The End Of The World Is Nigh…

…at least according to Harold Camping, who’s declared My 21st to be Judgement Day. Mind you, he also claimed the world would end in 1994, so he may not have the best track record on such prophecies. But who am I to judge?

In case the end of the world really does come tomorrow, Circlet Press has put their anthology of end-of-the-world erotic science fiction, Apocalypse Sex, on sale for one cent.

Apocalypse Sex features four stories of sudden sex in the face of doomsday. With their own demise staring them in the face, the characters in the book all come to the same conclusion: it’s time to have the best sex of their lives. Inhibitions are cast aside and fantasies are fulfilled as the doomed chase down their deepest desires. The book includes stories by J. Daniel Sawyer, Elizabeth Schechter, Beverly Langland, and David Hubbard and my own Expiry Date, set in a near-future where getting into debt is literally fatal and a woman finds herself giving into the temptation of spending some intimate time with her best friend’s husband as her own end draws nigh…

The one cent offer is available until midnight Eastern time on May 21st only on the Circlet.com website. If the world is still around after that, or to console those of us left behind, the book will then be 99 cents for another week before reverting to its normal $4.99 price. Read a sample or download the book here. And remember – always look on the bright side of life!

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Living For The City

How intimate can life ever be in a city, where millions of people exist side by side without ever knowing each others’ names? Does anonymity give you the security to be yourself, or leave you feeling vulnerable? How are relationships forged, and are they strengthened or fractured by the pressures of city life? Those are some of the questions explored in Only In The City: Erotic Tales Of City Life, the latest collection of spicy speculative fiction from Circlet Press.

Donnie, in Eric Del Carlo’s slice of Southern Gothic, So Far As I Can See, has certainly allowed himself to become isolated in his little corner of New Orleans. He’s shocked out of his usual drunken melancholy when he inadvertently lets an invisible human presence into his home. Nicknaming the ghost Harvey, he doesn’t realise he is about to be introduced to the delights of sex with a man he can’t see, only feel.

The nameless narrator of Shanna Germain’s Bridge is an angel, back from Heaven to track down the love of his life, Cade, who is still very much alive. Cade is trying to forget his death by picking up lovers in gay clubs, and when they meet again, Cade expects yet another one-night stand. But the angel has plans, plans that involve breaking the cardinal rules he has been given. Don’t let him know who you are, and don’t try to take him back with you…

Medellin, Colombia is the setting for Renatta Garcia’s Of Blood And Fire: The Medellin Contract. It’s a city known to most people for its part in the illegal cocaine trade, and Italo, the story’s protagonist, is thoroughly immersed in that criminal underworld. When his boss takes him to a secret sex club catering to the most perverse of fetishes, he meets Sarah, a stunning American mixed martial arts expert with skeletons in her past.But how much danger is he putting himself in by acting on his overwhelming impulse to have sex with her?

On Fire Mages by Elizabeth Hyder takes place in a world where magic is commonplace, but this is as far from a Harry Potter adventure as you can imagine. Metal mage Johan is attempting to rob the wealthy Safira household, only to meet the son of the household, fire mage Luc. Luc thrives on danger and is keen to recruit Johan as his second for a magic-duel. Johan is torn between his contempt for the city’s noblemen and his lust for Luc, and gradually the two become involved in an erotic battles of wills.

Love During Seeding Time by Kaysee Renee Robichaud takes us to another planet, where Jorge is one of the Black Thumbs, employed to destroy unauthorised plant growth that threatens the safety of buildings and people in the city of Andromedia. When he comes face to face with Rose, who is deeply unsettled by witnessing him burning down a tree, he doesn’t realise that the fate of the whole city will soon be in his hands. Their coupling – or, as she calls it, ‘seeding’ – leads him to some important realisations about the relationship not only between Andromedia and the people who live there, but the city and the ecology of the planet as a whole…

My story in the anthology, Camille/Leon, is the tale of a prostitute who has the ability to move from one gender to another, and is able to cater to a variety of clients in different parts of the city. But what s/he really wants is an opportunity to live and love in a body that is neither male nor female but somewhere between the two…

The beauty of anthologies with such a wide brief is that authors can let their imaginations run wild in terms of style and setting. Only In The City moves from high fantasy to sensual sci-fi to gritty urban settings, placing recognisably human desires and dilemmas at the heart of every story. If ghosts, angels or wicked, witty magicians do it for you, pick up a copy direct from Circlet or via Amazon, Smashwords and Fictionwise.

Apocalypse Wow

What would you do if you knew you only had twenty-four hours to live? Put your affairs in order, settle old scores, try to make amends for past misdeeds or maybe just have some really hot sex? That’s the dilemma facing the characters in Circlet’s Apocalypse Sex anthology.

Editor Jennifer Levine has put together a collection of stories which venture across the spectrum of speculative fantasy, from near-future scenarios to full-on space opera, and the result is incredibly entertaining. The action kicks off with J. Daniel Sawyer’s sweetly moving Buried Alive In The Blues. Set in roughly the present day, it imagines a United States slowly drowning under continuous rainfall. Seeking a release from the misery of losing her husband at roughly the same time as the apocalypse began, Irene goes to a bar to see her favourite blues band play and finds herself tumbling into a dream-like purgatory, where ghosts wait to meet the ones they’ve left behind, Janis Joplin struts the stage and a never-ending orgy offers at its heart the faint promise of redemption.

In Elizabeth Schechter’s Darkest Night, it’s not just the Earth that’s dying, it’s the entire universe. Alterted to the danger of some unstoppable wave of doom, the crew of the Taraqa are attempting to save as many colonists as they can. As their own destruction becomes imminent, captain Tariq and ship’s AI Moira finally consummate their love in a virtual reality simulation. Unashamedly romantic, this one will definitely bring a lump to your throat.

Beverly Langland’s Invasion! takes as its starting place the panic and confusion created by Orson Welles’ radio version of War Of The Worlds and builds to a deliciously described threesome between the narrator, her widowed neighbour and a very attractive, virginal girl they find hiding in the barn where they take shelter. Meanwhile, David Hubbard employs something at the heart of a more recent media panic – swine flu – to kill off most of the world’s population in Hedges. The story focuses on two of the survivors, Texan Jeremy and his neighbour, Bradley, and paints a convinving picture of how their shared loneliness and grief for their lost partners might tempt the straight Bradley to seduce openly gay Jeremy.

My story in the collection, Expiry Date, features a personal apocalypse, rather than a global one. To combat rising levels of debt, every citizen has been fitted with a chip containing their credit details. When their balance reaches zero, the chip must be topped up, or it’ll explode. When struggling actress Holly finds herself fatally broke, she decides to spend her final moments in the company of her best friend’s husband, Marco, knowing that if they act on the attraction they’ve always had for each other, she won’t be around to feel guilty afterwards…

Putting a whole new meaning into ending the world with a bang, Apocalypse Sex takes subject matter which could be fairly grim and turns it into a series of beautifully life-affirming scenarios. Click here to find out more, and read an extract from Expiry Date.

Home Sweet Home

Being a regular traveller on England’s rail network at weekends, my journeys have been prone to the odd memorable setback (though not half as many as critics of the system might expect, given the number of miles we put in following Rotherham. I’ve experienced everything from engine failure at Kettering to a body on the line at Harpenden, and had to dodge a rather grubby pair of pants being thrown round our carriage between Manchester and Stoke. Sometimes there are compensations – being pressed up against a cute (and very tall) Dutchman in the crowded vestibule of a Coventry-bound express wasn’t exactly a hardship – and whatever happens, I’ll never undergo a journey quite as perilous as those in Like A Long Road Home. The latest e-anthology from Circlet Press, it features four stories which showcase the depth of variety in erotic speculative fiction.

My own contribution, On The Rocks, is a reworking of something I originally started writing years ago following a call for submissions for stories with a mythological theme put out by, I think, Mitzi Szereto (ah, the luxury of having the time to go back and work on all those ideas which end up being filed under ‘going nowhere’…). It’s the story of Palemon, Phiclus and Mentius, three shipwrecked sailors in search of civilisation, who find instead a woman chained to a rock and left as a human sacrifice. She is Xanthe, an oracle, and by following their instincts to rescue her they will gain a particularly sweet reward.

Elsewhere, L.A. Mistral’s lyrical Touching Hemingway sees Shawn and Yurina attempting to breathe fresh life into their failing marriage on a trip to Cuba. Infected with the wild spirit of the country, Yurina dares Shawn to steal Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter, on display in the writer’s former home, an adventure which has the power to make them rediscover their lust for each other all over again.

Ota, in Vinnie Tesla’s Ota Discovers Fire, is a naïve city boy attempting to make an arduous journey across the mountains. Having been swindled by the merchants he was supposed to be travelling with, he meets a girl with the power to take on the form of a wolf. She accepts his offer to guide him to safety, and gradually an unlikely but beautifully described attraction forms between the pampered Ota and the feral girl.

Sunny Moraine sets Neither Bird Nor Tree in a post-apocalyptic landscape where her protagonist, Marlow, is one of the few humans left alive. Striking out for the ocean, he runs across Ben Cobb in a seemingly abandoned house, and their joint fight for survival becomes something much more intimate, until Ben goes missing…

Circlet’s briefs always allow writers to range widely in terms of style, setting and sexual orientation, and the results are anthologies like this, which are humorous one moment, moving the next and always have a strong sexual element driving the plot forwards. And as the Circlet 100, mentioned below, is currently halfway subscribed with just over a week to go, it looks like they’ll be able to continue bringing quality sci-fi and fantasy erotica to bookshops near you.

Like A Long Road Home is available from the Amazon Kindle store, Smashwords, Scribd and All Romance E-books, and you’ll be able to get it from Circlet once their shopping cart problems have been resolved. Don’t leave home without a copy!

Away With The Fairies

One of the implements I often have to hand when I’m writing is my fairy swatter. It’s ideal for when one of the cats decides to trot over my keyboard and turn my beautifully crafted prose into something reading ggggggggggggghhhhhhhjjjjjjjj. It was bought for me as a joke Christmas present, and is essentially a star-shaped fly swatter which comes complete with some squashed fairy stickers to attach to your windows, fridge or wherever takes your fancy. Not that I’d actually use it on a real fairy, oh, no. As the stories in Circlet’s anthology of urban fairies, Like Butterflies In Iron, proves, the fae folk can be tricky and malicious creatures, and very likely to swat you back if you tried it.

When I received the call for submissions from Cecilia at Circlet, I couldn’t resist putting something together. The result was A Fairytale Of New Cross, in which Ivar, accustomed to going unnoticed on the streets of South-east London, meets and falls in love with Casey, a feisty barmaid with the second sight. She can not only see fairies, she is more than curious to take part in their revels, on the night when the cellar of her pub becomes a place of feasting, dancing and orgiastic sex.

The other stories in the collection deal with human/fairy interaction in very different ways, depending on the perception each writer has of how fairies behave, both in the old world and the modern one. Some are tricky, anxious to take mortals into their own realm and keep them prisoner there, while others are more benevolent, or just plain horny. In Franees Selkirk’s The Beauty Of Broken Glass, Susan accidentally stumbles into a fairy ring on her way home from a club. She meets by a foxy, feral lover, but will she remember enough fairy lore to evade his wickedest intentions and enable her to return home when their lovemaking is over? C.A. Young’s Equinox is the sweet tale of shy Ryan’s seduction at the hands of faerie Alder, who takes nothing more from his human partner than his much-hated freckles. Elgin, in Beryl Falls’ Fairy In The Garden, has much darker intentions. He introduces Ari to her submissive side with his cruel games of pain and pleasure, but he is the kind of fairy you can’t trust – or offer your heart to. Michael M. Jones’ inventive Doppelganger details the meeting between Holly, who was snatched by faeries at the age of seven, and the changeling who was left as her replacement. Both were expected to perish, but survived through determination and force of will, and now they can offer each other a very loving kind of consolations for the hurts which have been done to them. Loel, in Essemoh Teepee’s Loel’s Choice, is a fairy princess who works as a stripper and prefers mortal men because the sex is better. Her father and (wicked, naturally) stepmother are keen to see her breed with one of her own kind, but she has designs on redhead Conlan, who she is keeping in her thrall with the aid of a magic apple. Meanwhile, Monique Poirier’s A Goblin In Hand sees human mage Elias rescuing goblin Tarn, who has been kept in a blood-bond by a child-trafficking sidhe. Being owned goes from a bad thing for Tarn to a very good one, as Elias has always been kinky for goblins…

All the stories here manage to immerse the reader in a world where it’s perfectly plausible that humans and fairies are living side by side. No matter how far they stray from a human look – Tarn is four foot tall and has a whippy little tail, while lithe, coffee-skinned Loel and the fox-featured fairy in The Beauty Of Broken Glass both have visibly pointed ears peeking up out of their hair – they are all objects of desire, and the lust and love they inspire in humans is visibly described. I think my fairies are the only ones who are mentioned as having wings, but that’s simply how I like them – my ideal male fairy is a big, strapping thing with wings and armour (I suspect I’ve somehow developed a fetish for greaves), and no, I wouldn’t dare swat one of those.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about fairies. One of the stories I’m fondest of is At The Bottom Of My Garden, which is available from Ravenous Romance. In that, down on her luck rock musician Stevie seizes on the chance to get away from a broken relationship by house-sitting her sister’s cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. What she doesn’t realise is that the garden belongs to the fairies, and one, Adril, is her special guardian, there to offer her love and protection from harm.

If things with wings (or tails) appeal to you, or you’re keen to see how fairies really would make their way in the modern world, Like Butterflies In Iron is available from a number of stockists including Smashwords.com and Circlet’s own site once their shopping cart is fixed. Maybe it needs a spot of fairy dust to get it working again!

Supporting The Circlet 100

It may sound like an Indy car race, but The Circlet 100 is actually an innovative new scheme dreamed up by Cecilia Tan to raise money for the funding of Circlet’s latest print book. This is how Cecilia and Circlet describe the venture:

 Circlet’s first printed book in over three years, Best Erotic Fantasy, is ready to be manufactured. Bookstores have ordered it and readers are clamouring for it. But cash flow is so slow, that paying the printer to fill the orders might take so long that bookstores interest could wane before they receive their orders. 

Circlet is reaching out to readers for help by starting a group called the Circlet 100. They are seeking one hundred readers who are interested in their brand of erotic science fiction and offering them a limited time CD-ROM packaging twenty of their e-books, a retail value of $128, for only $50. It’s a fundraiser, but it’s not a ‘donation’. It’s an opportunity to make a one-time purchase that will make a huge difference in this small press’s bottom line. 

Readers who want even more can also get the Deluxe version of the CD which includes not only all twenty e-book anthologies, but also seven single-author titles, among them Faewolf, Alpha, Robotica, and Edge-Plays, as well as receive a special ‘Circlet 100’ teeshirt. The total retail value, $187.73. Shipping is included. 

It’s not the first time Circlet has done a fund drive. Best Fantastic Erotica, printed and publishing in 2006, was funded with an ‘NPR-style underwriting campaign, where readers could buy a thank you or a message in the book, similar to the ‘buy a brick’ campaigns for new buildings. Since then, the company has been publishing mostly in the e-book realm, building up a healthy library of electronic titles.

We are still committed to the printed book as a medium, but it can be such a big hit financially to go to press. I believe there are enough readers out there, though, who want both e-books and print books who will take us up on this amazing e-book sale offer and know that they are doing something good for the print side as well.

The fundraising effort can be tracked at Circlet.com where a real-time graph, provided by ChipIn.com, shows how close to the $5,000 goal the collections have reached. To see the progress or chip in yourself, visit http://www.circlet.com/?p=1107

Lovers of quality fantasy/sci-fi-based erotica, what are you waiting for? Hop over to Circlet and join the 100 Club!