go. Are you agreeing on an agenda together? Are you each getting equal time? Are you tackling one big topic, then each adding your own smaller items that have come up since the last meeting? Knowing how the talk will go can be as important as the talks themselves.

Another thing to consider is location. Some people will be most comfortable doing this at home, and for other people having these talks in public is easier. Sometimes being out in the world is a good backdrop to keep things on an even keel, if you’re afraid the talk might get tense or emotional.

The bottom line is figuring out what it takes logistically to make it most likely that you and your sweetie(s) will get what you need from these conversations.

At a minimum, give your partner a heads-up when you want to have a difficult conversation, and check in about whether it’s a good time. Sure, sometimes things come up in the moment that have to be addressed, but if the issue isn’t immediate, you’ll get the best results if you have the conversation when everyone is in the right head space for it. It’s also another way to establish a consent culture within your relationship, by letting people opt in to serious talks rather than being surprised by them.

With clients, I often call these State of the Relationship talks. Just like oil changes, software updates, and putting air in the tires, everything requires ongoing maintenance, and relationships are no exception. Once you’ve decided to have these regular talks, here are some things you might want to cover:

  • Needs and definitions around sex.
  • Household logistics, chores, etc.
  • Vacation planning.
  • Big personal topics that affect everyone—job changes, moves, etc.
  • Your schedule for the coming week or month, depending how often you have these talks.
  • Scheduling date nights.

Sometimes just knowing that you have a built-in space coming up to raise issues can make things feel less urgent. Often it’s not knowing when or how to bring something up that causes the most stress. When you have these talks already on the schedule, you’ll also have a built-in time for bringing up new kinds of sex you’d like to try, or a fantasy you’d like to tell your partner about.

Most people think that figuring out how to start the conversation is the hardest part, so if you’ve got time to talk built in already, you’ve already done the hardest part and you can focus on the information you want to share, rather than worrying about how to bring it up.

Tongue Tied is available for purchase at all major retailers in print and digital formats. Or feel free to order a copy at your local independent bookstore! 

Amazon     iTunes     Barnes & Noble     Google Play     Kobo

 

 

 

 
 

Cleis Press Back to School Sale

Sep 01, 2018
 

It’s never too late to learn about pleasure…

And Cleis Press is here to help, despite some web design difficulties. I think we may have to go back to school for that one ourselves…

To help you discover the best instructional and sex ed titles, they are listed below by subject category. From learning the art of BDSM to mastering fellatio, we have you covered!

Sale ends 9/31/18.

 

BDSM/KINK

50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM by Tristan Taormino

As Kinky as You Wanna Be: Your Guide to Safe, Sane and Smart BDSM by Shanna Germain

The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge by Tristan Taormino

The Ultimate Guide to Strap-On Sex: A Complete Resource for Women and Men by Karlyn Lotney

 

HEALTH & WELLNESS

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

 

LGBT

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men by Bill Brent

The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception Through Birth by Rachel Pepper

The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners by Charlie Glickman, PhD

The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us by Felice Newman

 

REFERENCE

The Cleis Press Sextionary by the Editors of Cleis Press

The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper

The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney

 

SEX & RELATIONSHIPS

Better Sex in No Time: An Illustrated Guide for Busy Couples by Josey Vogels

The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex: The Most Complete Sex Manual Ever Written by Cathy Winks and Anne Semans

Never Have the Same Sex Twice: A Guide For Couples by Alison Tyler

Never Say Never: Tips, Tricks, and Erotic Inspiration for Lovers by Alison Tyler

O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm by Jenny Block

Opening Up: A Guide To Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Alison Tyler

Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson

The Smart Girl’s Guide to the G-Spot by Violet Blue

 

ULTIMATE GUIDE SERIES

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men by Bill Brent

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women by Tristan Taormino

The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus 2nd Ed.: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure by Violet Blue

The Ultimate Guide to Fellatio: How to Go Down on a Man and Give Him Mind-Blowing Pleasure by Violet Blue

The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge by Tristan Taormino

The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women: How to Become Orgasmic for a Lifetime by Mikaya Heart

The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception Through Birth by Rachel Pepper

The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners by Charlie Glickman, PhD and Aislinn Emirzian

The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty: How to Maintain or Regain a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life by Joan Price

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette

The Ultimate Guide to Sex Through Pregnancy and Motherhood by Madison Young

The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasy: How to Have Incredible Sex with Role Play, Sex Games, Erotic Massage, BDSM and More by Violet Blue

The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex: All You Need to Know About Masturbation by Jenny Block

The Ultimate Guide to Strap-On Sex: A Complete Resource for Women and Men by Karlyn Lotney

 

<3 Cleis Press