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'08 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations

by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons

Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
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The Manuscript Critique
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Reading as Craft

Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

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by Brenna Lyons

2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
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Cooking Up A Storey
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Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Iím Easy, But Iím No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
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Fickle Muse
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Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
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Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel

Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn

Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics

On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank

Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

White Flames: Erotic Dreams

by Cecilia Tan

Book Review by Lisabet Sarai

White Flames by Cecilia TanHallelujah! That was my cry after reading the first two stories in Cecilia Tan's single-author collection White Flames. Needless to say, my husband, reading in bed next to me, was a bit startled. When I explained, though, he understood completely.

With review commitments to several venues, regular crits for colleagues, plus a personal predeliction for erotica, I probably read a dozen erotic short stories a month. Most of these stories are adequate: reasonably well-written, moderately engaging, mildly arousing. Rarely do I encounter stories that I consider exceptional, stories that excite me in a literary rather than a physical sense.

What does it take for me to be excited by a story? Each case varies, but I look for an original premise, a unique voice, unconventional characters, and most of all, a treatment of sex more as an emotional or spiritual adventure than as a conjunction of body parts.

I'm delighted to report that, by my definition, many of the tales in Cecilia Tan's collection are exceptional.

Ms. Tan has a reputation for "speculative erotica", erotic fantasy and science fiction. It's easy to be original, one might argue, when one can build one's own worlds and write one's own rules. Yet almost half of the stories in White Flames are contemporary erotica, with barely a whiff of fantasy.

Among my favorites is "Just Tell Me the Rules". A woman who is saving her virginity for marriage sends her housemate/fiance off on a business trip, only to have his best friend arrive at her door, a challenge to what she thought she wanted. Another delight is "Always", a down-to-earth tale of a loving threesome that begins with a scene all too familiar from my days in New England:

"A raw spring day in Somerville, me in galoshes and a pair of my father's old painting pant with a snow shovel, cursing and trying to life a cinderblock-sized (and -weighted) chunk of wet packed snow off the walkway of our three-decker."

Vivid and concrete one moment, Ms. Tan can wax tender and raunchy the next:

"Morgan's hands travel up my thighs like they come out of a dream. It never occurs to me to stop her. Sex with Morgan is as easy and natural as saying yes to a bite of chocolate from the proffered bar of a friend. Before her fingers even reach the elastic edge of my panties I am already shifting my hips, already breathing deeper, already thinking about the way her fingers will touch and tease me, how one slim finger will slide deep into me when I am wet, how good it feels to play with her hair on my belly, how much I want her. With Morgan, I always come."

Then there's "Baseball Fever", Ms. Tan's hilarious and highly explicit fantasy about a Yankee rookie for whom she has the hots: "This guy's got destiny. He fits right in with multi-ethic New York, too—half-black, half-white, cannily polite with the media but cocky as hell when he gets on the field." I'm not much of a sports fan, but when Tan brought Tiger Woods into the final scene of the fantasy, "just to make sure it's not 100% percent heterosexual", I laughed until my stomach hurt.

At first glance, one might dismiss "Halloween" as an instance of the overworked "girl meets dominant man of her dreams in a bar" genre. Tan brings new life to the old scenario, partly due to the kick-ass attitude of the world-weary Goth narrator. "The Hard Sell" is a tale of a modern woman longing to escape from the labels and slogans that society applies to everything and everyone around her—including the man who drives her into a frenzy.

Although White Flames includes some excellent realistic pieces, I must admit that myth and magic lie at its heart. The middle hundred pages of the book are devoted to fantasy, starting with a stunningly erotic retelling of "The Little Mermaid" then flowering into more original tales. In "Bodies of Water", a team of archeologists discover an ancient ship on the floor of the Mediterranean. The discovery transforms them, both literally and figuratively. "Dragon's Daughter" is a fascinating tale of a Chinese-American girl who learns that she's an immortal who can travel through time and space to anywhere Chinese culture dominates.

"This is the ignominy of the American educational system: that to speak the tongue of my ancestors I had to fight to be enrolled in a special college class and trudge to it every morning at 8:00. I didn't think I knew the words to explain what I was doing there, anyway... I had no words yet for worry or conflict or secret or dream."

Three amazing stories featuring the same characters—Stormclaw and The Lady in Black—conclude this section. Like so many characters in the today's wildly popular "paranormal" genre, Stormclaw and the Lady are "elementals"—creatures of wind and fire and earth. They are not just people with special powers, however. They are truly inhuman, incomprehensible to and uncomprehending of the mortals among whom they move. They are drawn to human passion, yet do not understand it.

These stories are lyrical and intense, strange and haunting.

"He flies. He flies over clouds as dark as his hair, his eyes, his mood, as he thinks about her. Stormclaw is the dragon of the wind, coiling his power like a cyclone, soaring over night sky, moving eastward like a front of incipient weather. He sees without eyes, senses without skin, when he is the wind, considers without thought, and loves without a heart."

Stormclaw haunts seedy bars, taunting the men who drink there, trying to remember what it is that he seeks.

"Stormclaw feels the first strike of the leather cat-o-nine cross his back like the first bite into a sour summer fruit, a rich and intense pleasure. He draws breath waiting for the next blow to fall, and as he exhales he feels Ravenhair's breath on his shoulder—they are like one animal, tensing and then letting go, and then gathering themselves again. Breathe in, tense for the strike, then let go as the pain rains down around you."

One of the delightful aspects of this collection is its inclusiveness. These stories embrace all orientations, without self-consciousness or politicizing. White Flamesoffers MF, FF, MM, FMF, and FFF tales, not to mention sexually-aware mermaids and robots. In Ms. Tan's worlds, desire is a universal force, not confined to any particular gender or even species.

The book ends with three science fiction tales, of which the best is "The Spark". What if the magical energy that seems to animate the gods and goddesses of rock and roll was a real, measurable force, that could be stoked, and shared—and lost?

White Flames includes a few stories that are ho-hum, but Ms. Tan hits the target far more often than she falls short. If you enjoy literary erotica that will make you wonder as often as it makes you sweat, I highly recommend this volume.

Lisabet Sarai
July 2008

White Flames: Erotic Dreams by Cecilia Tan
(Running Press; May 12, 2008; ISBN-10: 0786720808)
Available at: / Amazon UK

© 2008 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

About the Author:
Lisabet Sarai has been writing ever since she learned how to hold a pencil. She is the author of three erotic novels, Raw Silk, Incognito, and Ruby's Rules; co-editor, with S.F. Mayfair, of the anthology Sacred Exchange† (Blue Moon); and editor of Cream, the Best of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.
Visit her website, Lisabet Sarai's Fantasy Factory for more information and samples of her writing.
Join Lisabet's List on Yahoo for exciting chat, contests, and up-to-date information on publications and events:

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'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
Review by Oranje

The Fold
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Spooky

Review by Spooky

'08 Book Reviews


Best Bisexual Women's Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Fantastic Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

Bound Brits (ebook)
Review by Ashley Lister

Deep Inside: Extreme ...
Review by Cervo

Dirty Girls
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Hide and Seek
Review by Ashley Lister

Hurts So Good
Review by Ashley Lister

J is for Jealousy
Review by Ashley Lister

K is for Kink
Review by Ashley Lister

Lust Bites
Review by Ashley Lister

Open for Business
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Rubber Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Rubber Sex
Review by Victoria Blisse

Seriously Sexy
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex & Candy
Review by Ashley Lister

The Shadow of a... (poetry)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Victoria Blisse

Tasting Her
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Tasting Him
Review by Ashley Lister

Tasting Him
Review by Kathleen Bradean

White Flames
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Yes, Ma'am: Male Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Yes, Sir: Female Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn


The Art of Melinoe
Review by Ashley Lister

Demon by Day
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Gemini Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

Gothic Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

The Hidden Grotto Series
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The House of Blood
Review by Lisabet Sarai

In Too Deep
Review by Ashley Lister

In Too Deep
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Donna George Storey

Review by Victoria Blisse

One Breath at a Time
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Out of the Shadows (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Rose B. Thorny

Seduce Me
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduced by the Storm
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Serve the People!
Review by Donna G. Storey

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sunfire (eBook)
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Templar Prize
Review by Angelika Devlyn

The Wicked Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Wild Kingdom
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance '08
Review by Vincent Diamond

Hard Hats
Review by Vincent Diamond

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Donna George Storey

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

The Night Watch
Review by Lisabet Sarai


America Unzipped
Review by Rob Hardy

Best Sex Writing '08
Review by Rob Hardy

Bonk: The Curious Coupling
Review by Rob Hardy

The Book of Love
Review by Rob Hardy

Casanova: Actor Lover ...
Review by Rob Hardy

Dishonorable Passions
Review by Rob Hardy

Flagrante Delicto (photos)
Review by Jack Gilbert

The Flesh Press
Review by Rob Hardy

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Humble Little Condom
Review by Rob Hardy

Instant Orgasm (sex guide)
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Man O Man! Writing M/M...
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The Not So Invisible Woman
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Swingers: Female...
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Who's Been Sleeping in...
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