What I Learned From A Friend When All I Wanted Was To Bash His Head In

Image: Graeme Cross

This friend of mine  – I will call him Paul –  falls asleep during all the movies I recommend.  All of them. 

After hearing Paul´s deep breathing, and after digging my elbows into his ribs for the umpteenth time, I asked him why he didn’t like the movie we were watching. The movie was Mudbound. He said:

 There’s no action.

I can’t force him to see (or like) what I see (and like). I can only try to understand why he can neither see nor like it.

I quickly realize that Paul and I have differing notions of what constitutes action. I’m more interested in what I will call internal (or psychological) action, that is, in the emotional forces that drive the characters to behave as they do. He, Paul, is more interested in external action; in the deeds the characters perform. Paul is looking for deeds, for peaks, conflicts, bullets, in sum, for the real, hands-on obstacles that a protagonist overcomes.

Mudbound, the movie he couldn´t keep his eyes open through, is strong on the internal action scale. As far as the external action goes, however, and despite the potentially epic dimensions of the themes the movie uncovers (poverty, racism, war, faith, the harsh reality of the American dream, for more detail feel free to google), Mudbound is not an action-packed film which rapidly unfolds in any way. 

Image: Rakesh Singh

No one has a monopoly on your interest

A person´s interest is steered by the questions the text/film/etc encourages you to ask. If you feel you have no questions to ask, your interest dies. We could argue about which questions you’re asking, why you are(n’t) asking these types of questions, but at the end of the day, no one has a monopoly on your interest, and you are free to decide what is ‘good’ according to your own terms. 

Mudbound is a movie that requires empathy. I realize that this friend, Paul, a white male, well off beyond any personal merit, feels no empathy because he has never been or needed to imagine himself in the shoes of a poor sharecropper, let alone a black sharecropper, or someone whose soul is damaged by war. Am I entitled to judge him for this?

I ask myself:

Is it simply him? Or men in general? Or white men in general? Or white people in general? Or rulers (or those who perceive themselves to be) in general???

And suddenly I see a common thread, in men, white, ruler… and I see in them: the hunter. The hunter can have no empathy with the hunted. The hunter must obliterate all empathy (if empathy is there at all…) otherwize the hunter will be unable to kill.

The hunted, on the other hand, are constantly putting themselves in the mindset of the hunter, they need to know, to anticipate and outwit the hunter, for that’s the only way they will survive.

But no one speaks of hunters anymore, do they? All the talk is about heroes. We decriminalize the concept, and (or so that?) the game goes on…

Image: Taryn Kaahanui

Months later, I´m still thinking about all this. My hypothesis still felt right. For a while. 

Who am I to judge? What is the use of knowledge if it doesn’t transform anything, starting with yourself? Surely, the ultimate goal of any form of understanding is love. Yes, I know how corny that sounds, but love must win. Love wants to win, love will win, thus I am grateful for this internal debate for the understanding it has brought me. Yes, there is prejudice. Yes, there is ignorance. Yes, power is mightily abused. Those who are crushed may live that anger. Use that anger. Transform that anger… for nothing is gained if all we do is fall in love with anger…

Let’s not stop here, let´s not relinquish our agentivity, for we are not mudbound. We cannot neutralize negativity by directing even more negativity at it so that the strongest negativity will prevail (no matter what the warlords say).

I will take the beam out of my own eye…

and I thought I would ‘teach’ Paul something, but look how things turned out. It is (always) about the self. I was the one learning.

If knowledge does not lead to change, then we have learned nothing.

Mudbound: it’s smart and hard and leaves me thinking about forgiveness and how it is demanded of black people to constantly forgive white people for what they have done to us.

No, I´m not inclined to tone this down to cater to white fragility. If the hat fits, wear it. 

What was I saying? Ah yes, forgiveness. And we do. 

But remember: Ronsel’s pa, Hap, is a pastor… it is the ultimate Christian act to turn the other cheek, but listen carefully to what Hap says by the graveside of that old Klan member, Pappy McAllan. It was hardly a eulogy.

Ronsel´s Ma, Florence, is a midwife. These two professions – the pastor and the midwife –  have always been essential and respected work in human society, yet in this film these qualified leaders are reduced to digging the soil… They are black.

Yeah, it’s definitely a film about give and take at so many levels.

And it’s a film that has you digging in your own soul like the protagonists do in the soil. What is it we are searching for anyway? For some eternal truth that God has given mankind? God: no one knows you though we have all given you a name.

And who knows if that soil will bring fruit? Maybe in your soul all there is to be found is mud? 

Again, lots of Christian imagery in that film:

Darkness, light, crucifixion, father-son relationships, love thy neighbour, turn the other cheek, all equal before the eyes of God…

But the church in the film ain’t got no roof, so: religion but an empty edifice? Do you even need a special building to be a true Christian?

You can say the Bible, which, incidentally, Ronsel’s dad, Hap, only pretends to cite from  – his son is still teaching him how to read –  is yet another empty symbol, cos what really counts isn’t the Word but the deed…  We have an embittered, old white father, Pappy McAllan, who belongs to the Klan. Killing black people is his favourite pastime.  One of Pappy´s two sons, Jamie (the other one is Henry) is not only totally unlike him, but bonds with Ronsel over their wartime traumas. Jamie cannot forgive his father´s behavior and kills him in the end. What do we have here: we have a black family that not only tolerates the dehumanizing attitude of the white society, but somehow manages to turn the cheek to a white family that is Christian enough to want a holy man to preside over the funeral of its racist patriarch, Pappy McAllan. Henry McAllan acknowledges Ronsel´s dad in this capacity as a pastor, but somehow fails to see the hypocrisy of asking the black preacher to bury the racist man who was killed by his own son because the same father tried to kill the son´s black friend, who happens to be the pastor´s own son.

When Ronsel´s father, Hap, agrees to say a prayer at the funeral of this bigoted, vicious, ignorant man who has not one drop of love in his soul, it is not an act of subordination to the political and discriminatory forces of the day. Hap sees it as his Christian duty. It is not in his power to judge. We will all get what we deserve when the day comes.

The way many who object to it see it, Christianity is a religion that says yes to suffering and that’s what makes it such an excellent tool for exploitation. But of course, that´s not what it was designed for, was it? In Mudbound, as in fiction in the humanist tradition, we see human nature close up and cannot help but direct the questions we pose about such fictional characters to various aspects of our own behavior.

Image: Sami a Hussain

You choose. 

You choose to see or not to see. You choose to react or not to react. To regard yourself as a victim, or to transcend victimhood. You choose to judge the other, or take a critical look at yourself, and do something to counter the thick, encrusted mud on your own feet, in your own heart, the mud which stops you from moving forward to become that better person you know you are. 

Please note: this is work in progress. Pictures are placeholders and courtesy of Unsplash

I could be dead but now I’m laughing: how to walk with angels



The doctor said it was too late. Soft medicine would be of no use to me now. I cried into my pillow as the visions of what I still wanted to achieve in my life flashed before me then ran off into the bushes.

Don’t move. If you do, you could bleed to death in less than three minutes.

I practised being dead, resisting every urge to cough or twitch, but first I called the children to hear their voice in case…

And as I practised being dead – getting better and better at it – a familiar face ventured almost apologetically into the room. So grateful was I to see him one more time that I cried in earnest. It wouldn’t matter if I bled to death now.

That was around two years ago. Two years, over 600 pills a month and the will to prove everyone wrong. Whenever anyone says ‘no’ to me, I make it my mission to prove them wrong. The doctors had been telling me for years that I would be on medication for life.

‘Are you sure that I won’t be able to get off these pills one day?’

‘No. Let’s be honest’.

That was their No. Not mine. On my miraculous journey back to health from a chronic kidney disease, I have many people to thank but above all, I owe my life to Dounne Alexander, founder of Gramma’s International. My cousin had drawn my attention to this woman and her amazing health food products. I ordered several sachets of Zara’s Herbal Tea. If it was too late for soft medicine, as my nephrologist claimed, then it could hardly harm me, could it? Suffice it to say that within a few months of taking Zara’s Herbal Tea, my blood values improved by 60%. The very same doctor who told me I would be on medication for life now assured me that it was not unthinkable that I could be off medication if my progress continued. That day is now. Against all odds, and after eight years of taking the strongest medicine on the market, I am now totally off medication altogether. Thank you, Dounne. Thank you so, so much. I could be dead, but instead I’m laughing.


Laughing. Dreaming. Seeking the truth that waits, patiently, in little things. Finding the strength to return to my destiny, unafraid. Recognizing angels, thanking angels, joining their ranks, for we are all somebody’s angel when the time is right. Throwing myself at life. Yes, all things are possible: everything conceivable and inconceivable, is.


What was inconceivable thirty years ago is now a dream come true: I’ve finally received my PhD in Creative & Critical Writing after six years of hard work, doubt, inspiration, personal calamity and all the things that can happen to you over such a long period. At least two or three times a year I almost gave up this dream, but then I remembered that I had waited almost 30 years to make this dream come true. And I remembered my children, who never failed to believe that I was some kind of superhero who could achieve everything I set my mind to. And I remembered my partner, willing to go through thick and thin with me, willing to carry me around the house in my worst days when I couldn’t even walk. I remember him saying, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ For these people, I soldiered on. And for God, who slipped me this task all those decades ago, in a dream, in that realm beyond reason, where I am least able to resist. God whispered. And waited. And sent in reinforcements. I’m exhausted and happy. What difference does it make if I can’t see myself returning to an academic career, this achievement is still absolutely what I’m about: live your dream and don’t give up!


So, what do you do after you’ve been through all that, after you’ve been fighting you entire life, in one way or another, and you come out the winner? You cultivate the art of satisfaction, for one. I’m simply happy to be here. Whilst I’m here, I’m going to make myself useful!

After all those decades in the classroom, do I miss teaching? Sometimes. I remember the fun I had with the students who took my Creative Writing class. There’s something incredibly intense about discovering our own stories. I’m not talking about autobiographical writing, but simply about finding, about trusting your own voice. It was an honour for me to help so many students find and share their voice. Like Kent Beausoleil, an American priest who took my Creative Writing Summer Workshop:




Over a hospital tray

of uneaten Jell-O,

maternal death looming,

I ask my mother of regrets.


Calmly through oxygen haze

and medicine drip

she says ‘no’.


Later at home, posthumously,

I feel the lie.


Seven delinquent kids regrets

Cigarette asphyxiation regrets.

Married at 19 regrets.



am regret.


And the empty liquor bottle tips.


(Kent Beausoleil, in Shaking Thoughts)


I feel proud to be a part of that. No need to regret no longer being a teacher or lecturer. I’m an author. Always have been, always will be, dancing with my devils, walking with the angels, keeping an ear open for what is whispered to me in my dreams.

Sex, lies and deluxe dildos: If I dare to, will you too?


JBS banner


I’ve been doing a reality check and I’ve come up with SO MANY things I just NEED to share with you, cos I bet I’m not alone regarding some of the things I’m discovering.

Like what?

Who’s into donkey dicks, say ‘Aye!’

Am I a freak? I don’t think I’m a freak…

Reality check: I’m definitely NOT into big dicks.

In erotic stories, he’s always XXXL and she’s always got a teeny-weeny tight little mouse hole, so he ends up stretching her to the max. Which she loves.

Erm, no thanks. Any time I’ve ever had a man let out his donkey dick, I gulp out of sheer fright and would rather run 100 miles in the opposite direction. I have be known to send guys home without ‘getting it’, cos I’m definitely not into that. Have him stretch me so far I’ll either need stitching or be fanny farting for hours to come? Erm, no thanks.

Just because it’s huge, doesn’t mean it’s good. Now this is where I need you to dare to tell me the truth:

If you have a partner with such a whopper, is it really good sex or is it just painful sex? Painful not in a sexy way, but just plain uncomfortable?

And for my gentlemen readers:

Has a woman ever said: ‘no thank you, hun, pack it back and take it home’?

I guess it also depends on how skilled your partner is, whatever the size. As my grandmother once told me as we stood by the kitchen window, thinking up stories about passers by:

some a them got them Rolls Royce and don’ even know how to park it. And some a them got them mini and can park it everywhere perfectly well, thank you.

Me? I like mini that can ease itself into the tightest of slots…

I need a new toy. Any advice?

My birthday’s coming up soon. It’s time I increase my repertoire of sex aids. For the moment, all I have  –  in addition to my bedroom shoes and a crotch-less body stocking (which I DO look good in!)  –   is a variety of (fresh!) fruit and veg. Oh, and my corduroy chair. If you don’t know the story about my corduroy chair and the role it plays, along with another woman, in my best orgasm ever, read about it here. For those who already know the story but would like to read it again (and hear an orgasm that would make Meg Ryan crawl back to her trailer park), go ahead, treat yourself, I don’t mind.

A good friend of mine has given me a tip: the eroscillator. Do you know this one? OMG!!! I’ve got the top deluxe version on my wish list now. It’s not cheap ($240), but my birthday’s coming up (so is Christmas). Here’s what some of the users are saying:


I was hesitant to spend the money on this even after I read the reviews. I haven’t left the first setting yet and wow is all can say. I may not ever leave my house again.
Wife loves this one. Has plenty of power and never quits. Had to order 2 in case the first one broke.

Works well but we don’t think it’s worth the money

Well now, doesn’t THAT sound tempting? One woman claims to be using her eroscillator  for fourteen years now. Can’t make up my mind whether that’s good or sad. The equipment itself looks more like the donkey variety than the mini variety, but maybe I should give it a try. Over to you:

  • What’s your view/experience regarding (overly) well-endowed men?
  • What’s your tip for my next sexy prezzie?
  • Are there any toys out there that you consider a complete waste of time?

Hear from you soon, and remember:

Stay strong, stay beautiful, stay just the way you are.

Who’s pleasing whom? In search of our own language

Simon_Penning Pleasure_2



When I ask myself the question: WHO IS PLEASING WHOM???

It’s the first part of a pair. What follows is:



This is the theme of my next non-fiction book. It’s a critical analysis of writing in the feminine and of the (still far too) male-dominated nature of academic discourse. Will we ever dare to speak our own language(s) and survive in today’s academic landscape?

I’ve got several bones to pick in this book. I look at what Nicole Brossard calls writing in the feminine and at just how far we may go in calling this style of writing a new language. I look critically at Brossard’s use of the term we, wondering how (and why) a white middle-class lesbian feminist can claim to be the mouthpiece of all women. I look at what language permits and what its gatekeepers will not allow. I also look at language’s gatekeepers and the extent to which even feminists bow to their demands. This leads me to question the situation of  feminist scholars who (must?) continue to speak the ‘old’ patriarchal language. I recall my own experience as a scholar, setting a new accent, being both creative and critical in my writing, only to be told by my feminist tutor and by my feminist examiners that: you don’t do it that way. Why not? Is there really only one way? One language, a single voice, in this day and age where diversity is self-explanatory? When will there ever be change if no one dares? The tension between feminist intentions and the real possibilities of expression within an academic arena become viciously apparent. In this book I also look at the merits of writing in the feminine as, perhaps, a first measure that leads us in a good (I’m not sure that I’m ready to say right) direction. Thought is a journey in language. There can never only be one way. This book is about daring to fly and assessing the risks. I hope you’ll read it when it’s out.


Just so that you know:

The contents of this book are part of my PhD in Creative & Critical Writing. Do you see the joke: if you can’t be creative and critical in a PhD in Creative & Critical Writing, then where? I’ve passed the exam and will receive my diploma by Christmas. Now I can beef up my critique and say it how I mean it.

You don’t know me. Yet.

Women. Pussy-smelling women whose scent screams at you what will never cross their lips. That’s how he knew who I was.


Where was it? When? Soaking up all the attention as though the party were being thrown for him. He was a guest like everyone else.


– I know what you’d like…

– I beg your pardon?




– I told you.

He scooped out my cream. Painted his lips with it.

– Kiss me.

– This doesn’t mean you know me.

– I know you well enough. You’ll be back for more.



There should have been guilt somewhere but there wasn’t.


– If Nick was any good, you wouldn’t be here, so don’t worry about it.

– Who told you that I’m worrying?

– You do this all the time, then, do you?


Watching my family life from a distance. It seemed so normal. So good. So empty. Maybe one day the children will hate me. They look happy for now.


Do you love me, he wanted to know.

– Do I need to?

­– A little bit, at least.

– Do you love me?

– Enough to eat you out and finger you the right way until you spritz. I thought it would hit the ceiling. How would I explain that to my wife? Next time we do that, can I film you? Place a camera between your tits and film your spritz and me sticking my face in and gulping down the lot.


Folding the laundry. Nick will be home soon. I will get the peck on the cheek.


He is a good man, I say.

– Well he’s not good enough.


What can I say?


I don’t like the look of Tatar’s dick. What he does with it is heavenly. Slapping my face with it till it’s as stiff as a rolling pin and down my throat till I threw up on him once so he punched me. It was a reflex, he said.

– Sorry.

To prove it, he scraped some of the sick of the sheets and ate it.

– Now kiss me.



Nick is worried that I’m no longer happy. He says he feels there’s something wrong. Talk to me, Carmina. All I see is a good man who hasn’t a clue. Maybe I should put him out of his misery.



I think we should stop, I say.

– No.

– Tatar, let’s be reasonable.

– We haven’t even started!

– Look, I’m not coming today.

– Then I’ll turn up at your place.

– Don’t you dare!

– Nick’s my friend. I knew him before I met you. What’s to stop me coming by for a chat with my mate?

– I’m warning you!

– When can you get here?

– It’s our wedding anniversary, for God’s sake!

– When can you get here?



I said I’d send him a message. A harmless one.




This short episode picks up the protagonists of my trilogy, Verses Nature: The Memoirs Of A Lonely Hotwife:


VN trilogy Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 11.51.27

‘Literary, astute and gifted (…) shocking, erotic, disturbing and impossible to put down (…) runs right up to the boundaries of the usually acceptable, and then rides right over them.’ (Simone Leigh, best-selling author)


Not erotica in the conventional sense, but rather erotic literary feminist fiction. Yes, fiction can be erotic and literary. Yes, fiction can be erotic and feminist.

The complete trilogy is out now!

€0.99c. That’s a joke, really. This preferential price is to break down your reservations, not only because if you are who I think you are, then you’ll love this challenging read, but primarily because I’m ready and waiting for the discussion I know we’ll have about what erotica is and can do.

Don’t wear the labels other seek to pin on you. Even as you take their words/structures,  make them your own.


Stuart Aken on Blood Red Dust and the double-edged sword of superlative science fiction

The world’s full of easy reads, with a multitude added to the ranks each day. Stuart Aken refuses to be part of that army of writers. He accepts his books, multilayered and often dealing with topics many people would prefer to ignore, aren’t easy to read. I asked him about his approach to writing.


JBS: Do you have a favourite genre in which you write?

SA: Genre: a double-edged sword. It provides clues for readers to help them decide which books they might like to read, of course. But it labels writers, constrains them and, especially if published by the bigger houses, forces them to turn out barely disguised copies of the same book under different titles for the term of their contract.

I find the story chooses the genre, and most of my work doesn’t fit neatly into any one recognised slot. I’ve written work classified as romantic thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and speculative fiction, but all these are really cross-genre books.

Fortunately, my publisher’s willing to accept my work as it is. Dan Grubb doesn’t insist on me re-writing the last book under a different title. And, let’s face it, a publisher willing to risk a 600k fantasy trilogy, aimed at an adult readership, from an obscure author, doesn’t come along every day. Fantastic Books Publishing is a true partner for my writing and I’m grateful for the support.

Also, genre has a habit of pushing readers onto a shelf where all the volumes are more or less the same. Some readers seem never to step outside their self-constructed safe zones and spend entire lives reading about zombies, alpha male romance, ghosts, crime, or any one of a number of narrow subjects. It’s a self-imposed restriction that clearly suits some people. I try to write for those open to risk, willing to try something different (I won’t say ‘new’, since there’s nothing new in writing, apart from the unique quality of an author’s voice, perhaps).


JBS: You’ve published quite a lot of novels, and had work included in a number of anthologies. What’s your latest book?

SA: A couple of years ago, I was visited in the middle of the night by an idea for a story that begged to be written. It began a science fiction style of trilogy called Generation Mars. The first book, Blood Red Dust, was written through the eyes and viewpoint of a university student producing a dissertation from multiple reports made by various characters involved in the story. Aimed at the genre aficionados, it presents facts and assumes a certain amount of knowledge as standard, so isn’t an easy read for the general reader. Set on Mars around 2074, it details the exploits of a small group of pioneering geniuses sent to Mars to build a colony there and to protect the human race from the chaotic extinction taking place on Earth at the time.

The latest book, War Over Dust, is written in a more accessible style – a standard narrative – and looks at conflicts of culture, commercialism, the dangers inherent in religious faith, and the way custom and tradition force people to act in certain ways. This book is set a further 500 years into the future, but manages to use many of the characters from the first book due to biological advances over that time. Two cultures with vastly different priorities are forced into a conflict that might end one or both. A potential romance between two people from opposite sides provides a bridge that may exacerbate or resolve the possibility of all out war.


JBS: Who are your writing heroes?

SA: The temptation is to reply ‘none’, as I have a built-in resistance to hero-worship. I exhausted the children’s library in my hometown at the age of eleven and was allowed to take adult books from then, even though they were normally available only to those aged fourteen or older. I also read my way through the entire stock of the camp library at one of the Royal Air force stations I was assigned to in my late teens. So I’ve read a lot of books over my 69 years; I estimate the number at around 10,000. I’ve forgotten most of them, of course, but they will all have planted influence and information in the grey matter. Some undoubtedly impacted on my thinking, educated me, and taught me much about writing and about life.

Among the names that float to the surface are Ray Bradbury, Iris Murdoch, John Fowles, Graham Greene, Nikki French, Stephen King, and William Golding. But that’s to neglect hundreds of others.

I was fortunate some decades ago to come across Dorothea Brande’s excellent book, ‘Becoming a Writer’. I now advise anyone who asks me how to start writing to read her book, do the exercises and follow her advice. It’s a great way to determine whether you’re fitted for the writer’s life.

These days, I don’t read as much as I used to. From three to four books a day, I’ve reduced to little more than one a week. My eyes tire after lengthy sessions at the keyboard and screen, and I’m often too weary at the end of the day to read a lot. But I still review almost every book I read.


JBS: A lot of your work’s quite dark, and your science fiction is dystopian. What drives you to that side of story-telling?

SA: There’s a rising voice against dystopian fiction; I suspect that’s because we live in a world ruled largely by despotic lunatics, and people are generally scared enough without having terror brought to them in the pages of books.

Science Fiction, in its many guises, is often a way for a writer to express perceived outcomes. I’m actually very optimistic about the future. Human beings are an extraordinary bunch: creative, kind, sharing, funny, and often wise. Of course, we hear more about the few bad apples, since good news doesn’t sell newspapers. My fiction, however, allows me to serve warning on humanity about the follies and indifference that may overtake us if we fail to address the many problems we’ve created for ourselves, and the rest of the living world. The planet will exist until the natural course of events causes our wonderful, reliable sun to swallow it up in its final death throes. But our cavalier attitude to pollution, over-population, environment, and the development of weapons of mass destruction, along with the newly-created potential monster that is AI, poses a very real danger to our continued existence.

Once aware of these potential barriers to the very existence of our species, it seems irresponsible to ignore it in my writing. In common with most writers, I have a message to spread. But I write stories first and foremost, generally throwing in some hope along the dystopian route I follow in those tales. The general idea is to entertain readers but plant seeds of doubt that might generate concern about the world we’re creating for our children.


JBS: Your website is quite minimalist in style, and I see no overt promotion of your books. What’s your attitude to marketing and promotion?

SA: Ah, you noticed? There are two reasons I fail miserably at marketing my work.

Firstly, experience has shown me the creative mind is a delicate and suggestible state. It’s easily influenced by mood, environment, conflicting activity, and priorities. I write in a sort of semi-conscious state, creating story ‘off the top of my head’ rather than following a plot or recognisable structure. I create characters, have a theme (or more than one), envisage the world my players inhabit, provide a central problem for them to solve, and then allow them to deal with the barriers and issues I place in their way. That’s how my stories develop.

I’ve found that working on promotional aspects of the craft is an entirely different activity, using a different mind-set, which interferes quite strongly with the creative mode. Since I prefer the creative aspect of writing, I’ve tended to neglect the marketing side as a result.

Secondly, until I retired from employment a few years ago, I worked in a number of different areas, some of them involving selling and marketing. Almost without exception, I found these jobs required dishonesty and sometimes downright lies if the individual was to succeed in the way the managers/owners of the companies required. I built up a deep dislike and distrust of all sales work as a result, but was obliged to do the work in most cases simply to support my family. I wrote a short post on that aspect recently, which you can find here, should you want to know more: https://stuartaken.net/2017/07/26/why-im-pretty-crap-at-marketing/


JBS: You say you write for adults; to what extent does that influence your storytelling and subject matter?

SA: I write for an adult readership, so there’s almost always sexual content. For my science fiction trilogy, I’m working with a sophisticated society based on pragmatism and scientific principles, so there’s an acceptance that sex is an appetite that requires acknowledgement rather than restrictive laws. In my fantasy trilogy, there are several different social groupings or tribes with differing attitudes to sex and to nakedness, as we find in the world around us. I think ignoring sexual activity in the narrative would be to cheat the reader of a very real part of normal human life. In my romantic thriller, the entire story revolves around the burgeoning relationship between an innocent, but very bright, young woman and the man-of-the-world photographer for whom she goes to work to escape the control of her distinctly unpleasant father. Sex is an integral part of the lives she engages with in this new world and to exclude it would be to chop the heart out of the story.

In spite of many advances in many areas, the modern world still often looks on sex as something threatening, even unpleasant. We’re animals, with a strong inbuilt biological imperative to breed. Part of that survival programme includes a very rewarding experience in our coupling; our brains and hormonal systems ensure that sex, when undertaken by consenting adults, is probably the most pleasurable activity we know of. To exclude it from fiction seems to me bizarre, and a denial of the reality of what it means to be human.


JBS: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

SA: Many thanks for giving me the chance, Joan. In common with most writers, I can never get enough opportunities to express myself in words. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Thank you.





For Blood Red Dust:



Amazon universal link – http://getBook.at/BloodRed

Link to Publisher’s site – https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/blood-red-dust-all-formats.html


For War Over Dust:



Amazon universal link – http://myBook.to/WarOverDust

Link to Publisher’s site – https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/war-over-dust.html


For my other books:

Link to the page on my website – https://stuartaken.net/my-published-work/


My website – http://stuartaken.net/

Twitter link – http://twitter.com/@stuartaken

LinkedIn link – http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stuart-aken/22/1b6/aaa

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So many shades of beauty

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Here’s an amazing poem that Facebook censors. Strange: fascists can spit their venom all over the web, but true love is a no go. Please show your tolerance for diversity. Click on the image to watch this two-minute video, like it and share.


(and then listen to it a second time, but with your eyes closed…)


Because we are all beautiful.


And because we are all beautiful, here is a book promotion to celebrate diversity. These books feature PoC, LGBT+ and/or disabled characters. Click on the image to discover these free books on offer.



It ain’t pizza: Verses Nature

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I once had a fight after school with a girl called Lorna. No idea, now, why it started. Word had spread and a crowd was ready and waiting. We did our best to rip each other apart. One of the male teachers split it up and gave us detention.
– Nice girls don’t fight,
he said,
– Nice girls don’t need to fight.


(Years later, at my therapist’s)


– I see,
she said,
– how did it feel, to rip… Lorna?… apart?
– It felt… great!

– It felt nice to be angry?
– Yes!
–To let yourself go?
– When was the last time you felt that good?

(from Verses Nature (The Memoir Of A Lonely Hotwife) vol.2: Your Joy Is Your Own. Image: Ralph Evans)



from the author:
What is a novel? What is a genre? What does it mean to read? How do I read? How am I a reader? What do I expect from myself and from the author?

For each of these questions, there is no straightforward answer. Not for me. It’s time we recovered from our assumptions. The open-ended structure of Verses Nature refuses to play to such assumptions, soliciting instead various levels of surprise.

Whooah… what the…?

Readers find themselves having to reposition, to redefine and thus relocate themselves in new narrative/interpretive spaces. The intention is to agonize the reader so that she accepts that the novel is out of my hands and becomes her responsibility:

– If the reader fails to see my female protagonist, Carmina, in all her complexity, seeking instead to reduce her to a woman whose racial profile is more pronounced so that she fits ready-made (and white-ordained) notions of blackness, this reader must accept the responsibility for her expectation and hopefully interrogate why this expectation exists in the first place. Someone asked me – very kindly, of course – to make Carmina’s racial profile more identifiable. In other words: blacker. Hell, no! She’s not a pizza where you get to choose the toppings. If she’s black enough for me, why isn’t she black enough for you? Why do you need her to be so other? This person asked for more racial profile and I wrote the above scene. It has nothing to do with race. Will this person dare to insist on a blacker Carmina or will they, finally, get the point?

– If the reader is not always  given a clear point of entry into a text, but must decide for herself where she must place her eyes on the page and where to go from there, this reader must accept responsibility for how she makes meaning from the text.
– If the reader finds herself constantly rethinking, renaming the place this work occupies (is it a novel? Is it erotica? Is it feminist literature?), then because I have not alleviated her of the responsibility to decide for herself what she wants to see. This reader must acknowledge, by virtue of her doubts, that such classification is not quiet, but always on the move. Not silent, but noisy.

By deliberately writing a work with numerous dynamic interfaces and by testing out the various levels and limits of their co-existence in my mind and in that of the reader, the Verses Nature trilogy hopes not only to give you a damn good read (it’s very high in the amazon charts, so thank you!), but equally to make a valuable contribution to ongoing discussions about the properties of the novel and representations of the self.

Look till you break

Apart from editing and a final revision, I finished the translation of Joan Barbara Simon’s Verses Nature: In the Beginning Was The Heat. Initially I revolted against the male protagonist, Tatar, as it was very conflicting to put myself in his skin, his mindset and especially his words. I wrestled with him for a long time, but as he is an undeniable reality that can be seen in many lights (and should) I put in every effort to genuinely do him justice in German and reflect who he is or might be for that matter.


To bond with the female counterpart, Carmina, was essentially ‘easier’, as her struggle is a well-known and yet potentially kept silent reality of too many women, too many female narratives that remain hidden in the bedroom drawers of pain, shame and agony. She is made of flesh and blood, of bad and good, of pain and pleasure and she is done with apologising, with justifying herself and selling herself short. She rewrites her own story and as hurtful as it is, she changes the predestined conclusion of her life.


Even though Verses Nature contains raw sexual matter (so what?), it does not deserve the common, depreciative and cheap stigmata associated with erotic fiction. It is indeed literary if one dares to take the time to dig deeper, read beyond every word and sense and dive into each page without preconceptions and judgements. Each page takes and needs its space in meaning, the process is akin to the musing of a painting, a portrait, as intimate as it gets, to swim through the features and textures of a face, a personality that is deeply flawed, human, hurt and lusting after life. Every time that I thought that I had figured them both out, I was wrong and rediscovered a new aspect that could be closer to the truth. When approaching Verses Nature, one has to do so with an open mind, it takes time and a lot of unburdening, but I managed to sincerely appreciate it, it challenged me and I do not say this because I consider Joan to be a dear friend of mine or because she chose me to be the translator, but because these narratives matter and need to be told and dissected. Even if Tatar might come across as an incredible asshole, a misogynist, a nonsensical skirt chaser or Carmina as threatening, vulgar and uncomfortable, they stand utterly exposed and therefore vulnerable and that’s the point, not to be judged, but to be understood, analysed. Together, they are representative of the social, political, religious, familial and emotional issues that still have a long way to go in today’s society. They cannot be reduced to black and white shades, they are in no way extremes or stereotypical binary oppositions. They might be you and me, then and now, they are intertwined and consist of common dysfunctional and functional features that we all possess and control more or less. Verses Nature is holding up the mirror to your face and challenges you to keep looking. Maybe if you figured out how to gaze, it will break.

(Laura Gentile)




Thank you, Laura, for the excellent translation into German and for this spot-on evaluation of my book! I’m continually tweaking the book’s categories. After adding the subtitle: Memoir Of A Lonely Hotwife, it shot to #1 on amazon yesterday. True, the rankings are updated hourly, so fame is short-lived but the pleasure is nonetheless sweet. I like the word memoir as it shifts the book to a place where fiction and non-fiction may co-reside. Just as Verses Nature can be seen as erotica and more, the social, political reality it depicts also makes its fictional characteristics move beyond fiction to become that ‘more’ which invites us to keep questioning. So readers, if you feel like a challenge, here it is, ready and waiting.