Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sizzling Charity Sunday - #CharitySunday #PNR #HotSpell #SierraClub

Sizzling Sunday banner

Usually I do one Charity Sunday per month. However, Dee S. Knight, one of our most regular participants, didn’t join last week’s event because she’d already told her readers her charity post would be on the last Sunday of the month.

Please take a few minutes to visit and comment. Every comment is a donation to help victims of domestic violence.

Meanwhile, I’m supporting the Sierra Club this week. For each comment I get, I’ll donate one dollar to the Club, one of the oldest environmental organizations in the United States. 

Appropriately, my excerpt comes from my paranormal novella Hot Spell, which takes place in the mountain forests of California.


The flames of passion are more than metaphor.

The city swelters In the grip of an unseasonable heat wave. Sylvie endures her solitary urban existence for the sake of her career, but the prospect of a hot, lonely three day weekend proves unbearable and she flees east to the pine-shrouded mountains. Far more at home in nature than in the city, Sylvie doesn't mind being alone in the wilderness, but she's not the only being haunting the glades and the trails. Her plans for a midnight dip are interrupted when she discovers a handsome stranger in the stream near her camp site. Hidden in the shadow of the trees, she can't help watching as he pleasures himself – or indeed, surreptitiously joining him in auto-eroticism. By the time she recovers from her climax, however, he has vanished.

Aidan finds her the next day as she sun bathes nude in a high meadow. It's obvious that his desire burns as fiercely as hers, yet he resists his own lust, refusing to make love to her. The muscular, sun-bronzed man with the red-gold hair is cursed with power he fears will destroy her if they give full rein to their passion. Can earthy, voluptuous Sylvie refrain from tempting him? Or will she risk being being literally consumed by love?


Sylvie awoke in the grey light of dawn, sticky with sweat and pussy-juice. Her clit still throbbed from her intense dream. She half-expected to see livid burn marks on her breasts and belly. However, her dusky olive skin was as flawless as ever.

I’ve got to find myself a lover, she told herself as she showered and dressed for work. Two years is too long. It was so difficult to meet people here in the city, though. She hated the bars and the parties—all the gym-toned guys wearing Abercrombie and Fitch, flashing their iPhones and bragging about their stock options. She had scarcely any friends, aside from Alice and Jill at work, and, really, they were more like acquaintances—not people with whom she could share her heart. For the thousandth time, she wondered whether she’d made the wrong decision, moving to the metropolis from the farm town upstate where she’d been born. She’d done it for the sake of her career, and that, at least, was thriving. The rest of her life, however, felt bleak and empty.

The sun was just peeking over the hills when she climbed to her rooftop garden. Even here, four storeys above the street, not a hint of morning coolness stirred the thick air. Her basil and oregano drooped, limp and sad, beaten down by the unseasonable heat…just as she was. A coating of dust dulled the normally shiny foliage of her dwarf lemon tree. The leaves of her strawberry plants were edged with brown. Only her morning glories appeared to be unaffected by the soaring temperatures, their iridescent purple blooms opening to welcome the rising sun.

Sylvie turned on the hose and gave her beloved plants a good soaking. The herbs perked up and a faint, welcome scent of growing things reached her. Humming an old folk song, she sprayed the dust off the lemon leaves and gently irrigated the strawberries. They’d both flower soon, she noted. One small benefit of the heat wave.

Seating herself on the wrought-iron bench in the centre of the garden, she filled her lungs with the smells of green plants and fertile earth. A familiar sense of peace stole over her. If only I could stay here all day. Alas, she had a staff meeting at nine, and an appointment with a potential new client at two-thirty. But I could leave after that, she realised. It was Friday. No one would miss her if she ducked out a few hours before normal quitting time, especially since Monday was a holiday. She expected that quite a few of her colleagues would want to get started early on their long weekend.

Sylvie had no plans, though. For her, it would be an endless, lonely three days…and oppressively hot, too, according to the forecasts. All at once, she couldn’t bear the notion of spending the weekend by herself in the sweltering city.

The hills, normally a brilliant emerald at this time of year, had turned a premature yellow. Sylvie gazed off to the east, imagining soaring pines and gleaming white summits. A yearning seized her—an almost physical need to be in the woods again. She smiled and brushed her unruly hair out of her eyes. Camping would be just the thing. It was barely Memorial Day. There wouldn’t be any crowds. There might even still be snow.

She bounded down the stairs to pack her gear, singing to herself. Being alone in the mountains didn’t bother her at all. In fact, it was just what she needed.

Please don’t forget to leave a comment – or to visit Dee’s Charity Sunday Post:

Saturday, May 30, 2020

A femdom snippet from The Ingredients of Bliss - #SaturdaySpanks #FemDom #BDSMRomance

Saturday Spanks banner

LastWednesday, for the Book Hooks blog hop, I featured a fairly tame excerpt from my BDSM ménage erotic romance, The Ingredients of Bliss. For today’s Saturday Spanks post, I thought I should give you something spicier.

Here’s part of a hot femdom scene, set in a Paris hotel. Emily has been ordered by her master Harry to dominate her boss, impeccable French chef Etienne.

It’s complicated...


Kicking off my shoes, I sat cross-legged on the bed across from the chair, examining its bound occupant. Less than a meter separated us. I could see the sheen of sweat on my captive’s forehead, the clear droplets gathering at his slit then dribbling down his shaft. My position exposed the thoroughly soaked crotch of my silk thong. Etienne licked his lips. His cock twitched as though he’d been hit by an electric shock.

Now that you’re tied up nice and tight, I think I’m going to punish you. You deserve it—begging me to invite you to my room then showing up dressed like the slut that you are…”

I crawled up toward the head of the bed, giving him a good view of my bum and opened the drawer of the table next to the bed. I’d been too afraid of customs inspections to bring much in the way of sex toys, but I figured I could improvise.

Pulling out a pair of lacquered wood chopsticks, I held them up for Etienne to see. His perplexed expression made me chuckle.

Were you hoping for a flogger, maybe? Or some clamps? You’d be surprised how versatile these can be…”

Perched on the edge of the bed once more, I leaned forward and caught one of his pink little nipples between the tips.


Maintaining an iron grip, I pulled. I’ve been using kuàizi since I was three. I know how to hold on to a grain of rice or a morsel of meat and not let go.

Ow! Oh, mon Dieu!”

Don’t complain now, Etienne, or I’ll have to gag you.”

I moved to the other nipple, grabbing and twisting. Ever obedient, Etienne swallowed his cry of pain. The first nipple stood up smartly, fatter and redder than before.

I’ve read that chopsticks can be used as nipple clamps.” I snapped the wood against the nub I’d assaulted first. He flinched, but his cock was harder than ever. “You capture the nipple between the two sticks then loop rubber bands around the two ends to force them together.” Actually, Harry had told me this, one night when he had me spread on his kitchen counter with clothespins biting into my labia. The thrill had pretty much neutralized the pain. He hadn’t yet tried the chopstick maneuver on me. I suspected he’d get around to that at some point.

By moving the rubber bands closer to the center of the parallel sticks, you can increase the pressure.”


But I find chopsticks also work well when you don’t happen to have a cane or a crop.” Using the two chopsticks like miniature switches, I struck both nipples at once. Then I snapped at his thighs with the sticks, first on one side, then the other, moving closer to his erection with each stroke. “And they’re very portable.” Red streaks appeared in the wake of my blows, nicely parallel lines decorating his tanned skin.

How could I be doing this? And enjoying it? Because I was enjoying myself, I had to admit. I loved marking him, the sense of power and ownership it conveyed. I loved the notion that he’d endure this kind of pain, just to please me. If I were honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I loved seeing the proud and domineering master chef humbled. I recalled those first few days on the set, when he’d dismissed my culinary creations as faddish and unauthentic. Now I had him eating out of my hand, figuratively and literally too, if that was what I wanted.

Etienne was whimpering now, squirming against his bonds each time the lacquered wood made contact with his flesh. I paused, mere centimeters from his cock, and brushed his hair out of his eyes.

Should I stop? Is it too much?” I knew that if I lashed his swollen penis, the sting would be far more intense than from my blows to his thighs. I peered into his face, reading both terror and desire.

Uh—it’s up to you, Mistress.” He wanted to know what it would feel like, I could tell, but he couldn’t admit it. This time, I wouldn’t force him to confess.

Hmm. Well—how about one stroke on each side then. You mustn’t come, though. If you do, I’ll make you very, very sorry. Understand?”

He nodded. I planted a brief kiss on his ripe lips as a reward. He was really so sweet, so vulnerable, so giving. He opened and thrust out his tongue, rude and forward. I just laughed and pulled away.

You know you’ll pay for that, Etienne.”

Yes, Mistress.” The sparkle in his eyes belied his deferent tone of voice. Some slave! But how could I complain?

Are you ready? Take a deep breath…”

I flicked my wrist and snapped the chopstick against his quivering cock. His breath hitched, but his eyes stayed locked to mine.

Good boy,” I murmured. “One more.” I was tempted to hold back with this last blow. His expression changed my mind.

Sacre bleu…” he hissed. He jerked in his bonds. His cock surged like a rocket and for a moment, I was certain he’d lose control.

I pictured my lovely red corset, splattered with his cum. The image was so erotic I almost hoped he’d fail. By some miracle of will, though, he managed to hold on.


The Ingredients of Bliss is available in ebook and print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Totally Bound, and other fine bookstores.

Friday, May 29, 2020

A thrilling new title from Seelie Kay - #RomanticSuspense #ComtemporaryRomance #FeistyLawyers @SeelieKay

Martimus banner

Today I’m helping my friend and fellow author Seelie Kay celebrate the release of the newest book in her Feisty Lawyers series: Martimus!

Q. Why do you write romance?

Because I am fascinated by the games people play to find and secure a lasting relationship, which is not always love. There’s the chase, the courtship, the falling, the surrender. That’s what I try to capture in my stories.

Q. Do you prefer a certain type of romantic hero?

I adore smart, dashing gentlemen who aren’t afraid to live on the edge. They can be a bad boy, a billionaire, a prince, or a secret agent. That hint of danger just hooks me! However, I they have to be paired with strong, independent women who aren’t afraid to fight for what they want, even love.

Q. Why did you write Martimus?

This is the final book in the series, so I needed a way to tie up a lot of loose ends. That meant the Feisty Lawyers needed a compelling story to accomplish that. Something in space was beyond the realm of believability, but something at the bottom of the ocean? The possibilities were endless. I went in all sorts of directions at first, but ultimately made Martimus a key step in a much broader journey. The bottom of the ocean is an unforgiving environment. Survival is never guaranteed. Divert a few socialites there to serve out a prison sentence, make then disappear, and you’ve got what I hope is an exciting story!

As a former lawyer, I also developed an interest in private prisons. These are institutions that are governed by a different set of rules and not all institutions follow the same rules. In some cases, the private prison an inmate winds up in can mean the difference between survival and death. In addition, there have been several cases of prosecutors and judges who received a financial incentive to divert inmates to private prison. Some were so incentivized that people innocent of the crimes with which they where charged have been convicted just so the prosecutor or judge could get their kickback. It is an industry that requires serious regulation and monitoring.

Q. How does your former profession as a lawyer impact your writing?

My friends say I am obsessed with justice and I guess that’s true. After 30 years, the law and the legal world are so firmly embedded in my brain that I can’t flush them out. That has become the lens through which I view the world and that naturally guides my characters and plots. Injustice infuriates me, but it also leads me to great stories!

About Martimus

Martimus. An underwater habitat dedicated to pharmaceutical research. Martimus. A facility that staffs its vessel with inmate labor. Martimus. The place where inmates visit and never return.
Agent Cate Creighton is in love. Unfortunately, as the Agency honeypot, she is knee-deep in an assignment that tests the bounds of her new relationship. It seems eight socialites have gone missing, all wealthy twenty-somethings with influential parents. No one seems to care until a former vice president’s daughter disappears.

When the vice-president shares a tale of false arrest, a broken promise of deportation, an illegal diversion into a private prison, and an alleged trip to an unwater habitat called Martimus, Cate and her colleagues must find a way to follow the same path. In other words, they must enter the right prison, meet the right fixer, wind up on Martimus, and hopefully return in one piece. And it looks like Cate is the perfect bait.

That doesn’t sit well with Cate’s lover, former U.S. Navy Seal Warren Hazelton. He intends to protect her until death ‘til do they part.

Fortunately, another possibility appears, in the form of an MISix agent who has interfered in one too many Agency operations. Tillie Henderson owes them and they are all too willing to serve her up on a plate. It’s race against time as the Agency attempts to lure their adversary out of hiding and into their somewhat ambiguous trap. Maybe then Cate can finally focus on love.

Release Date: May 29, 2019
Publisher: Extasy Books
Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, four flames

Buy links:

Barnes and Noble: Coming soon

Kobo: Coming soon


Tom cocked an eyebrow. “Warren, you’re a former Navy Seal. Isn’t there some sort of limit on the amount of time you can spend under the sea before it starts to seriously impair your health?”

Warren frowned. “Usually two weeks. After that, the lack of exposure to the sun and the constant high pressure oxygenated environment would begin to take a toll. There’s also a psychological impact. Think sensory deprivation. Your senses are out of whack because you’ve been dumped into a soundproof sponge. There is no normal sensory stimulation. No sunlight, no sound… Even taste and smell become compromised. Coming back to the real world would be an adjustment.

In addition, those underwater stations are small. People are right on top of each other. Things we take for granted, like privacy, hot showers, home cooked meals, are in short supply. That can create anxiety, depression, and stress. No way he served that sentence consecutively. He had to take a break in between.”

Warren gazed at Tom. “That environment is more hostile than a prison. You may not be in danger from other inmates, but you are putting your life at risk. Three months sounds like way too much time to be stuck underwater though, especially if you’re not leaving the station for deep sea diving on a regular basis. They must be breaking up the time somehow, otherwise they’d have a pretty tough situation on their hands. A lot of contract workers would be headed to a rubber room. It would be extremely difficult to survive a month, much less three, down there.”

Could they be treating the inmates like guinea pigs?” Hope asked. “Testing their limits? Tracking actual survival rates?”

Warren sighed. “Possibly. It’s not like they have to answer to anyone. They are located in international waters. No country in particular has legal oversight. I imagine they could be doing anything they want without recourse. Unfortunately, when the prospect of a reduced sentence is dangled in front of some people, they grab it, damn the consequences. If one or two inmates suffer some sort of harm or die along the way, they chalk it up to collateral damage.”

And who’s going to know?” Cate shook her head. “Someone dies, they probably flush them down a chute into the deep sea and they become shark chum. No evidence left behind.”

Hope cringed. “God, that’s kind of evil. But that still doesn’t answer our original question. Where the hell is Fuzzy? Has he already served out his sentence? Has he been released, and if he has, where the hell is he? He’s the one we need to find. He could have a lot of the answers.”

That lack of governmental oversight is troubling,” Tom said. “If Cassie McIntyre is down there, I can’t believe the CIA isn’t all over it. At least, our government should be doing a welfare check through the Red Cross or something.”

Warren grimaced. “Unless no one knows she is down there. Think about it. They are on the bottom of the ocean, more than two miles under the sea. It’s not like you can just go down there and knock on the door. Any regular monitoring would be impossible.”

Cate nodded. “And we haven’t been able to confirm that she embarked on the same path as Fuzzy. All we’ve got are suspicions. Right now, she’s missing. We need to sit down with her family and get more information. And we need to find other prisoners who contracted with Martimus.

Otherwise, we’ve got nothing.”

About the Author

Seelie Kay is a nom de plume for a writer, editor, and author with more than 30 years of experience in law, journalism, marketing, and public relations. When she writes about love and lust in the legal world, something kinky is bound to happen! In possession of a wicked pen and an overly inquisitive mind, Ms. Kay is the author of multiple works of fiction, including the Kinky Briefs series, the Feisty Lawyers series, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, The President’s Wife, The White House Wedding, and The President’s Daughter.

When not spinning her kinky tales, Ms. Kay ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. She resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she shares a home with her son and enjoys opera, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine.

Ms. Kay is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS: Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you!

Seelie's Author links:

Twitter: @SeelieKay

Prior Books:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Ingredients of Bliss - #MFRWHooks #BDSMRomance #Menage

Ingredients of Bliss cover

For today’s Book Hooks hop, I’ve picked out a never-before-shared excerpt from my BDSM ménage romance novel, The Ingredients of Bliss. I had a lot of fun writing this, at least partially because I could work in a lot of memories from a trip to France I’d taken the year before I wrote it – including lots of food!


One sexy French chef. One kinky American TV producer. One ambitious Chinese gal who thinks she wants them both. The ingredients of bliss? Or a recipe for disaster?

Accomplished cook Mei Lee ‘Emily’ Wong knows exactly what she wants—her own show on the Tastes of France food channel. But life is full of complications. First, her deceptively nerdy producer, Harry Sanborne, initiates Emily into the delights of submission. Then her boss, legendary chef Etienne Duvalier, begs her to dominate him. Emily just can’t resist—especially when Harry orders her to explore her inner mistress. Suave and sexy Etienne will do whatever she asks—in the bedroom if not in the kitchen. And Harry, her lovingly diabolical Dom, adores pushing Emily’s limits.

When the network sends the trio to France to shoot a series of cooking shows on location, Emily knows her career is on the upswing. Her plans fall apart in Marseille as a Hong Kong drug syndicate kidnaps both Etienne and Harry. The Iron Hammer Triad mistakes Etienne for notorious gangster Jean Le Requin, who has stolen their drug shipment, worth millions. Emily realizes she must find the real Le Requin, retrieve the purloined dope, and bargain it for Harry’s and Etienne’s lives. The secret she’s been keeping from Harry might prove useful. Still, what chance does one woman whose knife skills are limited to chopping vegetables, have against the ruthless cruelty of two criminal organizations?

“‘Silk worker’s brains’? Are you joking, Etienne?”

Not at all. You’ve never encountered cervelle de canut? A Lyonnais specialty, and quite delicious, I might add.”

Morning sunlight poured through tall windows into the demonstration kitchen of the École Supériore de Cuisine Lyonnais, the site for our show that afternoon. Seated side by side at a butcher block table, Etienne and I pored over drafts of menus and recipes. I was trying to ignore the effects his closeness had on the speed of my pulse and the humidity of my pussy.

Er—do you really think our American audience will be interested in brains?” We Chinese have a reputation for eating almost anything—I have a particular fondness for zhafeichang, deep fried pork intestines with sweet bean sauce—but I knew that Westerners tended to be more squeamish.

No brains are actually involved, Mei Lee. The dish is based on fromage blanc, seasoned with fresh herbs, shallots, olive oil and vinegar. Very savory, I assure you, and unique to the Lyon region.”

All right—whatever you recommend.”

Etienne shot me a sharp look, as though he found my acquiescence surprising. Today he looked devastating, as usual, in a blindingly white dress shirt tucked into narrow black jeans. He had rolled up his sleeves. The red-gold hair dusting his forearms was very distracting. I knew how soft it was.

We’ll do quenelles de brochet, Lyonnais potatoes of course, salade Lyonnais with bacon and poached egg, and marrons glacés for dessert. Do you think that’s enough?”

For an hour-long show? Plenty. I’ve never made the quenelles, though.

You’ll find them straightforward. Baked fish, bread crumbs, egg yolk, a standard cream sauce—quite simple.”

I’d sampled quenelles the previous evening, while dining at a classic bouchon with Harry and Etienne and thought them a bit bland. To be honest, though, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the food for which Lyon was renowned. My senses were too dazzled by the proximity of my two lovers. Although I’d consumed only one glass of the robust Beaujolais presented by the rotund proprietor, I’d felt totally intoxicated, joy bubbling through my veins like champagne.

My mind wandered, reviewing the marvels of the last twenty-four hours.

After the astonishing night with Harry and Etienne in Paris, the routine details of traveling felt completely unreal. Along with the rest of the crew, we’d piled onto the bus for the four hour drive to Lyon. I’d shared my seat with Lisa, not wanting to encourage any gossip. I’m afraid I hadn’t been very sociable. I’d been preoccupied with recollections of the night’s pleasures. Whenever we’d stopped for a bathroom break, I’d felt the eyes of both men following me. I’d spent the entire trip in a fever of anticipation.

Once we’d arrived and settled into the hotel, they’d whisked me away to the narrow, cobbled lanes of the medieval Old Town. We’d roamed the streets together, poking our heads into cramped souvenir shops, sampling bits of sausage and cheese, pausing in a café facing the majestic Cathédrale St-Jean to admire the sunset behind the hills of Fourvière.

The golden summer dusk had slipped gradually into a violet evening. Every sensory impression had possessed a sort of magical clarity—the lilt of children’s voices as they’d kicked a ball around the cathedral square, the twittering of starlings wheeling above the tiled roofs, the saliva-inducing smell of grilling pork emanating from the open doors of traditional bistros, the anise flavor of the Ricard that Etienne had ordered for Harry and me. The warmth of the balmy night and the heat coming from my lover’s bodies. I’ll remember this all my life, I’d thought, gazing at them in the deepening gloom.

They’d kept touching me. A brush of casual fingers against my thigh. An arm encircling my waist. A powerful hand, clasping and squeezing mine. We’d spoken of superficialities, the history of the city, the show the next day, which restaurant we should choose for dinner. The silent messages we’d exchanged had dealt with different topics all together.

Old Town quarter of Lyon

The Ingredients of Bliss is available in ebook and print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Totally Bound, and other fine bookstores.

Be sure to visit all the other great authors joining today’s hop, for lots more romance!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review Tuesday: The Lake of Dreams - #romance #family #memory #ReviewTuesday

Lake of Dreams cover

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
Penguin Books, 2011

The summer after high school, Lucy Jarrett left The Lake of Dreams, the lovely upstate New York town that had sheltered her family for four generations. Heading west to college, she left behind her grieving mother, her half-Seneca boyfriend Keegan Fall, her hostile uncle and cousins, and her aching suspicion that she was partly responsible for her father’s recent death. Now, after more than a decade traveling and working around the world, she has returned to the rambling, time-worn lakeside house where she grew up.

She finds that much has changed. Her mother has a new male admirer and is considering selling the deteriorating mansion. Keegan is a successful craftsperson with a five year old son. Her brother has reconciled with and is working for her uncle. The military installation on the lake shore has closed, and conflicts about the fate of this fragile, valuable land are tearing the town apart.

Unemployed, restless, confused about her feelings for her family, the town and the half-Japanese lover she left back in Tokyo, Lucy stumbles upon a cache of objects locked in an old window seat that point to a mystery: a great aunt who lived nearly a century ago, who had been completely erased from the family records. Rose Jarrett fled from England to the US in the early years of the twentieth century, pregnant with the child of a wealthy landowner who paid her passage to make her disappear from his life. Grudgingly welcomed by her relatives in The Lake of Dreams, Rose gave birth to a beloved daughter Iris, but was forced to leave her when Rose became involved with the women’s suffrage movement. Iris grew up without knowing her mother at all.

Lucy becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about Rose’s life and determining the fate of her daughter. Her inquiries parallel her personal soul-searching about her own life and her future. Somehow, uncovering the long-hidden secrets of Rose’s history and bringing the woman’s heroism and self-sacrifice to light become a path for Lucy to save herself.

The Lake of Dreams is a gorgeous book, lyrical and moving. We see the town through Lucy’s observant eyes, filtered through her love of nature and colored by her memories. Rose comes to life through the intimate letters Lucy discovers, letters Rose penned to her daughter but never sent. Her story ramifies and pulls others into its web, including a famous stained glass artist who created a stunning set of church windows celebrating the power of femininity. I found myself waiting breathlessly for the next revelation about Rose’s past and her legacy to the future.

At the same time, when I finally put the book down, I realized the plot was somewhat contrived and unrealistic. It’s too easy, ultimately, for Lucy to bring Rose back from obscurity. The epistolary record is too convenient, too complete. The startling twist near the end of the novel and the rather implausible happy ending were emotionally satisfying but intellectually a bit of a stretch.

Also, I felt that Lucy ended up with the wrong guy. I always laugh at romance reviews that complain about this sort of thing, but in this case, I felt quite strongly that she made the wrong decision, or at least, not the decision I would have made.

Of course, I’m not going to tell who she ultimately chooses, or what path her life takes. You’ll just have to read the book yourself.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Demise of Truth - #ScienceFiction #Digitalization #Truth

Artificial Reality
 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’ve been reading science fiction all my life, starting with the Mushroom Planet books when I was seven or eight, graduating to Heinlein and Asimov as a teenager, and branching out from there. Back in the eighties and nineties, I sampled a lot of cyber-punk: Pat Cadigan, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson and their comrades. These authors imagined (or predicted?) many aspects of the modern Internet, decades in advance, and a startling number of their visions have become part of our everyday life.

A vast, worldwide, constantly accessible network of knowledge? These days, who could live without Wikipedia, Quora and YouTube? Voice queries, reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey”? Siri and Alexa do quite a bit better than H.A.L. Instant notification about events? Telepresence? Synthetic on-line worlds where you can interact with avatars and artificial agents? Trends and fads that emerge, take control of the popular psyche then die off a matter of days? I first met all these ideas in science fiction stories.

There’s one aspect of today’s digital world, though, that no author whom I read predicted: the demise of truth.

You can find literally anything on the Internet – including completely contradictory sets of facts, multiple conflicting descriptions of events, alternative histories. It’s scary to realize that there is no such thing anymore as an authoritative source. We tend to believe and trust people who agree with us, but fundamentally that is just bias. Anyone who can tell a convincing story (and the Internet has nurtured and rewarded individuals who have this skill) can acquire a following of believers, no matter how absurd that story might appear to someone outside their circle. Some people are certain the moon landing in 1969 was a hoax – that the Holocaust never happened – that Elvis is still out there somewhere, shaking his hips and breaking hearts.

Ah, but there’s evidence,” you might say. “Photographs. Historical records. Documents that support some stories and debunk others. Data that can be consulted and analyzed in order to choose one interpretation over another.” Alas, that might have been true a decade or two ago, but the digitalization of our existence means that absolutely everything is mutable. Photographs can be doctored without leaving the slightest trace, or even generated de novo – not just by humans but by AI systems who’ve been fed millions of similar examples. Deep-fake video technology makes it possible to literally put words in someone’s mouth. Software bots can invade social networks to manipulate so-called “popular opinion”, influencing elections and changing history. (But in fact, there is no one “history”. Even before the Internet, every country, culture and group had its own historical narrative.)

Most information needed to keep the world running is currently stored in digital form, in databases of one form or another. That information is unbelievably vulnerable to corruption, both accidental and deliberate. Given today’s technology, it would not be that difficult to erase all primary records of the moon landing to support the hoax claim. One doesn’t have to be a tech wizard to fabricate a totally believable case for almost any wild theory. It’s happening all the time, right now – as you read this blog post.

Now, I remember that initial walk on the moon with great clarity. I was in my senior year in high school, an enthusiastic science geek as well as a reader of science fiction, and from my perspective, this was definitely our first step toward a bright future in an expanding universe. Time corrodes our memories, though. When I compare notes with my husband of forty years about some past event we both experienced, we often have wildly differing recollections. The older I get, the less certain I am that even my most cherished and vibrant memories are accurate.

As prescient as the authors of my youth turned out to be, I can’t recall any of them portraying a world where it was impossible to know what was true. Honestly, this wreaks havoc with almost any philosophical perspective.

As a former researcher and computer professional, I’ve been aware of the malleability of truth for quite a while, but the COVID-19 epidemic has shown me just how impossible it has become to discern “the truth”. Every day we are bombarded with “scientific data” and presented with the conclusions of so-called experts. The same statistics will be interpreted in completely opposite directions, depending on the nationality, the politics or the predispositions of the person offering up conclusions. The average person has probably looked at more graphs over the past three months than in the previous two decades. Is he or she any closer to the truth about this crazy disease? What a ridiculous notion!

So where does that leave me – or us? How can we cope in an environment where we’re bombarded by information, any and all of which could be manufactured to serve someone’s agenda – or simply in error due to sloppy programming? Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?

Well, I have two answers. First of all, we can trust our direct experience, more at least than we can trust something we read on Facebook, USA Today, or The New York Times. Be observant; use your eyes and ears; keep an open mind. If someone claims that immigrants are criminal degenerates, think about the immigrants you know personally. (And if you don’t know any personally, perhaps you should seek some out.) If you read that anyone who likes to watch porn is psychologically diseased and incapable of having normal relationships – well, ask yourself whether the examples you have in your environment confirm this claim.

Second, we can educate ourselves about the fragility of truth in our digital world, be skeptical about every claim, and examine the mustered evidence as objectively as possible. I noted above that almost any sort of information can be faked, but consistency is still a reasonable criterion for evaluating a story. It’s possible to construct an intricate edifice of lies to support a false conclusion, but it’s difficult to make all the pieces fit together perfectly – at least right now.

There is one prediction that shows up a lot in eighties and nineties scifi that hasn’t yet come to fruition – the idea that neural stimulation could create artificial sensory experiences so vivid and convincing that you couldn’t tell the difference between a stim-dream and real life. There are advances in neuroscience that point in that direction, but we’re not there yet.

I rather hope we never get to that point. Already I lament the way so many of our experiences have switched from direct to mediated. Why go out on a date when you can chat on Messenger? Why bother to travel when you can browse Instagram or binge on YouTube? Why have sex when you can sext?

As I see it, some things can be imitated, but not truly replaced. I cling to that life-preserver as I navigate the shifting seas of today’s digital existence.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Charity Sunday for Sex Workers - #SWARM #CharitySunday #SexWorkers

Charity Sunday banner

Welcome to Charity Sunday for May. This month I’m supporting what some people may view as a controversial cause – an organization that supports the rights, safety and well-being of sex workers around the world. SWARM (Sex Workers Advocacy and Resistance Movement) is a sex worker led collective based in the UK. The project was founded in 2009 to advocate for the rights of everyone who sells sexual services. Their goal is to build a diverse and inclusive community of sex workers who cooperate, educate and legislate to improve working conditions and resist violence.

Why do I care about sex workers? That’s not a cute and cuddly sort of charity. There are some who believe that sex work is immoral, that prostitutes are inherently sinful and wicked, that selling sexual services should be completely outlawed. Yet many research studies have shown that criminalization of sex work does nothing to reduce the number of people involved. It just increases the risk for both workers and their clients. The WHO has called for all countries to make progress toward making sex work legal and recognizing it as a legitimate occupation.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 crisis and resulting lockdown have had a truly dire effect on sex workers, around the world. They have no source of income and no safety net. Most countries won’t provide unemployment benefits or emergency assistance to sex workers. Even in places where sex work is legal (for instance, in Germany), many prostitutes have been evicted from their apartments, provided by their brothels in return for a monthly fee which, now, they cannot pay. In some cases they must choose between likely contagion and starvation.

Their situation is truly desperate. And I want to make at least a token effort to help – and to both acknowledge their humanity and their need.

Of course many people are facing terrible physical and economic hardship at the moment. But they’re respectable. Sex workers aren’t. A lot of people would like to believe sex workers don’t exist – or to blame them for their own plight – but that’s both unfair and unrealistic.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox and just say that I’ll donate $2 to SWARM for every comment I receive on this post. I hope you have the courage to speak your mind.

Meanwhile, I have an excerpt from my erotic thriller Exposure. Stella Xanathakeos, the heroine of that novel, is a stripper, not a prostitute, but she faces a lot of same dangers and the same prejudice.

I strip for the fun of it. Don’t let anyone tell you different. It’s not the money. I could make nearly as much working at the mill and keep my clothes on, but then I’d have to suck up to the bosses. Here at the Peacock, I’m the one in charge, and I like it that way.

Sometimes I think it’s a sort of revenge, for all the times I heard those nasty calls trailing after me: Honey Jugs, Monster Boobs, Bouncer. Not to mention those sweaty, awkward clinches in back seats, trying to please. Trying to be popular. Now they can’t take their eyes off my breasts, swinging back and forth in time to the music. Their tongues are hanging out. I can see the tents in their laps. They all want me. I know how to make them want me. I’m an expert. But I’m off limits. They can look, they can drool, they can beg me. But my job’s to turn them on and bring them to the bursting point, then send them home unsatisfied.

That’s my view, anyway. Some of the other girls think different. All in all, though, the Peacock Lounge is a pretty classy joint, not like some of the sleaze pits down near the railroad.

I love the moment when the lights come down, and the DJ introduces me. There’s this strange pause, as if I was floating. I can feel them out there, the audience, holding their breath. Then, I hear the first notes of my routine. Energy surges through me. I’m one hundred percent alive. My nipples get hard and my sex tingles when I step out onto the stage and meet their eyes.

That’s my secret weapon: eye contact. Up close and personal. I can bump and grind, shake my tits in their faces, bend over so they get a good look at the G-string settled in my ass-crack. It doesn’t do any good without my stare. I try to see their darkest fantasies. This one pictures me sitting on him, his mouth burrowing in my bush. That one wants me to hold his dick while he pees. That guy in the back, oh, he’s bad news. He aches to tie me up and beat me with his belt. Tough luck, feller. Dream on.

I don’t know whether what I see is real or just my imagination, but it has a real effect. They feel my eyes. They think I know them. They get all flustered and embarrassed, wave to me, stick their tens and twenties into my G-string. Watching me, anxious-like, all the time.

Meanwhile, it turns me on. I dance a lot better when I’m horny. Sometimes I play with myself a bit before my set, to get myself into the mood. Then I hold my fingers under their noses, and watch their reactions.

I feed off their desire. The more they want me, the hotter I get, the better I dance. The more outrageous I become. So, it’s particularly annoying tonight that this one guy in the front row doesn’t react at all.

It’s early, and it’s Monday, slow. He’s the only one sitting close enough for me to use my stare, and it isn’t working. He’s good-looking in a clean-cut, straight-laced sort of way. Blond crew cut, blue-eyed, muscles that show even under his expensive suit. At least it looks expensive to me.

He has not taken his eyes off me since I strutted onto the stage, but his face is without expression. It’s like he has walls behind his eyes. 
I can’t see into him at all. Now it’s me that’s getting frustrated and hot under the collar. I’ve already stripped down to my pasties, boots, and thong. I peel one of the tassels off my nipple and dangle it in front of him. He looks only at my eyes. He’s measuring me, sizing me up for something.

I prance around on my stiletto heel boots. I shake my hips, do a slow, sensuous shimmy, cup my tits in my palms and offer them to him. No reaction. I take off the other tassel and attach it behind, where my butt cheeks meet, a lewd little tail. There’s a whistle from a table in the back, but Mr. Clean just continues to study me.

Damn him. I’m sweaty from the effort. My cunt is throbbing in time with the music. I can feel that the shred of nylon running between my legs is sopping. Fixing him with my best stare, I sink onto my knees in front of him, thighs spread wide. Then I slide both my forefingers inside the G-string and start to touch myself. We’re not supposed to do really explicit stuff like that. If Joey, the owner of the club, saw me, he’d give me hell. But this is a desperate case. I will not allow this guy to get the better of me.

I’m actually quite close to coming, when finally I see him give a little smile. So maybe he is enjoying himself after all. My music is ending. Time for the grand finale. Standing up, I unsnap the sides of the thong and pull it back and forth through my crotch a couple of times. Just to make sure it’s totally saturated. Then I drop it in the guy’s lap and strut off the stage, naked except for my boots.

I can hear applause and yells from the table near the back. I’m shaking, pissed off, and horny at the same time. Who does that character think he is?

When I calm down a bit, I put on my kimono and go check out the crowd. A few more tables are occupied now, and there’s a rowdy group at the bar. Meanwhile, Mr. Clean hasn’t budged. When he sees me, he beckons me to come over.

Good evening,” he says, very polite. “I enjoyed your performance.”

Oh, yeah? I think to myself. “Glad to hear it,” I say out loud.

Can I buy you a drink?”

Thanks, but I don’t drink.”

What’s your name?”


Stella what?”

Stella Xanathakeos,” I say, smiling despite myself at his reaction.
Not your typical stage name. But why should I pretend to be somebody else?

Well, Miss Xana—Xanathakeos, I have a business proposition for you.”

Look, I’m no hooker.”

That’s obvious, Miss Xanathakeos. You have a presence on stage, a special flair that marks you as a true artist.”

Bullshit, I think, but his politeness is softening me up anyway.

I have an associate who has a particular fondness for voluptuous women of Mediterranean complexion, like yourself. I’d like to engage you to give him a private performance.”

I don’t know...” I begin.

I’ll pay you five hundred dollars,” says Mr. Clean. “Two hundred fifty in advance and the rest after you dance for him.”

Well, that stops me for a minute. Like I said, I don’t do this for the money. But five hundred dollars would bring me a lot closer to that trip to Greece I’ve been saving for. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to see the Parthenon, the island of Rhodes, the ancient ruins at Salonika. My dad used to talk about Greece all the time, how the sky was blue as crystal and the air smelled like wine. “All I have to do is dance?”

That’s right. Your usual routine, or something more creative, if you like.”

Where and when?”

Tomorrow night, around eight o’clock, at the Hyatt downtown. I’ll give you the room number.”

How long will it take?”

An hour at most. You can be back here at the Peacock by nine thirty.”

I consider the question. Can I trust this guy, with his closed-up face? He’s already holding out two C-notes and a fifty, confident that I’ll accept. What the hell, I decide finally. I’ve got my Mace, and I can deliver a mean kick in the balls. I can take care of myself.

If Exposure sounds interesting, you can pick up a copy at Amazon, or Smashwords, or Excessica. You might also like the audio version.

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