Monthly Archives: May 2014

in the palace of gods and monsters

princess-bound

I’m very excited to announce that A Princess Bound is now available!!

Face it, fairy tales were always kind of kinky: from beautiful queens tied up in knots by wicked sorcerers to a wide variety of naughty and nice scenarios. Someone was always getting tied to a bed! In this new anthology of erotic romance fairy tales from the editor of the best-selling Fairy Tale Lust and Lustfully Ever After, the fairy tales are naughtier and have a BDSM twist. Retellings of the classics are joined with clever original tales, making for a darkly sensual and intensely romantic collection.

I’m so happy to be part of this collection! This is the third anthology of fairy tale erotica published by Cleis Press and edited by Kristina Wright, and I’m honored to have stories in all three. You can read “The Kiss” in Fairy Tale Lust and “Wolf Moon” in Lustfully Ever After.

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 A Princess Bound

Naughty Fairy Tales for Women

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Foreword by Cathy Yardley

Introduction: Bind Me, Whip Me, Call Me Princess

Sealed by Laila Blake

In the Palace of Gods and Monsters by Michelle Augello-Page

The Dancing Princess by Elizabeth L. Brooks

The Smith Under the Hill by Kathleen Tudor

The Seven Ravens by Ariel Graham

Black of Knight by Victoria Blisse

The Silence of Swans by Kannan Feng

The King’s Cousin by Catherine Paulssen

Need and Permission by Benjamin Creek

Locks by Tahira Iqbal

Out of the Waves by Rose De Fer

Your Wish by L.C. Spoering

Thorn King by Jane Gilbert

The Witch’s Servant by Michael M. Jones

Mine Until Dawn by Valerie Alexander

Red and the Big Bad Wolf by Poetic Desires

The Last Duchess by Kristina Wright

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Cupid and Psyche by Benjamin West, 1808

“In the palace of gods and monsters” is a semi-original fairy tale, loosely based on the myth of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche. This myth is considered to be “the first fairy tale.” I’ve long been fascinated by this particular myth, and I relayed two versions of the tale along with some images in a previous blog post, which you can read here.

My story removes some of the elements of the original myth to place the behavior and actions firmly upon the two characters. In the myth, it is Cupid’s mother who gives tasks to Psyche after she had betrayed Cupid and is desperate to win back his love. In my story, the tasks are given directly by him. Another difference is that all the tasks are BDSM related; however, sex (though not explicit) is still an essential part of the myth. As far as the tasks themselves, I did attempt to make each one resonate with their original counterparts, at least tangentially. Another element I changed was the role of the Psyche’s sisters. In the myth, it is the sisters who place doubt in Psyche’s heart. In my story, the doubt grows within her.

Nevertheless, the myth and my story are both about the nature of trust as it relates to love and sex and relationships. I believe I did my best to honor the original myth, and to reveal another level of interpretation, a literal “re-vision” of the ideas and concepts found in the original tale. Considering how long ago this myth was created, I find it fascinating that humans still struggle with the same issues in our loving and sexual relationships.

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“In the Palace of Gods and Monsters”, “Wolf Moon”, and “The Kiss” can also be found together as three of the nine tales in my collection of dark and erotic stories, Into the Woods, published by Oneiros Books in 2014.


on monogamy

A friend and I were talking about monogamy recently.

She said, “Humans are not meant to be with one person. Look at the animal kingdom. Animals are polygamous. Monogamy is a myth, a social construct. In history, it’s been a way of controlling both wealth and women. Besides, if we were meant to be monogamous then why do you think so many people cheat and so many marriages end in divorce?”

I said that I had read quite a bit about this, and the term usually applied to humans is that we are “serial monogamists” … meaning that humans tend to develop bonds with one person at a time, but they aren’t necessarily with the same person forever. Also, I know that there are at least a dozen animals that are monogamous and mate for life. She was still very resistant to the idea of monogamy. She told me to look it up, certain that I would find proof that would back-up her ideas.

And I did look it up. I searched “monogamy” on google and found pages upon pages which tried to debunk the myth of monogamy in favor of a polyamorous lifestyle. There were few pages which celebrated monogamy and tried to counter the image of monogamists as old-fashioned, selfish control freaks. However, this is the internet. Most of what came up were blogs and personal websites, “pop” science, and opinion based articles.

Nevertheless, I was a little surprised at the results. A fellow erotica writer had remarked in the past that “monogamy seems to be the new taboo.” Now I understand what she meant. There does seem to be a push towards polygamy over monogamy in popular culture. I did more research and I came across a lot of different perspectives. My conclusion is that neither  monogamy nor polygamy is really the issue here. The issue here is really about relationships, in general.

Whether you are in a relationship with one person or in a relationship with several people, it seems that the most important and necessary ingredients to making any relationship work is communication and trust.

I have often felt that people who identify as poly are perhaps more evolved in balancing the intricacies of a relationship – because they are able to do so with several people at the same time. A poly relationship demands openness. A poly relationship demands communication and trust. Everyone involved needs to be open and honest with each other for it to work.

Now, I am talking about an ideal poly relationship. Considering some of the sites I have come across, I’ve seen that polygamous people can have as much difficulties as monogamous couples. Some people engage in a poly lifestyle because they are afraid of commitment. Some people feel that in monogamous relationships, partners cheat all the time, so at least in a poly relationship the “cheating” is done openly. Others choose a poly lifestyle to feel sexually free and liberated from the demands of a “relationship.”

The fact is that a poly lifestyle is not a “free for all.” A poly relationship is still a relationship – just with more than one person. There is still a commitment – just with more than one person. Jealousy can still happen. Cheating can still happen. Betrayals can still happen. Because all the same relationship rules still apply – whether you are with one person or several people. Relationships are built on communication and trust.

I identify as a monogamist. That is because I have my own issues with relationships, and I feel that it would be too difficult for me to maintain the intensity of a love/sex relationship with more than one person at a time. I feel that there is something to be said about the potential for freedom in a monogamous relationship, because many people seem to feel that being in a monogamous relationship is a limitation and a constriction which is all about power and control.

It is true that monogamists do have boundaries inherently built into the dynamic. A relationship of two people automatically excludes others from entering. We have also seen that time and time again people cheat in these relationships, they cross the boundaries, they misuse their power, and they feel a right to control another person based on the relationship dynamic. These are reasons why a lot of people reject the idea of monogamy.

I can’t deny that these things happen. What I am saying is that these things happen in poly relationships too. Because these issues are part of *relationship dynamics* … Relationships are always intertwined with issues of power and control. Relationships are always based on communication and trust. These are issues that we all work on when we are in a relationship with anyone, not just our lovers.

I think that the question in the monogamy vs. polygamy debate is not which type of relationship is better or more suited to human nature … I think the question we are really seeking to answer is what exactly constitutes a good relationship.

We enter into relationships with others to learn more about ourselves, what we want, what we need. We work out our own issues about power and control and trust and communication through our relationships. We are meant to help each other learn. We are meant to teach each other. How these relationships manifest in our lives is dependent on our own levels of self-awareness.

When my daughter started dating, the most important lesson I tried to teach her is to be kind – because a relationship with another person is first and foremost a learning experience. We are all learning. We all make mistakes. That is how we grow. Relationships teach you things about yourself. Lessons we need to learn will repeat themselves as issues in our relationships. This is where self-awareness comes in. When we resolve an issue that has challenged us, it changes us. It changes our perspective and our ideas. It increases our understanding of who we are, what we need, what we want, and how we function in our relationships.

Monogamy and Polyamory are both types of relationships. These types offer us templates in which to explore our relationships. In the past, we had a strict model for relationships: male/female monogamy. Thanks to LBGT and Poly advocacy, people are more aware than ever that this is not the only template. At 15, my daughter is open to having relationships with both males and females. She has friends who are gay, straight, bi, and transgender identified. She has friends who are just exploring, dating females, males, and not interested in having a serious relationship with anyone. One of her friends was born female, identifies as male, and has had a monogamous relationship with a female for the past year.

No matter what template we use, it is the *relationship* that is essential. Each person is an individual and each relationship we have with another person is different. It is possible for two people in a monogamous relationship to have more freedom than several people in a poly relationship. It is possible for a person in a monogamous relationship to cheat and betray the other. These templates exist but that is really all they are – a broad outline that defines boundaries. What those boundaries are, and how these relationships play out, all depends on the people involved. The fact is, we define our relationships as necessitated by who we are. And who we are is a work in progress, always changing.

As Alia Maiter said, “Ultimately, through my journeys in both polyamory and monogamy, I see the benefits of both. Both can challenge us, inspire us, and help us grow. However, both can become means of escapism, a way to ignore healing both the triggers and the challenges deeply imbedded in our persona. The key to engaging these different relationship styles is first and foremost to know oneself, honor and respect oneself, and consciously move forward without allowing fear to guide us.”

Click here to read more of Alia’s excellent essay on this topic … Also, if you are interested in delving deeper into relationship issues and self-awareness, I highly suggest checking out http://www.truthaboutdeception.com. Click here to start reading about how our attachment styles influence our behavior in close relationships.

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mother’s day

The Mothers by Käthe Kollwitz, 1919

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

or perhaps I should say … Happy Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and to tell the truth, I’m glad it’s over. It seems the older I get, the less I like holidays. I hate the gross manipulation, commercialization, and materialism that has become part of how we celebrate these “special” days. I hate how the original intent of holidays seems to be lost, how we substitute simple gratitude with gifts. Instead of honoring and celebrating the meaning of the holiday, these times seem to throw a glaring light on what is missing, what is lost or broken, what went wrong. However, I feel that it is both important and necessary to reflect on these days, and to try to find positivity and deeper meaning in our lives, extending to the whole of society.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on Mother’s Day and I had shared Tillie Olson’s exceptional story “I Stand Here Ironing” as part of my reading series, in honor of the day. I don’t want to repeat myself (you can read the full post here) , so I will quote a bit of what I wrote for context:

Though we are not all mothers, we are all derived from a woman’s experience with pregnancy and birth. Women hold the font of all human life, and it is sad to me that the role of mother and the experience of motherhood is so often disregarded and marginalized. On Mother’s Day, we collectively experience a wide range of emotions – sadness and loss, anger and disappointment, love and gratitude – towards the women who brought us into this world and did the best they could.

We are all flawed people. Mothers are no exception. To be a mother is a complicated role and it demands all of who you are. And you will never be perfect, no matter how good of a mother you are. You will make mistakes. You will worry about the choices you make, and the path that you have created in which to nurture the growth of another person. Thanks to contemporary psychology, mothers have an added pressure of feeling total responsibility for the self-hood of their children. And while I feel that we certainly have a responsibility towards our children, it is impossible and unfair to expect mothers to claim the totality of the people their children turn out to be.

Right now I’m thinking of two quotes. The first is from Tillie Olson’s story I mentioned above: “Only help her to know – help make it so there is cause for her to know – that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron.” The second is from Kahlil Gibran: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

What I’m getting at here is that children are their own people, and a mother’s influence on that is not as significant as we might think. Children come into the world through mother. They have their own personality, their own set of DNA, their own soul. A mother’s job is to nurture and guide her children, with the expectation that she is a flawed person and will try to do the best she can. Some mothers seek validation through their children.  They think that if they have a “good child” then they are a “good mother.” And the same goes for the negative side. They forget that their children are not their own. They lose themselves in motherhood, instead of finding themselves.

More and more, I am seeing women reject the role of mother. And that truly saddens me. I’m not talking about working mothers or stay-at-home dads or divorce/custody arrangements or people with addictions or mental health issues who cannot care for their children. I’m talking about women who have children and then leave them. I truly don’t understand this, but I have tried, and I think that the expectation of what it means to be a mother has something to do with it. I think that economics and education play a role. I wish these women would know that we write our own rules. We define ourselves. Motherhood is challenging but it is also infinitely rewarding. It is possible to have your own life and to also be a mother. In fact, I’d say it is necessary.

The fact is, children will grow into who they are no matter what kind of mother they have, or even if they have one at all. My daughter has several friends who live with their grandparents, neither mother nor father taking the responsibility of parenthood. She also has a few friends who were adopted. They do not know their birth mothers but they have adopted mothers. Other friends have stepmothers, along with their birth mothers. A couple of people she knows have had their mother’s die, an incredible loss to a young person.

I’ve known many people who have complicated relationships with their mothers. They weren’t loved enough or they were loved too much. They were neglected or they were smothered. I know people in their adult life still blaming mother for the problems they have and for the people they are. This is a two way street, mothers and children. The expectations are high on both sides. And I think it is important that we take a step back, and understand the most crucial part of motherhood: mothers are the vehicle in which children enter the world. That can be taken both literally and figuratively. But, as Gibran says so eloquently, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.”

The way I think about motherhood is that children are a gift. A precious gift that is entrusted to you for a short time. To mother is to care for, to nurture, to guide, to give space, to let go. To know that your role is limited and flawed. It is essential to retain your sense of self outside of or in addition to the role of mother. It is necessary to care for yourself first and foremost in order to be able to give freely and lovingly to your children.

I have always been honest with my children about my role in their life. I have never tried to pretend that mother knows all, or mother knows best. I tell them that I make mistakes, too. I tell them that I am not only a mother, I am a person in the world. In a way, I’m trying to alleviate the pressure on both of us, mother and child. And so far, it seems to be working. I have a great relationship with both my children, a relationship that evolves and changes as they grow. The relationship that I have with my children is a relationship for life. Sometimes that can feel like a weight. But in reality, it is love. It is quite an honor to bring another person into the world, and to have that bond be the cornerstone of your relationship, beyond infancy and into adulthood, throughout both of your lives.

On Mother’s Day, I went onto facebook briefly. And I can usually judge how things will go on facebook by the first few posts I see. That day, I first saw a post saying how mothers are all special and should be cherished and loved and pampered. The next post shared sadness at not being able to biologically have children, and not being able to adopt a child when she was young because she is a lesbian. Further on, another person wrote about how she chooses not to have children and feels pressured to be a mother because she is a woman. Still further, someone wrote something to the effect of “if this day is hard for you, know that I’ll be feeling the same way on father’s day.” Lastly, there were the pictures of happy families, gifts received, people showing off their moms, their kids, their enjoyment at having a mother or being a mother on this day.

I was overwhelmed. I got off facebook. I decided to read a story that one of my friends, a beautiful person and excellent writer, had posted in honor of Mother’s Day. I read “Falling to Earth: A Memoir of Sorts” by Eros-Alegra Clarke, an amazingly sensitive and beautifully written piece about her experience with her own mother, and how that shaped the woman and mother she had become. I cried.

I turned off the computer and spent the rest of the day relaxing at home with my children and my boyfriend. Then my boyfriend left to visit his mother’s grave in the cemetery, his first mother’s day without her. A little later, my daughter told me that her friend was feeling sad, and asked if she could come over. I know that the girl’s mother had moved out of state when she was a baby and left her to be raised by her grandparents. We didn’t talk about that. “Sure,” I said, and her friend spent the afternoon and evening with us. My older daughter and I made cake pops. I took my younger daughter to our favorite Italian specialty store to pick up some food. My mom also doesn’t really care about gifts or fanfare on Mother’s Day, but she joined us for a simple dinner. Afterwards, I took the girls to the beach. It was windy and getting cold and we laughed as we ran to the water and then back to the car. We came back home and all did our own thing. That night, I wrote. It was a wonderful day. It was mother’s day and I was conscious of that, but it was just like any other day in my life. And for that, I feel tremendously grateful.

I put a few links within this post, so I am going to recap them all here, in case anyone is interested in further reading:

“I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olson

“Falling to Earth: A Memoir of Sorts” by Eros-Alegra Clarke

Reading Series 5.1   May, 2012