I'm devoting this year to promoting the book I'm most proud of, Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, and the next few weeks to getting as many women erotica writers from around the world to submit their stories to Volume 2 (the call for submissions is here; deadline is April 1). As part of that, and to give a sense of why I've chosen the stories I have for this first volume, I'm going to be blogging about each of them this month. I also want to give these authors the praise they deserve.
I'm starting with the first story, "A New Canvas" by Tara Betts, and I want to encourage you to come hear her read from it live on March 31st at from 6 to 7:30 pm at The Pleasure Chest in Chicago. Can't make it? Please help spread the word! In my ideal world, one that would require being independently wealthy, I would travel all over and do readings with every author in the book. Since I live in the real world, I can only do a limited number of readings, so I want to make those as spectacular as I possibly can. So if you live in Chicago, will be there for CatalystCon, or know anyone there who'd appreciate a free, sexy erotica reading, please let them know.
There were a few things I liked about this story. One was that it was about friends forging forward with a sexual relationship they've danced around. That part felt very realistic to me; Angela and Troy aren't star-crossed lovers or over-the-top romantics, but friends who are attracted to each other. I also liked how art played a role in their seduction dance; it's both creative and intimate and gives the reader time to get drawn into what's happening. There's also an element of awe that this is actually happening which I appreciated, such as when Betts writes, "Angela's mouth fell open. She was still stunned that her tea kettle might not be the only vessel making a high-pitched sound."
One of the things I balance in my anthologies is who's telling the stories. This opening story is in the third person, and Betts does something that's not easy to do, which is seamlessly give us insight into two characters at once. While Troy is drawing on Angela, there's this sentence: "He loved how every word fell from her tongue, and he wondered what her babies might be like inside her." There is a tenderness and passion in this story that certainly goes beyond sex, which I especially appreciated because it closes on an open-ended note. Betts captures how powerful a sexual encounter can be even when two people are not in an official relationship, but are engaging in much more than a hookup.
I chose this story to open the book for two reasons: One was the title, "A New Canvas," which signified a beginning to me. This is the beginning of a new aspect of their relationship, although it's one that's been simmering. The other reason is that for those who either use the "look inside" feature on Amazon or otherwise read the first few pages or pick up the book in a bookstore and start reading, they will see from the very beginning that even though the cover model is white, this is not just a book of white women's erotica, nor will Volume 2 be.
I wanted readers who, whether they read the whole book or not, to pick it up and know that there are diverse characters and scenarios. And that those who found the book lacking in certain aspects of women's lives or sexualities will submit stories precisely about what they found missing in the first volume. I'm honored that I have the opportunity to edit another book in this series, and it's not something I take lightly. I received over 200 submissions to Volume 1, and I hope to receive as many, if not more, this time around, and will do my best to create a book that is a complement to this first volume, and one that will appeal to as wide a range of readers as I can manage in my limited word count.
Here's a short excerpt from "A New Canvas" by Tara Betts, which you can read in full in print, ebook and, very soon, listen to in audiobook form, in Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 from Cleis Press.
Excerpt of "A New Canvas" by Tara Betts:Get Best Women's Erotica of the Year now in print or ebook at the following online stores, or click here to see a full list of independent bookstores and sex toy stores where you can buy it:
At first, the cool, firm tip of each pen chilled her skin. She felt the goosebumps rise as he wrote Uhuru, the Swahili word for freedom, on her left forearm. He colored in the purple letters with pink and blue chevron-like stripes. He moved on to the right forearm and wrote if, the Yoruba word for love, in black. He colored in that shorter word with red and green. On the left side, he started drawing a purple arrow along the length of her body toward the pubic bone. "Directions for later," Troy explained. When he was done drawing that arrow, he capped the pen and traced the tip around the lips of her opening, which had been wet when he began. He stroked her clitoris a few times with the pen and Angela shuddered. When he touched her with his fingers, he smiled, reached for the black pen and drew the second arrow between her breasts, right next to the purple one.
Just above the collarbone, he etched in a purple and navy skyline, but included an array of tiny gold stars across her hips. A few outlined the constellation Cassiopeia between her shoulder and breast. When he got to her thighs, he started to sketch out anatomical images of the brain and the heart on one side and the uterus and tongue not he other. He leaned over and kissed her, and told her that her eyes and lips always drew him in, but the brain and the heart made it better
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Labels: A New Canvas, Best Women's Erotica of the Year Volume 1, call for submissions, Chicago, Cleis Press, erotica, fiction, free reading, Rachel Kramer Bussel, short stories, Tara Betts, The Pleasure Chest