I’ve been a reader of Alison Tyler’s blog for—jeez, about nine years now. I actually started following it about the time she started writing it (specifically, I came along right around the time she was starting to document the memoir stories that developed into her Dark Secret Love/The Delicious Torment/Wrapped Around Your Finger trilogy).At that time, in addition to generously sharing much of her compelling writing on her blog, Alison frequently interacted with her readers, composing posts that asked for photos, answers to questions, or even flash stories for contests—or, for a while, her specially-devoted blog she called H is for Harlot. (She still does all of this.) On one such occasion, she invited readers to write a 500-1,000-word story that included the word or theme of “violet.” (Coincidence?) More on that in a bit. I virtually “met” Sommer Marsden a couple years later via the extensive online erotica community to which Alison’s blog introduced me. In 2009, Sommer spontaneously organized and hosted the Blow Hard Tour, in which I was honored to take part, and during those halcyon days of frequent blogging and correlative commenting and interaction, I visited her blog regularly as well. I also found myself alongside her in several tables of contents and read a number of her stories. I soon discerned that Sommer referred to her family members on her blog as “the man,” “girl child,” and “boy child,” which I found charming. During those blogging days, many of us tended to share fairly personal/autobiographical goings-on in our lives, both writing- and non-writing-related. With Sommer’s, in particular, references to her family often seemed prominent. That made it all the more poignant when I heard last year that “the man” had been diagnosed with cancer. From the impression I’d received reading Sommer’s blog posts, there was never any question that she and the man were a very close couple. In addition to feeling stunned by the news of the diagnosis, I felt a sharp tug on my heart at the vaguest of ideas of how painful and frightening such news must have been for Sommer—as well as, of course, for the man himself and the rest of their family. Alison herself had had unwelcome experience in this area, and anyone who has read either Alison’s or Sommer’s blogs in the last few years must know the two are very close (virtual) friends. Last summer, Alison announced on her blog that she would be compiling a summer-themed charity anthology in support of Sommer and asked for flash fiction pieces from authors/readers. I immediately thought of that piece I had written for Alison years before. At the time, she posted my violet-themed story on her H is for Harlot blog. Since the time that blog was discontinued, I had held onto it, not quite finding the right place or feeling quite moved to submit it for publication anywhere. The story is titled “Fireworks Display,” and it takes place on the Fourth of July during a local fireworks show. That meant, of course, that it had a summer theme. I had written it for Alison, and the long and short of it is, when she announced plans for Summer Loving, I could think of no better use for “Fireworks Display” than for it to be potentially published in Sommer’s anthology. I submitted it, Alison accepted it, and I am both honored to be included in and grateful to contribute in a small way to Summer Loving and to Sommer herself. Here is a bit of “Fireworks Display”:
The story is quite—though not completely—autobiographical. I wrote it about a week after July 4 of that year, and I had indeed gone to see the fireworks by myself and watched them from my car in a local parking lot. I still remember that truck’s pulling up and parking near me, as well as watching the six occupants get out and arrange themselves on the truck’s bed cover…I do love the Fourth of July. :) Summer Loving is available at All Romance, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. (For those who wish to know, Alison has
The dull orange glow of the parking lot lights made all six of the young men just visible as I glanced over my shoulder and saw them all looking at me. I smiled casually and turned back to the pyrotechnic display in front of us. Knowing I was under the watchful eye of six boys likely 10 years my junior made my breath shudder slightly as I drew it. I reached back to tighten the tie on my halter top, desperately tempted to pull the strings and let it fall, let the six behind me see the tie slip from my neck and know I was topless in front of them, my tits exposed to the night even though all they could see was my naked back.
But I tightened the strings as planned and lowered my hands. They shook a bit.
I shifted to stand on the center console and hoisted myself onto the roof of my car. My legs dangled through the sunroof as I leaned back on my elbows, the tops of my breasts possibly visible now to the audience behind me. A cluster of about half a dozen fireworks went up simultaneously, the distant crowd oohing and aahing at the influx of echoing cracks. The largest was an eye-catching violet, its disc of sparks hovering in front of the others as the pyrotechnic perimeter spread.
I glanced over my shoulder again. Six pairs of eyes immediately found mine. Even if we had wanted to talk to each other, the noise of the fireworks display would have smothered any opportunity. They were relegated by necessity to pure voyeurs, with me—the exhibitionist—a lone figure competing against a backdrop of spectacular light and fire.
I had decided to forego the usual Fourth of July parties and gatherings and watch the fireworks by myself this year. About a half hour before dark, I drove to the nearby college where the municipal fireworks were to be launched from the football field, found a parking spot, and sat back to wait, planning to watch the show from my car.
-the opening of “Fireworks Display”
Because I started traveling the day after it (and am still out of town), I’ve taken quite a while to write about the fabulous reading I attended on July 24 at Lotus Blooms—a magnificent store, incidentally, that I highly recommend patronizing if you ever find yourself in Alexandria, Virginia!
Despite the store’s being local to me, I had for some odd reason never visited it—a circumstance I’m glad to have remedied! Literally the first thing I noticed upon entering was how beautiful it is. The second thing I experienced was the unambiguous graciousness and friendliness of the staff. I’m so glad editor and author Rachel Kramer Bussel organized and convened this reading at such a lovely location—and that it’s somewhere I’ll have the chance to visit often!
The reading was devoted to Rachel’s anthologies The Big Book of Submission (in which I don’t have a story) and The Big Book of Orgasms (in which I do). I read my story “Payback” from the latter. Once again thanks to Rick Write, here is the video of it:
-OAR “This Town”
“IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and I Wish I Hadn’t” by Samantha Pugsley (Religion, Gender Socialization, Memoir, Sex and Culture) 8/1/14
Partly, I’m sure, because this hits a little close to home for me, I truly found this difficult to read, as well as terribly disheartening and sympathy- and empathy-evoking. I so wish this author all the best and appreciate her sharing her story with the aim of supporting others.
“Porn Stars Want to Know: Why Did Facebook Delete Me?” by Aurora Snow (Pornography, Sex Work, Social Media, Sex and Culture) 8/2/14
Beyond the practical ramifications, of course, I feel this speaks (as so many things seem to) to a larger way collective culture treats sexuality and sex work. I share this and other posts like it because I want us to continue to be reminded and aware of that. Perhaps, then, we will successfully support a shift in it.
“This Is What Sex-Positive Parenting Really Looks Like” by Lea Grover (Parenting, Youth, Sex and Culture) 7/29/14
Beautifully put. This of course isn’t an example of sexual hysteria itself, of course—I include it under this heading because I feel it offers an example of a helpful counter-approach to the sexual hysteria that seems to pervade our culture, particularly around kids and young people.
In “I Am Behind on Blogging” news, I have a reading to report on that took place last Thursday, and I also have had a busy enough week (most particularly due to traveling over the weekend) that I missed the release of Summer Loving, which came out last week.
Summer Loving, if you haven’t heard about it, is a special anthology. The entire project was conceived by Tamsin Flowers and organized and edited by Alison Tyler. It is a summer-themed anthology from which all the proceeds will go to author Sommer Marsden, whose husband received a cancer diagnosis last year.
I met Sommer online and have known her (virtually) for several years. It’s possible Alison will organize a bit of a blog tour for the book next month, so I’ll wait until then to go into more detail about my story’s back story and how I feel about the project and getting to take part in it. For now, I just want to get the word out that this book is available—and that, again, all the sales proceeds it generates will go to support Sommer and her family. And to say that I am truly honored that my story “Fireworks Display” is included in this anthology.
All buy links can be found in Alison’s post here. As one of her comments on the post mentions, the highest financial amount Sommer would receive per sale would come from Amazon sales of the print edition.
Thank you and love to all,
-from “Fireworks Display”
“Supreme Court Breakfast Table” by Dahlia Lithwick (Reproductive Rights, Law, Sex and Culture) 6/26/14
I appreciate deeply the constitutional right to free speech and generally don’t condone censorship. I also appreciate the difficulty this case did present, and I don’t pretend to be a first amendment scholar. I do, however, feel resonance with what I read in this piece.
“Sex work is work: exploding the ‘sex trafficking’ myth” by Margaret Corvid (Sex Work, Sex and Culture, Sociology, Law) 7/7/14
When I first read the line about sex trafficking’s being a myth, it gave me pause, and I went back and read the first part of this piece again after I finished it the first time. As I interpret it, the author is not disregarding that force and horrendous violations of human rights occur in sex work; she is asserting that this is not unique to the sex industry and that separating it out as such as though it is a separate phenomenon does not necessarily help any aspiration to eradicate human trafficking and increase safety for workers. That resonates with me. I would maybe have devoted a few more sentences to clarifying a reverence for the profound tragedy that is human trafficking (not just sex trafficking), but I found the thrust of the piece about the nuances of sex work and the problematic nature of seeing it as inherently degrading, harmful, or nonconsensual, as society (or at least certain factions of it) still seems to, potent and relevant.
“Who gets shot in America: What I learned compiling records of carnage for the New York Times” by Jennifer Mascia (Non-Sex-Related, Memoir, Sociology, Violence, Public Policy) 7/15/14
For an online read, this may seem a fairly long piece. If you have the time to read it, though, I found it unusually interesting and consideration-provoking.