I invited Alison Tyler over to mine for scones served by hairy men as part of her month-long blog tour for Dark Secret Love. I asked if she’d chat about William Blake or choosing titles. To my great delight, she decided to do both. Here’s Alison:
There are certain poems—or lines of poems—that I know by heart. I’m not bragging. I forget almost everything else on some days. Why I came into a room. Where I put my coffee. If my glasses are on my face or on my head. Yet in trying times, I repeat certain words to myself for comfort. You’ll find me saying:
This darksome burn, horseback brown.
His rollrock highroad roaring down…
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam.
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins
The words feel good. I have no clearer way to say that. The words please my mouth.
I’ve known this one for decades:
The fowles in the frith.
The fisshes in the flood
And I mon waxe wood
Muche sorwe I walke with
For beste of boon and blood
—Anonymous, 13th century
My understanding of the translation is: “The birds are in the wood, the fishes in the flood, surely I go mad, all the grief I’ve had, for best of bone and blood.” I wanted to call my publishing house Waxe Wood at one point. (One must be a little mad to be a publisher, yes?)
Robert Herrick is another one of my go-to writers. Both his words and his images can soothe a troubled mind:
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
I appreciate everything about those lines. The “then, then” the “(methinks),” but especially the “liquefaction.” Say that word out loud. Caress the “l,” the “q,” the “action.”
Blake is another poet I admire, and The Sick Rose has always lingered:
O, Rose thou art sick
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Yes, I took that line for the title of my newest novel. Originally—seven lifetimes ago—I almost was allowed to use Crimson Joy as a title. But that was nixed in favor of something else. Titles are funny like that.
My sultry Victorian-esque The Belles of the Ball became The Blue Rose. Flash Fucking was traded for Frenzy. Two Weeks in Venice transformed into Giving In. A Waste of Chi became A Taste of Chi. Some working titles are better (in my opinion) than the ending ones. But in the case of Dark Secret Love, the final title wins the war (in this case, of the roses).
On the pitch, this novel was called Under My Thumb. Later, we tried The Beginning. Then: Kink. Then: Confessions. There were so many one-word suggestions I can’t even begin to list them. But ultimately, we landed. And the title made perfect sense. Total sense.
The poem is even referenced in the book:
I watched Nate as he prepared, realizing that he wasn’t going out so often with other women now. Not devouring a soul a night. Had he chosen me? I didn’t dare ask. I simply took what he was offering—a deal. Ten pages for the pain I craved, and the pleasure that always, always followed afterwards.
Nate knew what I needed. He understood that my fantasies went far deeper than a simple hand spanking before sweet sex. He accepted my demons and my desires and he worked through the night to make each of my darkest dreams come true.
Afterwards, I’d feel limp, demolished. But oddly, Nate had figured me out. Even after he had whipped me, or cropped me, or fucked me until my body felt liquified, I could still manage to slip out of the bed, grab one of Nate’s T-shirts, and head back to my room. A glass of chilled white wine at my side, or even a shot of tequila, and I was off. Writing. Lost in a new world. Ten pages—2,500 words. The count came easily to me. I have never had a fear of putting words on a page. And I always made sure that I knew what would happen next before stopping, printing off the fresh pages, and sneaking them back to Nate’s room.
I got less sleep than I might have needed, but I’ve always been an insomniac. My mind is clearest around 1:30 in the morning.
Sometimes when I was finished writing, I climbed back into bed next to Nate, and he’d stir in his sleep, wake enough to cuff me into place, or tie me back down. Sometimes, I put my head down on my desk and slept there. Six weeks went by in a hazy blur.
This is what I can say about my first novel… it was short (barely 200 pages). It was fierce. And I wrote it in several weeks.
Nate gave me everything I needed. Total support in the form of X-rated inspiration, and a vicious hand as an editor, cutting parts he didn’t like, suggesting scenes he thought would be more appropriate.
The original title of my book was Dark Secret Love.
But back to me and my love affair with lyrical lines. I use words like worry stones. I trace serif fonts on my thigh with my pointer finger in times of stress. (A useless aside—I happen to love that sans-serif fonts are called “Grotesque.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serif Grow up in a house with a publisher and you learn your way around fonts.)
Do you have a favorite line or two? Please share.
Alison Tyler is the author of Dark Secret Love and the soon-to-be-released The Delicious Torment (which takes its title from another poem). Her novellas include Those Girls (Go Deeper Press), Tied Up & Twisted (Harlequin), and Banging Rebecca (Pretty Things Press). Visit her at alisontyler.blogspot.com for updates, down dates, and everything in between.
A new reader got in touch recently to tell me how much she’d enjoyed my third novel, Split. “I just finished reading your book ‘Split‘. Wow. I think some of the images in that book are going to haunt me for years.”
Split is not for everyone! In terms of sales, it’s my least popular book but regular readers of my work often tell me it’s their favourite novel of mine. Which may mean that my fanbase consists primarily of sexual deviants who don’t mind having their kink linked to a contemporary gothic sensibility employing tropes of the uncanny, doubles, haunted houses, menacing men, BDSM, and eerie landscapes. And, um, marionettes.
People, who the fuck are you?! I thought I was alone!
Split is set in a puppet museum on the Yorkshire moors. It’s been described as ‘Wuthering Heights with bondage’. The ending is not a romantic HEA. Really, it’s not! Back then, in 2007, my publisher, Black Lace, tried to market it as ‘erotic romance’. Nah!
Split is an autumnal book. It begins:
“My story starts last autumn. I want to set it down because I understand now that I’ll never be able to leave this place.”
If you’re in the mood to close the curtains of an evening and curl up with something sultry, spooky and sexy, you might enjoy Split.
Incidentally, the cover I’ve uploaded here was an early version of the artwork from BL. I do prefer it to the final version, although both are gorgeous. (I love how the strap on her slip visually reflects both the string of marionettes and rope bondage.)
Another interesting comment from the reader who contacted me was: “I found your book in a freepile outside a site that does ‘books through bars’ and other radical political kinds of stuff. Man did I hit the jackpot of lucky fantastical free books!”
I had to google ‘books through bars’. I thought maybe they were suppliers to drinking establishments. But no, these are books for people in prison. And Split didn’t even get that far, it seems, but hey!
Anyways, that got me thinking about how we discover new authors, outside of “Amazon recommends” algorithms, and the like. Alison Tyler is stopping by my blog on Friday, and I distinctly remember discovering her work. I’d been away from erotica for several years then was lured back when Black Lace re-issued my early books. Blogs were starting to happen and our editor issued a general recommendation to authors, advising they check out this woman, Alison Tyler, who really knew what she was doing when it came to utilising new media platforms, connecting with readers, building her author profile etc
And so I checked her out and quickly became a fan. And the funny thing is, I don’t think Alison does know what she’s doing! She’s not a strategist or a businesswoman. And that’s why it works so damn well. And that’s why Alison writes reams and reams for free, for the joy and for the hell of it. And then years later, those words become a published series from Cleis with beautifully designed book covers.
Drop by on Friday for more from Alison and her exciting new release, Dark Secret Love. We’re talking poetry and book titles.
Alison Tyler’s Sudden Sex blog tour continues apace! (And if you click the pic, you get to see who’s doing who.)
I have three pices of flash fic in this anthology of quickies, and have received three reviews which made several parts of me glow. Sugar Upsets My Vagina has, says Giselle Renarde, “a dream-like quality” while Delilah Night observes that “the protagonist wants a hard, satisfying fuck … Kristina rewards her, and us, with just that.”
And for Deep Throat, Deep Love, Graydancer gave me a review so frickin’ smart and sexy I wanted to lie back afterwards, smoke a cigarette, and bat his hand away because I was too sensitive. “Disgustingly clever and graceful,” he says, and yup, I want that on a T-shirt.
I reviewed Maria See’s deft, taboo-busting short, One Sleep, a few weeks ago, and below are my thoughts on Gina Marie‘s beautiful and subtly powerful piece, Seasonal Affected Disorder. Heck, I love this piece so bad!
You know you’re in the hands of a writer to trust when her opening line drops you into a scene you can feel: “The air smells clean and sharp like minerals, tastes like new snow eaten from a mitten.”
If a writer can describe air with such evocative precision, I want to be there when her characters are trying to claw each other’s skin off.
Seasonal Affected Disorder is ostensibly about a couple who pull off from the road to fuck in The Great Outdoors. But the narrative action takes second billing to the dizzying depictions of sex, desire, and the narrator’s connectedness to the landscape. The surroundings are so much more than a backdrop. The physical and imaginative pleasures of sex are reflected and reinforced by vivid descriptions of both the natural world’s presence and its more nebulous aspects: the historic, the folkloric, the intimations of danger. “Everything makes me horny” says the narrator, and her life-affirming responsiveness to her surroundings repeats throughout the piece in so many gorgeous, original ways.
Gina Marie’s exhilarating prose conveys a sensual engagement with the landscape that steers clear of sentiment, delicacy or cloying lyricism. This is a writer who understands you can write about sex without focusing on body parts and still stay gritty; that the borders of the self fracture in bliss; that desire leads to delirium, disorder and collapse. I loved how Marie demonstrated the surprises and illogicality of the erotic, particularly in the breathless exchange of dirty talk when he calls her “an excitable little fainting goat”.
“The word goat – fuck!” says our narrator.
And those folkloric undertones I mentioned surface in a sudden single line – “Then he chops me up and makes a stew out of me right there against that tree” – before sinking back to become an intangible part of the forest atmosphere.
Seasonal Affected Disorder is a perfect balance of controlled, careful writing and of erotic chaos; of understatement and of excess in all the right places. Truly, it’s one of the finest pieces of erotic flash I’ve read! I feel I could wax lyrical about horny fainting goats, sex stew and joyful lust for quite some time. But I’ll spare you! Just go read Gina Marie’s piece, and faint with me.
Alison Tyler wrote a neat post today in support of indie publishers, reminding us that authors benefit directly when we choose to spend our book money on the small guys.
Apparently, Smart Ass is currently this month’s topseller at Pretty Things Press. Huzzah! Left is a pic of me reading from my story in Smart Ass at Eroticon in London. (The book in my hands is a print copy of our three ass anthologies from PTP). As far as I know, this is the only picture of my legs on the internet. This is likely to remain the case. Consider it a collector’s item.
But AT’s post struck a particular chord today because just a few days ago, Amazon declined to offer for sale Geek Love, the book born of Shanna Germain’s amazing Kickstarter project, claiming it breached some hazy, arbitrary content guidelines of theirs and they were Mighty Powerful and could do whatever they wanted.
Days later, Amazon relented, but by that point, Shanna was all “Fuck you, Lord Amazon! I’m supporting the small guys who support us!” And so now, Geek Love is available as an ebook via Drive Thru Fiction. Setting up an account takes about 2 seconds and if you’re geeky, you won’t even blink at that.
Hardback copies of Geek Love will be available via the same retailer at some future point. I have a story in Geek Love. The anthology received a great review on Erotica Revealed this week.
If you’re anything like me, you can’t afford to buy all your books from indie publishers and booksellers. And as an author, I benefit from Amazon’s huge reach, and also from publishers with money to spend on marketing. But I mix up my book purchases from the big guns with purchases from the smaller presses and outlets. After all, interesting stuff happens on the margins!
Last time we did this, I found myself drawn towards a piece penned in the second person, even though I’m usually less than keen on this narrative perspective. And I’ve done it again, pouncing on Maria See’s One Sleep.
One Sleep focusses on rape fantasy, a topic many editors and publishers shy away from, despite this being one of the most popular female fantasies out there. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to tone down explorations of rape fantasy in my own work. Avoidance of the subject can surely only add to the guilt and confusion experienced by many of the men and women who kink for forcing or being forced.
Maria See cleverly plays with the paradox of enacting scenes of consensual non-consent. Too much clear consent destroys the thrill, and yet consent must be established. In trying to find the balance, the couple in this short piece discuss what they want, but not too much. See’s clever use of second person means the gender of the characters isn’t depicted, enhancing the state of uncertainty that’s at the heart of the story. And yet, neatly placed details tell us this couple know each other well: ‘I’ll bet that you’ll be on your stomach, your usual sleeping position.”
It’s a bold, thought-provoking piece with a deliciously scary ending. Author, editor and publisher should all be applauded for venturing where many daren’t.
I’ll be reviewing another story from Sudden Sex later in the month. In the meantime, check out Delilah Night’s review of one of my pieces, Sugar Upsets My Vagina.
And tomorrow, I’m off to Eroticon in London. Hope to see some of you there!