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The Rabbit Hole 4?

“Remember how I found you there
Alone in your electric chair
I told you dirty jokes until you smiled
You were lonely for a man
I said take me as I am
‘Cause you might enjoy some madness for a while”

– Billy Joel

It occurred to me that times and people change. In dictionaries of the late 1800s, “alienation” was defined as a mental affliction. Today, it is normal. What if any madness that does not prevent reproduction is actually a mental set and behavioral pattern that evolved because it enabled humans to survive? Maybe, when conditions require madness, we humans rise to the occasion.

Imagine, if you will, an anthology of stories about different madnesses wherein the insanity enabeled people to survive. Obvious plots include extreme sacrifice – deliberately dying to save others or murder of innocents to save other innocents, for example. But the premise is that insane behavior can be shown to benefit survival of our species. A deadly airborne virus that dies in the tar-laden lungs of heavy smokers comes to mind. Or, invasion of an alien race that eats only the brains of non-alcohoics.

Of course, it could be simply stories about those who succeed where others fail because they try what none of us sane folk would think of. I’m sensing a fun anthology here. And, a social service. We’ll be saying that crazy people can be necessary. “I know he’s crazy. But, who else would try it?”

Anybody interested? Tom Wolosz has offered to put together Volume Four of The Rabbit Hole. He asked for theme suggestions and this is one. What do you think of a new volume?

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blogging, book promotion, marketing, Uncategorized

I Don’t Know Nuttin’

A writer’s confession

by Mike Van Horn

I don’t know what genre my stories fit into. Yeah, it’s science fiction. Not hard sci-fi, since my heroine flies off to other stars. I know what it’s not. Not dreary dystopian, not vicious alien invaders, not far fuzzy future. 

But what IS my genre? Maybe friendly first contact with personal journey? But try to find that in the Amazon categories. 

Someone called my stories space opera. But there’s not even a fat lady to sing at the end. 

I also don’t know who my target readers are. As I see it, my target readers are people who like my stories. But who are they? How do we even find out? It’s not like I’m writing romance or YA or steampunk or zombies, which all have definable audiences. 

When I look at my Amazon reviews, they seem quite diverse: women and men, American and European. Amazon gives us no info on who buys our books. I’d love to interview my readers to see who they are.

I don’t know what the market is demanding. All the gurus say, scan the other books in your genre and see what’s selling the most, then write that. Ugh. First of all, there are so many sci fi books out there that I think are just terrible, or full of clichés. Of no interest to me at all. 

Secondly, I don’t see many others that are “friendly first contact.” When one woman learned I was writing about friendly aliens who came as tourists and traders, she said, “That’s unusual.” I responded, “That’s why I’m writing it.” 

Thirdly, I write what turns me on. For a long time I’ve been annoyed by the hostile alien invasion trope, and I wanted to write something different. I did no market research on the demand for this topic.

I don’t plan out my stories ahead of time. What I’m writing now started out as a short story, then it metastasized into a trilogy. And now I’m writing Book 4 of the trilogy. And in Book 4, I have no idea what’s going to happen to my heroine at the end. I’m waiting for her to tell me. 

I don’t spend all my time reading other people’s stories, as gurus insist we should. Where would I get the time to do that? Most of my reading is non-fiction. And the novels I’m drawn to are often from years ago. 

I don’t know where my story came from. Interviewers ask, “Where’d you get the idea for your book?” My answer, “I don’t remember.” “Well, how come you have a woman as your MC?” “I dunno. She just popped up in my mind, like my anima or muse.”

I’m doing all these things wrong. I don’t know whether I even count as a real writer. 

But I’m having a great time doing it! 

Mike’s trilogy includes Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard, My Spaceship Calls Out to Me, Space Girl Yearning, and Alien Invasion: There Goes the Neighborhood.
GalaxyTallTales.com

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Hubris, Writers, and Great Writing

I awoke early, thinking of hubris and of writers. And then, of that quality of writing which generation after generation calls great writing. It was too early to think. So, I looked this stuff up. Hubris, of course, is a personal quality of exaggerated pride or self-confidence.

Great writing, though, is difficult to Google. Typing the letters “great writing defi” into the search bar caused Google to suggests that I change my inquiry to “good writing definition.” Continuing on to “great writing defin,” I received the prompt, “great technical writing definition.” Meaning, Google knew my question but had no answer. I persisted with “great writing definition” and was rewarded with page after page of results for the definitions, qualities, characteristics, and essentials of -you guessed it- “good writing.” WTF?
Google assured me there are “about 820,000,000 results” for my inquiry, no combination of which even pretended to answer my question. So much for Google University. Time to seek the answer elsewhere.

Here is good. Writers ought to be able to define great writing.

But first, to hubris. We see it every day on TV and social media, people with little or narrow understanding telling all of the world what to think, feel, say and, for us writers, what and how to write. And that’s just the sincere people, the ones who know their lives would be better if we all just worked harder to make their lives better. Hubris, an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

The opposite of Hubris is Sophrosyne (σωφροσύνη). Meaning, “an ideal of excellence of character and soundness of mind.” I didn’t even try to Google that concept.

Writers, of course, deal with the world as it is by writing fiction. Whether our writing is great, or even good, is determined by what readers think of it. Writing may be the only profession where greatness is determined by people who know only what they want from make believe worlds.

Which brings us back to great writing: How, do you think, can we write such that generations of readers will want to pass on what we have written?

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Monday Smiles

My poster (a Gloria Swanson poster reworked and added to) for a Marcelline Mulot Retrospective held in 1998, at which I was the Special Guest. Last night I had an inspired idea. I have portrayed myself (the narrator) through this series as an unstable crank who thinks she was able to talk to a mouse. (Not too far from true) Two chapters along I am going to double down on that, offer as evidence of me an unhinged old bat that I have been writing a ten-thousand word version of Cinderella in verse for forty years, and give the link to it on Medium.

My favorite. This always makes me smile.
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Thirsty? Have a taste of this.

In my youth I wrote poems, as I suspect many of us did. Bad poems. At some point, thankfully, I realised this and stopped. These days I write lines that always rhyme, occasionally scan, and for the most part are silly. I don’t grace them with the term ‘poetry’. Doggerel would be more accurate.

The thing about poetry is that it’s incredibly difficult to write. And the apparent ease of free verse is illusory because “no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job” (T.S.Eliot). Which is why, on the whole, I stick these days to prose.

But I still have a taste for good poems and an admiration for those who write them. Several volumes are dotted around my random, unorganised book shelves, but I know where each one is and every so often, I dip into them. Poem are sips of a special brew that slakes a special thirst.

A few poems are scattered throughout the Rabbit Hole volumes. I would have liked more but we didn’t get that many poetry submissions, and when we did, they didn’t correspond to our (admittedly subjective) taste. Volume 0 has one by David Rogers (who also has an excellent story in Volume 2) and a couple by Mitchell Grabois, whose Arrest of Mr. Kissy Face vividly highlights the oddness of everyday moments; Boris Glikman’s clever and playful PS (In Memory Of) aptly appears at the end of the forthcoming (October 9th) Volume 3; Kelsey Dean’s Rabbit Hole Poems (one of which is below) are a delight in Volume 1.

Too often in my view, what’s put forward as a poem is a piece of prose with unconventional line breaks. These poems bring something more – a startling way with words, or an original insight, or a juxtaposition that reveals a hidden truth. When I started blogging, I discovered Robert Okaji. His poems don’t, as a rule, fall into the category of ‘weird’, and he never submitted to The Rabbit Hole, they have the subtle ingredient which slakes that special thirst. Don’t ask me what it is. If I knew, I might do it myself. As it is, I stick to doggerel.

Tea Party by Kelsey Dean

The sugar cubes cascaded down the tablecloth,

And “One lump or two?” asked the hatter –

but actually there were three

that lived and lumbered in the tissue.

“The doctors took them out with knives

and fixed her with needles,” I said.

“And there were tubes and tests tangled in her breasts.”

“How curious!” replied the hare.

I nodded and stacked the cubes neatly in my mouth

while the sparrows nested in my hair;

we sipped and slurped

and the violets twinkled at our toes.

“Another cup?” asked the hatter,

but it was quite the opposite, and I told him:

“No, a less cup actually, or two.”

“Curiouser and curiouser!” sang the hare.

Stone by David Rogers

No leaf left on any tree you can see from here.

It is good to have one’s darkest

suspicions confirmed.

You may keep secrets but you are not allowed

to choose which ones.

Some will be written on your tombstone

whispered over and over

by fallen leaves.

The thing you wanted everyone to know

will be forgotten.

Carve your own stone to say whatever you like

but beware survivors who may revise.

I’d rather trust the leaves:

the other day I met Ambrose Bierce walking

through the woods. I don’t mean his ghost.

The last thing he said to me was

“. . . before it’s too late.”

I’ve been trying

hard to remember the first part of the sentence.

That night I dreamed everyone I knew

wore masks that looked just like themselves.

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Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

BOGART LAUGHING

And now for something completely different, from Guest Author Michael DiMatteo.

I was having dinner with Humphrey Bogart last night. We’re not friends. In fact, we never met as I’m still alive and he’s been dead for some time now. Yes, I’m talking about that Humphrey Bogart, the one that was the original-original member of the Hollywood Rat Pack. The same guy that starred in what some consider the greatest movie ever made, Casablanca. I don’t know if that’s true, I’ve never seen it (you can start to boo right now if you wish – get it over with).

Anyway, for some reason, I was having dinner with him. He was in a tux and seated to my left. The entire dream was first person, meaning I was seeing things through my own eyes. Ironically enough, my mother was sitting across from Bogart and I, and for some reason, I was standing the entire time. The room we were in was a banquet hall, and while you could hear glasses clanging, the only light in the room was shining on our table, kind of like we were the spotlight of the dream. That’s how it works, right? If you can’t be a star in the movies, at least you can get the spotlight in your own dream.

I was witty. I had all these clever one-liners, and I was stealing the show. Bogart, to his credit, allowed me that spotlight, as someone of his stature would. Why does he need to be the star of the show when he is the brightest star in that cosmos? So, I went on countering the conversation with my witty one-liners and Bogart continued to laugh, a diamond pinky ring on his right hand, and a drink in his left. My guess was some sort of scotch, the ice peeking over the top of the maple colored liquid. The entire scene was surreal, as it should be seeing as I was dreaming.

Then, I looked across the table at my mother. She was not amused. She was dress to the nines, and her hair was piled high. She had a dark sequined dress and really looked great, but she also had that look that only a mother can give when she is unhappy with her son’s behavior. My father was next to her, but he was hidden in the shadow of the spotlight, so I couldn’t see how he was reacting.

She said, “Do you think that all of this is funny?” Again, a look that could cut ice.

“As a matter of fact I do,” I responded. Bogart thought that comeback was funny too. In fact, I had Bogart in stitches the entire dream. I’ve never been that funny, but on this night, in this dream, Bogart was having the time of his life.

My mother shot me another look. “I think you’re getting out of hand,” she said, “and I don’t think any of this is funny. Mr. Bogart isn’t here to laugh at your jokes.”

I paused for a moment, then looked at Bogart. He looked up at me, took a swig from his glass, and started laughing again. “Well, he’s laughing now, Mom,” I said. Then, we all started to laugh.

It was then that a noise outside of my window took me away from my moment with Bogie sans Bacall. My brain switched back to reality and focused on the noise outside my window. I listened carefully to see if someone was trying to break into a car on the driveway. I thought about getting up and peeking through the blinds, but I was too tired. We have insurance, so if they want the car that badly, they can have it, I thought. Then, I drifted back to sleep for a couple more hours. I wonder if Bogart would think that’s funny too.

http://bestoftimes31.blogspot.com/

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editing, Literary critique, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Purple Prose

Screen enough stories for publication, and the feeling that you know something becomes hard to shake. You read too many stories. The stories are bad, or good, or very good. Why? Bad stories, forget those. But good or very good? What detracts from the author’s best efforts to tell a very good story? I have the feeling that one culprit is purple prose.

Purple prose is prose that is too elaborate or ornate. Another way to explain this is: The extravagant phrasing of tedious prose really hardly ever enhances the mostly mundane meaning.
For those of you who winced at that, all I meant to say was that purple prose kills the clarity.

I see it too often. Here’s an example that glitters with purple prose.

Saphira’s muscled sides expanded and contracted as the great bellows of her lungs forced air through her scaled nostrils. Eragon thought of the raging inferno that she could now summon at will and send roaring out of her maw. It was an awesome sight when flames hot enough to melt metal rushed past her tongue and ivory teeth without harming them.
Note that I’m not talking about style. That’s Christopher Paolini’s style. But it’s still purple prose.

Let’s read that as the editors at Reedsy.com would have it, without the color purple.
Saphira breathed heavily, her nostrils expelling warm air. Eragon sat and marveled at her power. It was amazing that Saphira’s fiery breath could melt metal, yet she was immune to its harm.
[https://blog.reedsy.com/purple-prose/]

Don’t be afraid to tell your story without embellishment. If you edit unnecessary superlatives out of your work and what’s left is the story you want to tell, that’s very good. All that glitters may be mere distraction.

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I Just Struck Comedy Gold.

With the advent of the internet, the world of collectibles has been turned on its head. Vintage movie magazines I paid fifty dollars for forty years ago are on Ebay, listed at twenty-thirty bucks. But I don’t have to spend a cent. I can access on-line archives of vintage material, for free. Incredible!

HH CROPPED.jpg

Above: Elda Furry. Tell me she doesn’t look like a mouse. Below: One of my stabs at creating Marcelline Mulot. I see a definite resemblance. Do you?

EYES MOVED MAISIE.png

I’ve started another Animals-in-Pants thing, this project featuring a silent-screen-star mouse.

Well, I’ve not started it, exactly. I’m going to recreate it. I wrote the novella forty years ago. I considered it done. My life got crazy. I set it aside. I went through ups and downs. I started Sly. I started Celestine.

My celebrity bio intimidated me. It needed to be illustrated, heavily illustrated. I did not consider my sketching to be an illustration style. That was the reason I quit an illustration major in art school and went with costume design.

Twenty years later I looked for my manuscript and did not find it (but for a cover blurb which I have expanded into an introduction). All right, I had my hands full with Sly, it wasn’t the end of the world.

I’ve developed a style in Photoshop I am comfortable with. Recently I thought–I’ve got an intro, I’ll add to it, make a fun paper doll book out of it. My original story was a straight-forward bio. What do I do with Mulot 2.0?

My premise: Marcelline Mulot is a long-forgotten silent-film star. As a film student, I had met and befriended the Garbo-like recluse. I want to remind the world of an important figure in the history of cinema.

I wondered if Hedda Hopper were active in the industry at a useful time. I conjectured that she wrote extensively about Mulot, tracking her rise and fall, penning articles such as: ‘An Open Letter to My Dear Friend Marcelline Mulot.’ (Such theatrical scolding was not uncommon.)

I looked up Hedda Hopper. Her real name was Elda Furry! She escaped small town life in Pennsylvania, was a chorus girl on Broadway in second-rate shows. (Ziegfeld called her ‘a clumsy cow.’) She joined a theater company run by DeWolf Hopper, a matinee idol of the stage, and toured with it, in the chorus.

In 1913, she became his fifth wife. His previous wives were named Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella. The similarity in names caused upsets. He sometimes called Elda by the name of one of his former wives. Consequently, Elda Hopper paid a numerologist to tell her what name she should use. Her answer was “Hedda”. Thus did Elda Furry become Hedda Hopper.

She longed to be an actress. She landed small roles in various productions. Acting credentials under her belt, she made her way to Hollywood and was cast in silents, establishing a pattern of playing beautifully-dressed society women. In one picture, rejecting her studio-provided gowns, Hopper upstaged the film’s headline starlet by spending all of her $5,000 salary on a wardrobe from the top-tier boutique Lucile.

Her movie career waned in the mid-1930s. She looked for other sources of income. In 1935, she signed to write a weekly gossip column for The Washington Herald. After a dispute over a pay cut, she moved to the Los Angeles Times. The rest is Hollywood history. Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood ran in the Los Angeles Times until her death in 1966.

She’d been no stand-out as a chorus girl and she was no stand-out as an actress, but she could write. She used the extensive contacts she’d forged during her acting days to gather material for her column.

She was a power to reckon with. Bob Hope said: “Their columns (Louella Parsons was her equally powerful rival) were the first thing we looked at every morning to see what was going on.”

I figure she was a friend of Mulot. I figure she wrote articles under a pseudonym before she launched her on-the-record journalism career, penning many a piece on her close friend, testing the waters.

Forty years ago, I had a small collection of movie magazines from that era, from which I extracted quotes and commentary on film colony doings to enrich my subsequently misplaced bio. I sold that cache in the late eighties, sure I would never pick up with my mouse again.

Today I searched for similar sources. The movie-mag jargon had a flavor to it. I want to mimic the gushing style perfectly. I thought I had a monumental task ahead of me. I thought I’d find a handful of items, eventually. Well, I’ve unearthed a massive trove of online archives, magazines scanned page by page, cover to cover, for anyone to access.

In the course of an hour, I gathered thirty-three pages of links to zany reportage in Photoplay, Modern Screen, Motion Picture, Classic, and Picture Play, and to serious pieces on the infant industry and twenties culture in mainstream newspapers and magazines. (For instance: Ode to Feminine Knees, Flapper Magazine, 1922)

I have a decision to make. Hopper was a small woman, dainty. Her face, to me, is mouse-like. (The actress ZaSu Pitts compared her to a ferret.) Do I leave her human, or do I turn her into a rodent?

Elda Furry, c’mon. The name begs to be awarded to a mouse. But there are also reasons to keep her as she was: a small, chic woman whose signature look was enormous, flamboyant hats.

Hopper was a staunch supporter of the Hollywood Blacklist. I’ve written Mulot to be a free-thinker. This divergence will be the end of their long friendship.

My other problem: is this sweet fantasy, or am I a disappointed film student (the movies being so hard to break into) having a mental breakdown? Is Mulot my imaginary friend?

Read my introduction at https://medium.com/the-haven/maisie-in-hollywood-fb46edded5b9 to see what I’ve done with the story so far. It could go either way, easily.

 

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editing, publishing, Uncategorized, Welcome, Writers Co-op

Opportunity at Dark Owl Publishing, LLC

Associate Editor of Anthologies

We are looking for self-starting individuals to serve as Associate Editors to Dark Owl Publishing to produce 20- to 25-story anthologies.

Our goal is to give authors and editors the opportunity to helm a project that is meaningful to them and that they believe will have a positive impact on the writing community.

This is a flat-fee paid position and is a large amount of work, but we know that you will find it is truly worth your dedication and passion.

Associate Editor Job Description
Dark Owl Publishing is looking for editors!

We are a growing, woman-owned company, and we want to hire editors for a flat fee to produce anthologies in both paperback and ebook forms. Editing an anthology can be an exciting and rewarding experience, and we want to fill the Dark Owl roster with high-caliber books that appeal to large audiences and promote passions for reading.

Job Requirements:

A passion for quality storytelling and producing top-notch anthologies.

English as a first language, or an extremely strong grasp of the English language.

Previous experience with anthology work, such as producing anthologies, slush reading and/or copy editing.

Copy editing skills – ABSOLUTELY MUST know correct English grammar, syntax, and the like.

Self-starter who is good at organization and communicating with others via email and is willing to spend a lot of time on the computer reading stories and sending acceptance and rejection emails.

Ability to meet rigid, established deadlines with no exceptions.

Work with the Lead Editor of the company on the call requirements, requirements for acceptance and rejection emails, and final decisions for stories, TOC order and cover.

Market the book online on social media and send ARC copies out for reviews to established and professional reviewers.

No need to know how to format manuscripts or ebook files: we take care of all of that!

An understanding that payment is a flat fee based on experience and not on hours worked. You may work more or less hours than the flat fee incorporates.

Anthology Requirements:

Genre fiction in the realms of fantasy, horror/thriller, mystery/crime, and science fiction is our main focus, but we are fine with literary fiction anthologies, too. We do not publish extreme horror, overtly sexual content, erotica, romance, fan fiction, manga-type stories, standard romance, religious fiction, overtly political pieces, political satire, or stories with morals that are degrading to any person or persons of any type. Subgenres are accepted, such as steampunk, dark fantasy, psychological horror, historical fiction, alternative history, cyberpunk, westerns, and pulp fiction. These are just examples and are not exhaustive of what we’ll publish. While we mostly publish adult fiction, YA and middle-grade fiction will be considered.

Our company focuses on entertainment and escape rather than social and political issues. We will not produce anthologies or books that are overtly political. While some politics tend to show up in all types of literature, and we are fine with that, we do not take sides in the political arena. We accept you for who you are, not what political/social side you stand on.

Diversity anthologies are welcome! Our goal is to make sure the content is something anyone will want to pick up and read. We aren’t looking for specific diversity themes. We want to showcase authors who are truly excellent storytellers who create characters and situations that feel natural and grounded. Non-traditional characters and situations are welcome, but they must be authentic to the story and entertaining for anyone of any background to read.

Think your idea meets the above qualifications?
https://www.darkowlpublishing.com/

 

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book promotion, marketing, Uncategorized

Media Pack for The English Professor

A media pack is a document containing information about your book and used for launches as a package of information about your story. The point of a media pack is to catch the eye of publicists and reviewers and make them want to write an article or do an interview. It should be a one-stop shop for all of the information needed. Most media packs can be downloaded from your website or attached to an email. What should your media pack contain? Here’s a typical media pack. The author is Rachel de Vine and her latest book,  The English Professor, released yesterday, 19 Jul 20.

About Rachel (who also writes as Juliette Banks)
Rachel lives in a rural retreat in the countryside of England. Formerly a farmer, she now simply writes and lives, happily, in an old Victorian house, with a beautiful garden, which is another passion, other than writing. Her third passion is travelling to exotic foreign destinations—sadly now limited because of Covid-19.

She writes mainly erotic romance, with strong, sometimes imperfect characters, and often with some thrills and adventure included. She sees herself as simply a storyteller.

 The English Professor
I have written about 14 books to date, as both Rachel de Vine and Juliette Banks. This book is my third I have published myself. I love the whole process from start to finish – writing, editing, formatting, making the cover and the graphics – I love it all.

I honestly don’t remember where the idea for The English Professor came from. An idea springs into my mind from somewhere, I start to write, and then the story just unfolds. I am what is called a “pantser”. I plan nothing in advance. I also only write one draft. If it becomes stale, my writing suffers, and I believe my story loses its interest – especially for me. So I write the story, edit a few times, then it is complete (I hope.)

If my readers enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I am content.

Media Pack for
The English Professor
By Rachel de Vine

Genre: Erotic Romance
Published by Rachel de Vine
Publishing date: July 19, 2020

Universal Link:  mybook.to/TheEnglishProfessor

Blurb

Eleanor
From the moment I first looked into his eyes, I knew I was in trouble. He was a man I found impossible to resist—someone who drew me in like a moth towards the light. He found the part of me that craved the enticement he offered. But our relationship was forbidden. He was my university English Professor and he paid a high price for our affair. But would I pay an even higher price if we never met again?

Dan
I knew I should have walked away, but I was weak. At first it was just the thrill of the illicit sex. But it became so much more—until disaster struck. Our lives were destined to intertwine, but the timing was never right. Had I had lost the love of my life? Could I ever recapture the feelings I only had with her?

Note: This book contains some steamy excerpts. If this offends you, please do not buy.

Tag Lines:
She had the confidence of youth, that many men find hard to resist
He was willing to teach and she was eager to learn
She had the innocence of youth, but the sexual allure of a mature woman
Would they always remain ships that pass in the night?

Excerpt 1
Eleanor
From a distance of nearly twenty years, it is easy to see the mistakes we both made, and how it could have been different. But of course, hindsight’s a wonderful thing. I’m sure Dan too would want to rewrite history if he was able. It would have saved a lot of heartache. But we are where we are. As a writer, I decided to write down our story, as I remembered it. Having met up with Dan again, I asked him to write down his thoughts about the early part of our relationship. These are our stories.

 I thought the English professor was going to be old and staid and…boring—as we imagine an English Professor would be. Surprisingly he turned out to be younger than I was expecting, and somewhat intriguing too. No more than forty I guessed—which was, I suppose, old when compared to my youthful twenty-one. I was beginning my last year at university, and he was new to the faculty. As soon as we met, I knew there was going to be trouble. I was usually good at sensing trouble. He had beautiful hair and “come-to-bed eyes”, with a rich, chocolaty voice. I wasn’t as naïve as some of the girls in my year. He had the look of a predatory fox, let loose in the henhouse—although he never misbehaved in lectures, as some of the guys did. He was perfectly correct, in words or manner, no matter how provocative was the teasing by some of the students. They were cruel, knowing that if the Professor responded in kind, he’d be in trouble with the Dean. I hated their behaviour, which made what happened rather ironic.

I saw him a couple of times at lectures, although we never spoke. It was only when I went to his room to deliver an essay that we had our first conversation. I should have given it to him in class, and was worried about missing the deadline. He was one of the few staff who lived at the college, in a separate block from the students—perhaps because of his single status. It was cold, and he had an open fire burning in his room. There was a smell of toast and old books. Piles of papers and pamphlets lay on top of his desk, and his filing system appeared to be heaps on the floor. I quite liked that sort of disorder. I shared a room with a neat freak, and her obsession with reorganising our limited space drove me wild.

“How can you find anything among that lot?” she would wail, in despair.

“Easy. I rummage through the pile, and by a miracle it appears…eventually.”

Professor Jamieson, Dan, as I later called him, was lean and energetic, with eyes that seemed to see right through any defence his young students employed. He seemed aware that his youthful good looks would make him a target for flirtation by his students, but never responded to it, as far as I knew.

“Ah, Miss Grainger, please come in.” Professor Jamieson grinned at me, and swept a couple of old newspapers from a chair so I could sit down. Students were addressed more formally in those days than they are now, when staff and students are on first names – best mates – terms.

“I’ve brought the essay you wanted, Professor Jamieson. I’m sorry it’s late.”

He looked delighted to see me, however, and not at all annoyed by the lateness of my work. Was his subsequent behaviour in any way predatory? Perhaps, by some standards, it was, but if so, he wasn’t the only predatory person in the room. I had brushed my long, thick hair until it shone, and was wearing a short, tartan skirt with over-the-knee socks, which left a tantalising couple of inches of bare thigh, and my new black Doc Martens. Of course, I would shudder to dress like that now, even if, at the time, it seemed cool and sexy. We all dressed in what we thought was an individual, non-fashionable way—and ended up all looking alike. How I laugh now. Back then, however, we were desperate to make our mark; to look different from everyone else; especially the few older women on campus, who we mocked in our arrogant, juvenile way, as we swore we would never become as boring as them.

Perhaps I was naïve, but more likely I was a bit provocative as I flashed my bare thigh and maybe even a glimpse of my knickers as I sat down in my short skirt. I knew he was aroused. I could feel it in the air. And because he was aroused, I was too. There’s nothing that makes a person feel sexier, than to sense the effect they are having on another. It made me feel powerful, back then. In fact, it still makes me feel powerful, even though I know the power is slowly slipping away from me as I move away from youth and into middle age. Not that I consider nearing forty to be middle age. As an older woman, I still have a half-decent figure and attractive face; though I need to rely a lot more on my brain and personality these days—oh, and experience, of course. There’s no-one more powerful than a sexually experienced woman, in my opinion. The confidence radiates from us. No need for childish games any more. We tell it as it is. And if some men back away in fear, then we say “adios” and ask them to close the door on the way out.

Excerpt 2
He resumed his stance, leaning against the fireplace, while sipping from the beer. I studied him for a second. I had little – in truth, no – experience of older men, other than friends of my father, who I found decidedly unattractive, in a sexual sense. Dan’s presence and bearing, however, brought forward powerful feelings within me, that had no connection to my brain. I waited for him to say something, which he eventually did.

“I like you, Eleanor. I enjoy reading your essays. You have something interesting to say. And not all regurgitated from online sites, either. I can tell when a student’s work is original.”

I was touched. I knew I had a moderate talent, though rarely received praise such as this. His next words were completely unexpected.

“What are your reading tastes? Do you, by chance enjoy reading erotica?”

I was slightly stunned. Did he know about the book I kept in my underwear drawer? Of course not. Was he just guessing? Did I look like someone who enjoyed reading erotica? He smiled.

“I’ve embarrassed you now. I’m sorry.”

“No, not at all…it was just an unexpected question. But yes, I do read erotica from time to time.”

I was claiming experiences that were a little over-exaggerated. But he had hit a nerve. For the first time I felt I could admit to this without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. I told him about reading D H Lawrence, and we chatted for a while about the writer and his work—once considered so risqué, but now accepted by most as great literature.

Dan gave a wry smile, and I thought for a moment he was going to continue the discussion, but he appeared to check himself. He remained silent, and I felt the evening was at an end. I rose from the chair and said goodnight, and was almost at the door before he called me back.

“Would you like to come back again next Friday?”

Maybe I should have paused and thought more before answering, but of course I didn’t.

“Yes—yes, I would. Thank you.”

It became a regular date. Every Friday I would turn up at his room and we would sit by the fire and talk. For all his cool, calm, sex appeal, I had a feeling that Dan was a little lonely. Or was he using a technique to reel me in? Some might have said so, but I didn’t believe he was.

It was on the following Friday that I plucked up the nerve and told him about my copy of The Story of O. He didn’t respond with anything other than interest.

“What did you think of it?”

“I suppose it shocked me at first. I’d never read anything like that—about a woman submitting herself to a man in such a way.” I paused for a breath, before I continued. “But it excited me.” There, I had said it. I had told him, and he didn’t look shocked or amused or titillated.

“I would say that’s a not uncommon reaction. It excites some people; disgusts others. I, too, found it exciting when I read it. There’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of, in your reaction.”

Having revealed my secret I became more relaxed, more open: happy to open up more. He didn’t make me feel ashamed about it. I thought he might have said more about The Story of O, but he didn’t. Instead he went over to the table and picked up two books sitting there.

“I thought you might like to read these. I think you’d enjoy them.”

“Oh, I…yes, thank you.” I was thanking him for a present yet unseen.

“I wouldn’t share them around, though?”

I suspected he was leading me down a path from where I may find it hard to return. A voice in my head urged me on, however. He excited me in ways I had never been excited before. I also knew we would both get into trouble if our friendship was discovered. We had done nothing wrong, yet. It was the word ‘yet’, however, that told me it was only a matter of time. I tingled over every inch of my body.

Excerpt 3
Dan
I knew as soon as I met Eleanor, she was a woman I would find hard to leave alone. I was completely aware of the dangers lurking for a reasonably young professor, amid large numbers of young, attractive and impressionable female students. I had seen a couple of colleagues in the past, fall victim to temptation, and it rarely ended well. Until now I had managed to avoid such attachments, even though the opportunity had presented itself more than once. But I knew the risk to my reputation and career, as well as the damage such infatuation could cause to the young women involved. But meeting Eleanor had knocked me for six. It was more than her physical appearance, attractive as it was. There was something in her eyes, her demeanour, her expressiveness, that shrieked of sensuality. Something I had not seen in a woman of her age before. It drew me in like a magnet.

Despite meeting and becoming attracted to Eleanor, I wasn’t a man who only had eyes for younger women. I’d dated plenty of women of my own age. It was inevitable, however, when surrounded by nubile young women with perky breasts, long, bare legs and flirtatious manner, that the temptations to stray were strong. I had managed to ignore the obvious come-on signals from my current students. And had succeeded admirably until Eleanor. She wasn’t even one who made come-on signals. I can’t explain why I had such a strong reaction to her as soon as I saw her. She had an aura of sensual sexuality that went straight to the thinking part of my anatomy—my cock. I’m being facetious here, of course. I did try to use my brain in matters of sex, but I was simply bowled over by this girl—or young woman, should I say? At twenty-one she wasn’t a child. And at thirty-nine, I couldn’t be described as a dirty old man, could I? The fact remained, however, that there were strict rules back then regarding fraternisation between staff and students. In the years since, there seems to have been a relaxation in these rules—too late for me however.

I had a liking for certain elements of kink in my sex life, although I could hardly be compared with the Marquis de Sade. I found bondage and discipline, with willing partners, a turn on, yet didn’t demand it if it wasn’t freely given. It had been a while since I’d had such a relationship, and certainly not with the previous one that had ended so disastrously. As soon as I met Eleanor, however, the feeling she might share my interests hit me squarely between the eyes. I had no doubt she would be responsive to such an approach. Yes, I should have simply left it to my imagination, but all sense and reason left my brain when I first met her alone in my room that day. When I decided to give her the two books to read, I wanted to gauge her reaction to it, and my hunch was proved right.

The first few evenings, when we simply talked and drank beer, reinforced my opinion that Eleanor exuded sensuality, and would probably enjoy reading the books. I honestly didn’t know what her thoughts were towards me, but I was already smitten by then. I looked forward to her return visit with nervous trepidation. If she returned, bringing with her the college hierarchy, then I was done for, finished; my career would be over. While I awaited her arrival, I cursed my stupid whim to give her the books to read.

Excerpt 4
I felt secure within his arms, and I knew I didn’t want to leave. Perhaps the next move would have to come from me. I reached up and kissed him on his lips. He responded and kissed me back for a few seconds, before turning his head a little and whispering hoarsely in my ear.

“I want to make love to you, Eleanor. Would you like that too?”

I nodded.

He kissed me again—this time more forcefully. Our lips and tongues became engaged, and I felt a deep longing in my sex. I wanted him very much.

Dan broke away, before taking my hand and leading me into his bedroom and closing the door. The room was cosy, rather than fashionable, with soft lighting and dark, rich colours, making it seductive.

“Are you on the Pill?”

I said yes.

He began to undress me, taking his time with each garment. First, he unlaced the Doc Martens, before pulling them off and placing them on the floor. Then, seating me on the bed, he rolled down the over-the-knee socks, before pulling them off.

He looked up at me, directly into my eyes, silently challenging me not to look away, before sliding the palms of his hands up my thighs until he reached my knickers. He didn’t immediately pull them off; instead he roamed around with his fingers, feeling the undulations of my body, squeezing my bottom cheeks for a moment, before hooking his fingers inside the elastic and drawing them slowly down my legs. By now my breathing was becoming a little laboured, as the familiar feeling of sexual excitement began to rise within me.

My knickers ended up on the floor, with the socks. His fingers returned and began to explore without the hinderance of undergarments. I could see his breathing rate increasing before I closed my eyes and surrendered to the feelings as his hands explored my body.

Dan pulled me to the edge of the bed, and knelt down in front of me. He pushed up my skirt, exposing me completely. I’d only had one boy go down on me—the second of my two lovers—and the experience hadn’t been very enjoyable, but Dan was clearly experienced. His fingers gave way to his tongue as he roamed my inner recesses and folds. I gasped as his tongue located my pleasure zone, and he stopped for a moment.

“Ah, so I have hit the spot, have I?”

I nodded; unable to speak, as his tongue resumed its work. He pulled back slightly as he pushed two fingers inside me, and I gasped. He began to talk softly to me.

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