Saturday, 19 October 2013

A chaotic week for erotic/self-published books

A few days ago I had a brief twitter conversation regarding the recent furore over certain self-published titles which have been removed from various online eBook outlets such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Online technology news portal The Kernel reported that hidden within the depths of the virtual bookshelves there could be found independent publications such as: 'Daddy Rapes the Virgin Daughter in the Attic', 'Taboo Acts, Volume II: Loving the Horse' and 'Doggy, Daddy, Daughter Rape: Virgin Teen Girl Deflowered By Father And His Dog' amongst other stories detailing graphic rape, incest, bestiality and supposed paedophilia. What ensued was a chaotic attempt for the 'booksellers' to rid themselves of any responsibility in a cathartic attempt not to be seen to be endorsing such 'offensive' material. W. H. Smith pulled their entire online store for a period of time and promised not to publish any further independent titles before their content could be checked to ensure it wasn't pornographic. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have (to my knowledge) been a little less knee-jerk and simply removed the offensive books.
However, this is an incredibly contentious issue and there are some really nervous conversations flying around the self-published community about what might become of this development. My personal opinion is that I'm not too worried at this stage, the books which were removed from sale were quite clearly touching illegal and very sensitive issues, whether or not that makes the publication itself illegal isn't for me to say and I think anybody who does make that call would be treading very thin ice. Documenting a crime in literature is not an offence, but writing it in a glorifying manner may well fall foul of the rather outdated Obscene Publications Act, which famously ensnared the magnificent Lady Chatterley's Lover. There is a wider conversation to be had about the boundaries between erotic fiction and literary pornography, not to mention the threat from Kobo to moderate all self-published books, not just the adult themed ones.  
So, as the writer of the rather explicitly titled Dirty Little Fuck Doll, why am I not excessively concerned? For several reasons, firstly all my characters are consenting adults of an appropriate age, you could find them doing what they're doing on any number of free-access porn sites, also because I believe readers won't stand for this, let us not forget that when an eBook gets removed from the shop, it is also erased from your kindle or other reading device and there is a massive market for 'erotica'. The main reason is that Amazon in particular won't bow down, they make money from self-published authors and I doubt they will give it up. Amazon are big, bold and bolshie enough to make sure they aren't breaking the law, then stick a single finger up to any further criticism. The very most I feel they would do is put an age verification wall in front of any 'adult' products, and I'd support that fully.

I'd really like your opinions about this, as either a reader or writer, how do you feel about the issue of banning or removing these books? Do you feel they should take more down? Impose restrictions on self-published titles? What about age verification, would it work? Are you a writer and afraid of having your work deleted from their stores? As a reader, are you concerned you might not be able to buy books from self-published writers anymore? Is this an overreaction or a genuine point? 

Monday, 14 October 2013

'The Heiress' Chapter One

My latest offering, The Heiress is now available for download from the Kindle Store. Whet your appetite with this sample of the first chapter.

Some people never discover what they are truly capable of, they may be confident that they can achieve this ambition, or boast about being able to fulfil that requirement if necessary; yet in reality most never get to experience the limit of their potential, not through any external inhibition or misfortune, but simply because they don’t have the motivation to push themselves to the boundary between what is possible and what is not.
"Madame?" An accented voice disturbed her brief introspection, Monique lifted her chin from the hand which cradled it and turned to face the speaker.
"Thank you," she answered in a prim and slightly nasal voice, flirtatiously holding eye contact for a little longer than necessary, the waiter laid her cappuccino and Danish pastry on the table before dashing across the shiny cobbles and back inside the dark interior of the cafe.
She watched as he re-emerged and glided between the tables, his tight, white shirt provided little camouflage to what she presumed was a sensationally fit body. All the indications were present, there were bulges and creases exactly where she expected them to be; his pecs strained the fabric which covered them, which was just thin enough for her to make out the shadowy outline of his nipples. Monique took coffee in that corner of Covent Garden most mornings on her way to some engagement, she flirted shamelessly with him every time he served her, yet learned little about him, other than his name was Paul and that he had moved to London from Brazil. Establishments of such calibre expected their staff to act with decorum and propriety, which was why she would patronise no other cafe in the West End, that and the fact that they served the best coffee she had tasted outside of mainland Europe.
Monique dropped a lump of rough Demerara into her cup, it sat on the froth, resisting the inevitable, before reluctantly dropping beneath the surface. She prodded the spoon inside and almost without purpose, scanned her eyes over the glass roof of Covent Garden market, revelling at the prospect of another day under the rich, blue sky; unbroken by clouds, with only the feint sharpness of vapour trails disturbing the absolute solidity of colour.
It was still early, barely nine o'clock, yet already over twenty degrees and forecasted to rise to in excess of thirty by mid-afternoon. Monique took a silver compact from her cream Hermes bag, she checked that the shading around her eyes was as she wished it to be and fingered her short, golden fringe back into position. A feint breeze grazed her bare legs as she savoured her coffee, the air felt fresh and unpolluted as it passed through the flimsy fabric of her dress; come a later hour, London would be stifled by too many people and an excess of heat. That morning differed from Monique's usual Covent Garden coffee, the caffeine was less of an indulgent aid to complete the process of waking up, and more a necessity to keep her on her feet after an energetically sleepless night.
She re-positioned her elbow on the wooden slatted table, rested her chin on top of her closed fist and dreamily reminisced the previous night's activities through her fuzzy mind; her tired body weakened even further by the recollections of her coquettish enterprise. As Jimmy's bold proposition echoed through her thoughts, Monique's slender body fluttered and fizzed, arousal and desire coursed through her almost as much as it had done the first time she had heard those words.
Monique Bobotte had been born in London, the daughter of a French businessman and an English chorus girl; she grew up in Paris, educated at Oxford and was the heiress to a fortune which she could neither calculate nor comprehend. Throughout her childhood and adolescence she had only wanted for something as long as it took for her father to ensure that her wishes were fulfilled, both parents had lavished unfettered finery and extravagance upon their only daughter. Monique encountered no difficulties in chasing and realising her adult desires, which almost exclusively involved men. The young heiress had an unquenchable addiction to the rugged sex, their look, touch, smell and mere presence caused a chemical reaction inside her which meant that she never tired of being in the company of men.
Jimmy's suggestion rattled through her body, the heat of exhilaration prompted her to finger the round neck of her fitted navy and taupe Teddy dress, she hunted absorbedly through her long, blonde hair in a quest to satisfy the slight itch on her naked back. The breeze suddenly changed direction, a nick of cool air passed over the fresh moisture between her legs, she flinched from the realisation that she was so aroused in public. Although Monique possessed an entirely liberal and progressive attitude to sexual behaviour, she had never been so aroused by a mere memory; but then again, she had never been so utterly fulfilled as she was the night before.
A little flustered, Monique sipped her coffee and took a bite of her Danish in an attempt to distract herself from the lascivious recollections of her sluttish behaviour. She looked up through her immaculate lashes at the hurrying office girls in their light summer dresses and drummed her nails against the white china cup; with her head tipped forwards and vision partially obscured by her asymmetrical fringe, she watched delivery men unload boxes from their vans, already sweating from the exertion of their work, tourists taking pictures of each other outside the opera house, and street performers staking their spaces for later. A lone soprano went through scales outside one of the restaurants in the lower section of the market, the euphonious tones floated out and around the square, the scent of roasted coffee beans, cooked breakfasts and expensive perfumes helped to cement an atmosphere which could not have been confused with any other square, in any other city.
Monique watched men saunter past the cobbled seating area, stealing a glimpse of her, keeping their eyes fixed on her mesmeric form until she looked up and met their gaze, when most dropped their eyes in mock denial, before sneaking one final look as they passed her. Some held eye contact and coaxed a smile from her full, glossy lips, she usually complied, Monique was unforgivably vain and not only craved, but sought reassurance from the never-ending male attention she received; the gesture of returning a smile was the least she could do.
"Come back to the house and let us all fuck you," he had shamelessly roared in her ear over the monotonous music of the slightly disappointing club. Her big, brown eyes glued to his face, slowly lowering the glass from her lips and postponing the sip of vodka and lemon she was about to take, she watched the corners of his eyes to see if his face was about to crack and disappointingly reveal it to be another one of his cruel jokes. He watched her too, waiting for a response; his sharp, blue eyes locked on her ponderous expression. Moments passed, he held his nerve, she spoke first.
"Us all?"
"Yes." He affirmed, Monique squinted in curiosity. "The team."
"The team?" She questioned, with parted lips and widened eyes.
"Uh-huh," Jimmy grinned, unable to contain his self-satisfaction, his confidence was pure arrogance, but narcissism was a trait Monique admired. Without hesitation, she slid off the stool, took Jimmy's hand and lead him bullishly through the club. It was one of those swankily ostentatious places in the heart of the city, a redeveloped old bank where the basement vault had been turned into a VIP suite, deposit boxes lined the walls and the regulars were still stuffy stock brokers who perennially congratulated themselves on moving another imaginary fortune from one pot to another. She had attracted to the glances and ganders of the glass-chinking, guffawing financiers all night, and was no less conspicuous as she strode purposefully across the white marble floor, the heels of her black Zanotti stilettos dissecting the tedious drone of experimental house music. Monique's hair swayed and swelled with her walk as though it were orchestrated by Chopin, the many shades of blonde contrasted beautifully against the black chiffon of her summer dress.
The doormen scrambled to bid Jimmy and his lady goodnight, yet he mindlessly dismissed them as they breezed into the temperate July night. He released his hand from hers and placed it on the small of her back, holding her close to him, with his other hand he gently traced his fingers over the side of her face. Monique's mind was a hive of activity, she knew what to expect, but was curious to discover how the infinite possibilities would play out. Jimmy knew her to be an adventurous girl, she had admitted herself that her sexual appetite was so voracious and unquenchable that she doubted it could ever be entirely fulfilled. 'No' was not a word which passed Monique's lips very often.
She dabbed her mouth with a napkin, remembering the first time she had left with Jimmy, shortly after moving back to London from Paris for the second time. They had been introduced at a dinner party hosted by a mutual friend and immediately became attracted to one another, neither of them had been blinded by the delusion of a potential romance, yet found the other to be charming, fun and exhilarating. At the end of the night he had audaciously offered to escort her home, Monique's silent response and questioning eyes were answered by the defence that he didn't want anybody to take advantage of her; what he really meant was that he didn't want anybody except him to take advantage of her. She admired his way of thinking and as soon as they passed through the door to his house, set out to obliterate even his most fantastical expectations.
A tall, tanned man in a light grey suit trod briskly past her table, his fleeting wink relieved Monique's doubting self-assurance that she could still enchant, even without sleep. Her appearance and other people's perception of it was of the utmost importance, Monique's wealth afforded her the luxury of not needing to be anywhere until she was satisfied with the way she looked; appointments, engagements meetings and dates were all put on hold until she had satisfactorily glanced in the full length antique mirror, dismissed her lady’s maid and breezed through the door of her Bloomsbury apartment. She may have felt a little fuzzy inside, but Monique radiated the vibrancy and vitality of a screen siren from the golden age; like Taylor, Loren or Monroe, Monique Bobotte had an ever-present aura, it was not only a magnetism which attracted the attention of anybody within her immediate vicinity, but also the ability to make everybody else around her seem less interesting. It was not just her bright blonde hair or perfectly proportioned body, with legs a little longer than she probably ought to have had, her blemish free, golden skin or even her impeccable style and sense of fashion which drew the attention of all eyes around her, there was simply an elegance about Monique which made it impossible to ignore her; her very presence inspired curiosity.
Quite rightly, she never stepped out without make-up, that morning she was delicately dusted in bronze, a subtle navy and black eye detail drew attention to her mesmeric eyes. She felt tight from tiredness, yet gave no indication of such an ailment, her skin still had enough youth in it to forgive her a night without sleep, it was taut and tanned, her figure and form were doll-like in their proximity to perfection. As she re-crossed her legs, the effort required to lift the weight of her platformed black Laboutin's was evidence of how much her whole body ached, a reminder of the shameless debauchery to which she had been subjected to just a few hours earlier.

To buy 'The Heiress' on, click here
To buy 'The Heiress' on, click here

Sunday, 13 October 2013

My new book: ‘The Heiress’

 It is with great excitement, pleasure and relief that I can now reveal my latest book, The Heiress will be released in the kindle store this Thursday 17th October. I will also be making The Heiress, Dirty Little Fuck Doll and the Megan Affair Part One available for other devices through Smashwords; although, because it will be my first time publishing on that platform, please bear with me until I can confirm that all titles are live in the relevant stores.
The Heiress is exactly what you would expect from me, an unrelenting, unforgiving tale of true perversion. Monique Bobotte is my delectable heroine, an heiress to an immense fortune, stomach-clenchingly gorgeous with impeccable style and only the finest taste in men. She is assertive and dominant, she uses the men she meets for their one true function: to feed her ravenous insatiability for continual sexual contentment. The Heiress is a novella which tells the story of one night in her life, slip inside the mind of one of my ultra-sluts, experience not only her unashamed debauchery, but learn about the woman, what drives her to be who she is, how she feels when reaching such dizzying heights of euphoria and why she feels no shame for doing so.

Over the coming days I will be revealing the cover and releasing the first chapter as a sample on this site, as well as writing ‘My Heiress and I’, a blog entry detailing my journey as a writer from the idea of this latest book right through to when I completed the final edits. My third book has been a long time coming I hope you get as much pleasure reading it as I did writing it.

Ellie x

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The silence of deep thought: Carla's offering of literary erotica

I have read and enjoyed some of Carla's previous work published under the Letters Around Midnight-Threesomes banner, so it was with great enthusiasm that I purchased her first offering of a longer work. My expectations were not disappointed, Carla is a writer who is at one with her page, she writes with a naked simplicity and avoids the need for showy sentences or fancy prose styles.

Whether it was by intention or coincidence, Carla deserves to be credited with her timing of the release of Miyuki; reading her analogies of and comparisons with deep snow over the past week has added to the beguiling experience of reading her debut novella.

What she delivers in Miyuki is a beautifully crafted story of sexual discovery, but not as I expected. It is unapologetically voyeuristic in places, bordering on intrusive, yet remains a very personal observation of a relationship less than ordinary. Miyuki not only titillates, but it intrigues, it makes you want to delve a little further into the subjects Carla introduces, it makes you reconsider your perceptions about certain preconceived ideals, Miyuki made me place the book down and think on more than one occasion.

My only criticism would be that I found the double line spacing to be a real distraction at first, so much so that I adjusted my kindle to compensate for it. That said, Carla Croft has produced a fantastic little book that will entertain and stimulate her readers on a number of different levels. Carla is not your average erotic fiction writer, and this is not the usual erotic novella.
You can buy Miyuki: The Silence of Deep Snow on Amazon in the UK here
You can buy Miyuki: The Silence of Deep Snow on Amazon in the US here

Saturday, 16 February 2013

What's In A Cover?

Dirty Little Fuck Doll V7
To propose that we don't judge a book by its cover is like suggesting that a woman should not conclude first impressions of a man based on his physique and style, nor a man on similar elements of a woman's appearance. Whilst in all of these cases, the content beneath the exterior is of primary importance, it is those first impressions that invite us to investigate the opportunity further, or to pass harmlessly by. We may not judge a book entirely by its cover, but if we aren't drawn in by it then we shall never judge it at all.

Dirty Little Fuck Doll V4
My own experiences have taught me that the designing of an eBook cover, is far from similar to designing one for its printed counterpart. A physical book can be pulled closer or pushed further away, it can be turned in the hands, held to the light and just generally experienced as an actual entity, something which exists. An eBook cover is altogether more complex, primarily it needs to be striking as a tiny thumbnail, it simply has to jump out of the screen and hector you into clicking it. After that, it needs to stand up well as a monochromatic image on the eInk screen of your reading device, as well as looking great full size in full colour.

Thankfully, my husband is au fait with Photoshop and graphic design, but you can still imagine the daunting dilemmas we were faced with when putting together the cover for Dirty Little Fuck Doll. I'd written the book and already decided on the title, so all we needed to do was come up with a captivating cover, which as you can see from some of the unused versions I have displayed here, was far from an easy process. The cover that I finally used was the seventh attempt, all of which had at least two or three versions, with slight differences; but just didn't hit the spot for me (yes, I am a very demanding woman, and had to get my legs out to solve the problem!).

Dirty Little Fuck Doll V5
So, I'm happy that we got it right for Dirty Little Fuck Doll; even Cara Sutra who hated the book paid kudos to me for the cover; but I think The Megan Affair - Part One was not the big hitter that its predecessor was. Sales for Fuck Doll are roughly three times higher than those for Megan, even though Megan has some truly adulatory reviews and is as strong a story in its own right; I put this largely down to two factors: the cover and the title. Looking back I can acknowledge that the cover needed to be sexier and the title more memorable and striking. However, what is in the past is done, and will be considered when I develop The Megan Affair into its next stage and subsequent conclusion.

But before that happens, I have a new book to publish in the next month or so and would greatly appreciate your thoughts on eBook cover design. I'm interested to know what turns you on or off when it comes to erotica covers. Do you prefer conspicuous or subtle images? Photographs or artwork? Body parts, faces, abstract imagery or typography? Are you more likely to read an erotic fiction book with a man on the cover or a woman? If a book had great reviews but a badly designed cover, would you buy it anyway? Do certain colours work better than others? How important is it to display the graphic nature of the content on the cover?

Of course, I use the term 'cover' loosely here as in reality it covers nothing, and is more like a digital sales image; something that is to be considered a bonus that you don't need to dumb down the explicit content of the book with a seemingly harmless item like a silver tie so people don't recognise what you're reading on the bus.

Traipsing around Amazon it's possible to see some appallingly designed book covers, and some that have clearly been given some professional consideration. I think the genre of erotica does lend itself to being a little more brash with cover images, but am attentive to your contribution on this matter. Whether conscious or sub-conscious, I want to know what makes you dive in, or click away.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Remembering Sylvia Plath, 50 Years On

Almost eighteen years ago, on my first day of an A level English Literature course, I was told that we would be studying: Hamlet, A Streetcar Named Desire, Wuthering heights and Sylvia Plath's poetry. I didn't think that much of it at the time, but made a note of the books that I needed to buy.

A couple of lessons later, my teacher, a homely woman by the name of Mrs. Roberts handed out a poem called 'Daddy' by Sylvia Plath, who at that point was still unknown to me. I read it silently to myself, I read it out loud under my breath, and we all read it as a class, stanza by stanza. I was breathless, I had never been touched by poetry as much in my life as I was then.

                             "It stuck in a barb wire snare.

                             Ich, ich, ich, ich,

                             I could hardly speak.

                             I thought every German was you.

                             And the language obscene.

                             An engine, an engine

                             Chuffing me off like a Jew.

                             A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

                             I began to talk like a Jew.

                             I think I may well be a Jew."

 I was intoxicated by the words, they strangled me, threatened me and yet comforted me because my life seemed better than she saw hers to be. Just reading that one poem was like somebody had held a looking glass before me, and smashed my own reflection under my very gaze. I was confused, because I loved my own father so much, and yet there was another person expressing such graphic resentment towards hers, and it was the graphical language that attracted me most.

We went on to read more, more poems made up of rich, gothic and morose words that seemed to criticise and evaluate society and modern life, as well as the poet and those she associated with. It was her light touch with words that delivered the hardest blows for me, she could say more in one line than many other writers could in an entire book. We explored 'Lady Lazarus', 'Ariel', Nick and the Candlestick' and the gorgeous 'Morning Song', which starts with the evocatively warming opening line: 'Love set you going like a fat gold watch'. I remember watching Mrs. Roberts' lips as she read that line for the first time, because some of the poems we studied she like to read to us before handing out the text. I was enthralled and captivated by the dark world and gloomy reality of Plath's vision. Looking back at some of my own work, I can see that I am heavily influenced by Plath's anatomical imagery.

Mrs. Roberts had mentioned on the first day she introduced us to Plath, that the doomed poetess had committed suicide, but it wasn't for another month or so until she told us how or why. My eyes were wide, and my mouth hung limply open as she explained in the detail and extravagance that only a literature teacher can. By leaving me the space of time to get to know the person behind the words and understand the meaning of her anguish, the cold details of the death of Sylvia Plath really disturbed and upset me.

On the 11th February it will be fifty years since the greatest poet I have ever read took her own life, and condemned herself to a legacy of poetic genius. It was not her lack of success as a writer which lead to her suicidal depression, but nonetheless, it is an ironic truth that Plath became far more appreciated and valued as a poet after her death, being one of the few posthumous winners of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1982 for her 'Collected Works'.

I think that today is the perfect opportunity to recall why and how she took her own life, and what the implications were to the legacy of her work, her estranged husband Ted Hughes and the literary world as a whole.

Plath had never been emotionally stable, she had a history of depression and had meaningfully attempted suicide at least once before, consuming a bottle of sleeping pills and sneaking herself under the family home in Massachusetts, during the summer of 1953; where she remained for two days, until her brother Warren heard a groaning noise from under the floorboards and she was found in a semi-conscious state. It was that episode that she referred to in 'Daddy':

                             "At twenty I tried to die

                             And get back, back, back to you.

                             I thought even the bones would do.

                             But they pulled me out of the sack,

                             And they stuck me together with glue."

Following the attempt on her own life she spent a period of time in a psychiatric hospital, where she received both electroconvulsive therapy and barbaric insulin shock treatments, which induced a coma like state. She remained under hospital care for over six months and these 'treatments' would scar her for the remaining ten years of her life.

Plath's discomfort with her father's death just after her eighth birthday is well documented and cast a shadow of abandonment that she feared from that point on, and was undoubtedly what influenced her obsessive attachment to men. The hatred that she expressed for him in 'Daddy' was not hatred towards him as a person, but because of the resentment she felt at having him taken away from her at such a young age, a mental scar that was to be compounded by her absence from not only his funeral, and also his grave until she was twenty-six. The visit roused old memories and inspired her to write 'Electra on Azalea Path':

                             "Small as a doll in my dress of innocence

                             I lay dreaming your epic, image by image.

                             Nobody died or withered on that stage...

                             O pardon the one who knocks for pardon at

                             Your gate, father­-- your hound-bitch, daughter, friend.

                             It was my love that did us both to death."

Plath made a point of expressing her animosity and malevolence towards her mother, both through the autobiographical central character of her novel 'The Bell Jar'; and in her own diary, where she blamed Aurelia for Otto's death, recording:

     "I hate her hate her hate her ... I hate her because he [her father] wasn't loved by her. He was an ogre. But I miss him. He was old, but she married an old man to be my father. It was her fault. Damn her eyes."

Her detestation is entirely unreasonable, and a clear sign of neurosis, as Aurelia was continually supportive of her daughter, having encouraged her to write from an early age and supporting her through the painful trails of mental illness. Referring to psychoanalytical theory, it is regarded that those whom we claim to hate are the very people we associate the most with; I feel that Plath rejected her mother because she saw so much of herself in her, as well as using it as a defense mechanism. By convincing herself that she hated her mother, she became immune to either her disapproval or eventual death. Plath took great care not to let another parent cut her as deeply as her father did by passing away before she had fulfilled her use of him.

It is widely acknowledged that Plath finally filled the gap left by Otto's death when she married the English poet Ted Hughes in Bloomsbury, London during the summer of 1956, after meeting him a year earlier whilst studying at Cambridge. It is worth noting that it is at this point that the main body of her adult poetry starts in her collected works (Faber and Faber, 1981). Her happiness was relatively short-lived, and as early as 1958 she began to doubt Ted's reverence after witnessing him taking intimate strolls around campus with young female scholars, at the university in Massachusetts where he was teaching.

They moved back to England and set up a home in Devon, but in July 1962 she discovered that Ted had been conducting an affair with an attractive German woman, Assia Wevill, (who herself had only been married two years to the poet David Wevill). After a short break in Ireland, an attempt to patch up the cracks in their marriage, Plath and Hughes separated in September. The following month, she experienced a powerful bout of creativity, writing over twenty-five poems, that would go on to make up the bulk of her posthumously published, critically acclaimed collection, Ariel. In the darkness of the early mornings, she scrawled out: "Stings," "Wintering," "The Jailer," "Lesbos," "Lady Lazarus," "Daddy," "Ariel," "The Applicant," "The Detective," "Cut" and "Nick and the Candlestick", and many more in a machine-like haste.

In December, she moved back to London with Frieda and Nicholas, securing a desirable apartment at 23, Fitzroy Road in Camden, part of a building that once served as a home to the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, something which seemingly gave Plath a brief sense of positivity towards her future. But, the winter was cold, the worst that Britain had experienced for over sixty years, her and the children suffered with colds, but for Plath it developed into a severe bout of influenza in January. Alone, with two small children in the depths of a crippling winter,  and the intermittent support of her friends, she fell deeper into depression. The publication in Britain of her first novel 'The Bell Jar', gave Plath little respite, as her American publisher had rejected the manuscript. On the twenty-seventh of January, Anthony Burgess posted a positive review of her book in The Observer which should have lightened her mood, but it appeared next to a poem by Hughes, and hurled Plath deeper into the furnace of depression. Shortly after this, she called her physician Dr. Horder, pleading with him that she feared that another breakdown was imminent. Evidently concerned, he immediately prescribed her anti-depressant medication and began to search for a hospital bed for her, after learning of her previous suicide attempts.

On February seventh, she packed a few belongings and took the children to with stay with friends Gerry and Jillian Becker, in nearby Mountfort Crescent. Her time there was spent bouncing between the two extremes she knew so well, dressing immaculately for dinner and eating with a good appetite, then spending half the night in crisis, relaying to Jillian her hatred for Ted, her mother and 'she', Plath never referred to Assia by name. She needed a large quantity of sleeping tablets at the start of the night, then after resting for just a couple of hours she would lie and call for Jillian. Her early morning depression was the hardest to surmount, requiring Plath to consume her 'wake-up' pills at least ninety minutes before she was capable of lifting herself out of bed. Jillian and Gerry were good to her, they never complained or remonstrated against what must have been a huge burden on the normality of their own family life.

Gerry took Frieda and Nicholas along with his own daughter to the zoo on Sunday, following a peculiar set of occurrences when Plath had briefly left the house carrying a suitcase that contained acocktail dress and hair curlers for some mysterious appointment. Whilst they were out, Jillian fed Plath with a hearty meal before she headed up to sleep for the longest period in four days. Finally waking at teatime, Plath declared that she felt quite better, and requested that she be taken home to Fitzroy Road. Naturally the Beckers tried to dissuade her, but she was indomitable with her demands. Gerry drove her back, returning home at eight o'clock and recounting to Jillian how Plath had wept for the whole journey back, yet refused his pleas to take her back to Mountfort Crescent.

Whilst Dr. Horder claims to have seen Plath on the evening of the tenth February, it is known for certain that Prof. Thomas was the last person to see her alive. Shortly before midnight she knocked on his door and requested a postage stamp, initially refusing to accept the money she offered him, Plath insisted that she must pay him, and forebodingly told him "or I won't be right with my conscience before God." She took her leave, but Thomas did not hear her walk away or climb the stairs; some moments later he opened his door again to find her standing in the cold, dark hall. Evidently concerned by her behaviour, Thomas offered to call the doctor, but Plath dismissed his suggestion, telling him that she had had "a wonderful vision." Some hours later, the professor was kept awake by her repetitive pacing backwards and forwards on the floorboards above his room.

At nine the next morning Myra Norris, a nurse booked by Dr. Horder knocked on the main door of 23, Fitzroy Road; she initially had trouble entering the house, but was let in by Charles Langridge, a builder who was working in a neighbouring property repairing a burst pipe, damaged by the savage temperatures they were still experiencing. They immediately became choked by the unmistakeable sulphuric odour of gas and rushed up to Plath's flat on the next floor. Langridge smashed the door down and they discovered Plath's body sprawled out on the kitchen floor.

                             "The woman is perfected.

                             Her dead


                             Body wears the smile of accomplishment,

                             The illusion of a Greek necessity


                             Flows in the scrolls of her toga,

                             Her bare

                             Feet seem to be saying:

                             We've come so far, it is over..."

                             (Edge- 5th February 1963)

Frieda and Nicholas were safe, she had executed the mechanical operation of ending her torturous existence with the precision of a truly committed person. In the small hours of the morning, at the time most common for suicides, she climbed the stairs to the top floor of her flat, left a breakfast of bread and milk for her beloved children, placing it by their high-sided cots, flung the window wide open and taped up the cracks between the frame and door, using towels to further protect them from the gaseous poison that would soon be flowing freely around the house. She returned to the kitchen on the middle floor of the house, lay down before the gas oven, folded a small towel and placed her head on it, with the gas taps turned on full.

Plath's death has become something of a contemporary mythology, it certainly elevated the status of her work, but also served to divide popular opinion. There is no escaping her literary genius, but researching this piece I have found great swathes of blame towards all involved. Some commenters on a recent Guardian article accused her of being a bad mother, for me it is clear that Frieda and Nick were the only two people she had ever loved without condition or compromise. The level she went to to protect them from the fumes illustrates this perfectly. Severe mental illness does not inhibit your ability to love or care for your children.

The majority of Plath fans point their finger at Ted Hughes for his part in her downfall, but it is important to remember that she had attempted suicide before even meeting him. Whilst his abandonment of her for Assia Wevill, certainly pushed Plath into a very dark space, countless women have survived such events; it's not pretty and it's not healthy, and although it was without doubt a contributing factor, his adultery was not the sole cause behind her manic depression and impeding suicide. I do not like Hughes, neither as a person, nor as a poet; I find him to be repulsively arrogant, and his poetic works to be greatly overestimated and pretentious. His writing benefited from her death just as much as hers did, except he was alive to enjoy it.

The cause of Plath's suicide could only be found within her own brilliant mind. She was the victim of the circumstances that went before her, which all contributed to and deepened her state of mental illness. Psychiatric 'care' in the sixties was still primitive and barbaric, Plath was aware of her state of mind, having previously alerted Horder that she feared the onset of another breakdown, it may have been the memory of the electroconvulsive therapy that she had experienced a decade before that drove her conclude that death was a more suitable conclusion. Regardless of how we hypothesise, we will never understand her frame of mind during those last few hours. Did she wake up at teatime in the Becker's house and decide to take her life that night? Was she uncertain, is that why she was pacing the floor above the professor's flat? Did she find peace on those final moments as she lay her head in the oven, or was she fearful of what to expect? Was it always gas, or did she plan to overdose on sleeping tablets again, but changed her mind for a more definite method? How the tears must have been streaming down her face when she closed the door on her children for the final time, did she hold them tightly?

She was buried in the Hughes home town of Heptonstall, Yorkshire on Saturday 16th February. Her grave is visited by thousands of people every year.
At nine o'clock on Monday 11th February, I shall take a few moments to myself and respect the ghastly events which unfolded in that quiet suburb of north London fifty years ago. I shall picture the horror that unfolded for the unsuspecting Nurse Norris and Langridge, I will imagine the traumatic yet seemingly inevitable telephone conversation that informed Ted of his wife's death, I will cogitate the failings that Aurelia Plath felt, and the harsh reality of a second great loss. But most of all I shall think of the woman who suffered so much and yet created some of the most beautifully illustrative literature that has ever been written in the English language, one who has inspired me to be a better writer ever since my eyes first scanned the pages of her work.


                              Is an art, like everything else.

                             I do it exceptionally well.

                             I do it so it feels like hell.

                             I do it so it feels real.

                             I guess you could say I've a call."

                             (Lady Lazarus- October 1962)


Anne Stevenson- Bitter Fame, A Life of Sylvia Plath.

Sylvia Plath- Collected poems.

Gina Wisker- Sylvia Plath, A Beginner's Guide.

The Guardian- Love, Loathing and Life with Ted Hughes (March 2000)

Friday, 13 July 2012

'The Megan Affair - Part One' sample

My latest offering to the world of erotic fiction 'The Megan Affair - Part One', has been receiving some excellent reviews on Amazon. So you can get a taster of the tensions that make up the first part of this serialisation, I am offering the following sample to draw you in!

I'm currently working on the second part of this series, which will be released around the end of July.


         The injury had mollified my mood, albeit involuntarily, John took me to the bathroom, where he cleaned and dressed my wound. I absolutely hated his generosity, but at the time I had no choice. We didn't have any bandages in the house, so he cut up an old towel and taped it tightly around my arm with some duct tape that he had bought years ago, with the misguided intention of fixing something.
"Are you okay Sarah?" He looked me in the eye for the first time that night, I slouched back against the bath, as I noticed a suggestion of guilt pass over his face.
"Of course I'm not okay." I said quietly, staring back at him.
"My husband is fucking a girl young enough to be his child, I've just trashed my own house, and now I've cut my fucking arm open!" I managed to stay calm during the first part of the sentence, before the anger began to swell again as my energy returned.
"What part of my life is okay John?" I raised my voice as much as my faint-headed state would allow.
John didn't answer, he sat on the closed toilet lid and rightly accepted that silence was the only appropriate response.
He looked at the floor and I looked away from him, neither of us could bear the sight of one another. I became more clear-headed, but my arm still throbbed intently, it was only the pain that prevented me from losing my temper even further. If I'd had the energy, I probably would have smashed the bathroom up as well. Although I'm not a violent woman, I find that there are certain instances in life when you cease to be the person you normally are.
I had loved him, and I knew that he loved me; but I think that even before he'd found himself a young floozy, I doubt we were 'in love' anymore. I guess our marriage had evolved into a partnership of support, friendship and respect; well, I respected him at least. In spite of all his apologies and protestations, it was clear that he no longer respected me; if he had, he wouldn't have done what he did.
But, John was about to leave and I never wanted to see him again, although I did want him to think of me, I wanted him to remember what we had, and what he threw away. A moment's inspiration told me exactly how to get inside his head.
"John..." I snapped at him, from my slouched position between the sink and bath.
"Ooohh!" He lifted his sobbing head out of his hands and looked directly at me. "Yeah?" "Will you fuck me?" I said matter-of-factly, in the same tone I would use to ask him to pass me the salt.
"Huh?" I had his attention, I don't think he could believe what he had just heard.
"I said, will you fuck me John?" I repeated calmly, holding eye contact with him and resisting the temptation to blink.
"Sarah are you..."
"Yes I'm fucking serious John!" I found the energy and anger within me to raise my voice again.
"I'm...oh... fuck." John stammered, I could see that his mind was a warren of confusion.
"John, it's a simple question." His hesitancy was not my concern, I was fully aware that I held pole position in the argument, and I intended to capitalise on it. I don't get angry very often, but when I do I find it brings with it an aroused and inflamed sexual appetite, this episode with John was no exception.
"I think under the circumstances, you owe me that much at least." I stared at him and awaited a response, I guessed by his unease that he must have made a vow of fidelity to his little slut. The idea of him cheating on her flooded my threadbare panties.
"I can't Sarah. It's not fair." I fought the weakness and pulled myself up, gripping the side of the sink with my good arm, as the bad one hung limply by my side.
"John, don't tell me what's fair. Fair has no place in this house anymore!" I called out, as I walked wobblingly to open the window, before stopping directly in front of him. I felt his nervy breath on the top of my head, as the cool breeze made me feel a little more awake.
My anger with him gradually homogenised into a needy resolve to fuck the bastard. I wanted to do it for all three of our sakes: for my satisfaction, his guilt and her anger. In my mind it was the only reasonable thing to do. As he stood muttering nervously to himself, I dropped to my knees, still a little unsteady, I gripped his legs for support, John's knees buckled immediately from his apprehensive attitude towards the unfolding situation.
"John!" I snapped, and he subserviently stood properly. What happened from there on began as a vengeful need for malevolence, yet transpired to be the means to fulfil one of my basic needs. Sure, I wanted to hurt her and make him guilty on two counts; but my biggest concern at that precise moment was the growing rate of moisture between my legs.
The fact he didn't wear a belt made it easy to get inside his trousers. John was the only man I knew who would wear a shirt tucked into his jeans without a belt; I wonder what I ever saw in him. After fumbling unsuccessfully for a few seconds, I lost my temper and ripped them open, briefly raising my eyebrows in satisfaction of ruining his jeans.
"No...Sarah...I can't..." He sighed unconvincingly to himself, as I pulled them down to his ankles and noticed that he had new briefs on.
"Shut up John! You owe me this." He didn't argue, he couldn't argue. He was beginning to get the hang of this 'silence at appropriate moments' thing.
The growing mound in John's pants made my mouth water, the anger and adrenaline probably helped, but I've never been the type of woman who could turn down a good hard cock. Although he never had much intelligence or style and turned out to be a complete bastard, John had the perfect cock. It was monolithically long and thick, it was delicious in every interpretable sense of the word. I swayed erratically on my knees before him, his dick looked even more satisfying to me then as it was no longer exclusively mine.
"No..." His protestations decreased in volume, as he dutifully stepped out of his old jeans and immaculate briefs. His fuckrod stood upright and ready for action, the last few inches had disappeared under the base of his blood stained shirt. A somewhat contradictory response from someone who persistently attempted to spurn the advances from the woman whose blood covered his shirt.
"No...Ohhh...Arrhhh...Sar..." He tried, he tried to tell me to stop, but as I dropped my cavernous throat around his succulent cock, he knew he couldn't say no. John's shaft was immense, yet my oral talents were accommodating, many times he had told me that I was the only woman who could fit it all in. And John loved a woman who could fit it all in. I bet his little slut can't, oh he's going to enjoy this!
I stood up from my kneeling position and bent my waist bent to an almost perfect right angle, with my neck strained back; that way I could take more of his cock in me as I unkinked my windpipe. Before returning to work on him I glanced fleetingly into his eyes, I saw a voiceless man who was completely lost in his own life.
John neither protested against, nor encouraged my actions. As I spread my lips and slid inch after inch of his heroic cock between them, the eroticism of the situation overcame me, I could no longer keep my free hand out of my own tatty trousers. Angry sex can be one of the most paradoxical emotional actions; I wanted to kill the fucker, yet at the same time to give him the best orgasm he had ever had.