Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Bestseller

2009 is drawing to a close and will soon give way to 2010, the year that Black Lace as we know it ceases to be. So, just before Big Ben tolls the imprint's demise, my final guest commentator on the subject is the wonderful Kristina Lloyd, whose three Black Lace titles, Darker than Love, Asking for Trouble and Split are still regular fixtures in the erotic charts. I'm thrilled to have her as my guest. Take it away!

"Early Black Lace novels were an odd mix of wonderful and awful, often within the same book. As a reader, I favoured historicals, partly because the contemporaries were too bizarre and alienating. Sex in these books seemed to be a luxury item, something to aspire to along with the yacht, the health spa, the five million thread-count Egyptian cotton bedsheets and the handsome manservant (Italian, pref) with his imperious smile and perfectly manicured foreskin.

The first novel I wrote for BL, Darker Than Love, was set in the Victorian era. I'd had several short stories published in Forum, Desire and For Women but I knew my contemporary style was way too down and dirty for BL. Writers' guidelines at the time recommended authors use the words 'fuck' and 'cunt' only sparingly and preferably within dialogue. I couldn't see how a woman in the mid 1990s might own her sexuality but be a bit shy about swearing. A nineteenth century setting seemed more appropriate and I reckoned it would be easier, not to mention pleasanter and more interesting, to research the Victorians rather than the lifestyles of the rich and glamorous.

In 1998, when BL announced to authors they were relaxing their editorial guidelines, I was chomping at the bit to write a novel that was filthy, upfront and deeply unglamorous. Menage, Emma Holly's debut novel, had recently been released and I'd devoured it, thrilled to find such likeable, realistic characters leading ordinary but scorchingly sexy lives. I put a proposal together for Asking for Trouble in a whirl of excitement. In my covering letter to the then-editor, Kerri Sharp, I confessed I'd found most of BL's contemporary fiction 'all a bit Cinzano Bianco'. Kerri replied, 'I'm so glad I've chucked out the Cinzano!'

Asking for Trouble has been one of Black Lace's bestsellers – proof, if it were needed, women don't need rose petals and rubies to assuage any guilt about getting off.

BL was rarely complacent about its place in the market and I'm heartbroken to see it end, especially when it looked to be on the up. Single author collections were being introduced; new writers with fresh, original voices were being taken on; popular US authors were appearing in BL anthologies, a move sure to have helped blur the UK/US publishing division and raise the profile of the imprint Stateside; and, after a few years tussling, it seemed there was finally space for writers of erotica and erotic romance to co-exist within the imprint.

The internet, though it's often blamed for the demise of print porn, has proved a great marketing tool for genre authors who don't get much of a cut of their publisher's budget. These last few years, I've loved finding out more about familiar names and discovering new ones online; I've loved feeling myself part of an erotica community; I've loved challenging the industry's sexism and have been thrilled by the support we've received on Erotica Cover Watch. Thanks to everyone who's backed our campaign for man candy on covers!

Once, being a Black Lace author felt like being part of a job lot; the imprint had greater prominence than its individual authors. Readers had to buy blind and the impression was dirty books were all much of a muchness. Who cares who wrote it? So many BL authors have now surged beyond that to declare their distinct voices as writers and people. I hope we'll all manage to find hot new homes for our fiction – homes which will allow those voices to shine and suck cock! I hope readers will follow their favourite authors to their new homes. And I hope we'll all get to read and write a lot more quality filth in 2010 and beyond!"

Out with the old (especially the Cinzano) and in with the new (a good Scotch, maybe?). I'll drink to that. See you in 2010 xxx

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Tis the Season

Merry Christmas, sexy sybarites! Hope your stockings are well filled.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Easy Tiger

Two lovely links to post today.

One is the influential romance commentator Michelle Buonfiglio's Heart to Heart blog at the Barnes & Noble book club in which she recommends On Demand as an antidote to all the trashy Tiger Woods gossip in the press.

"A young woman’s confidence and sensuality blossom when she’s mistaken for a call girl in a swank hotel. From that moment on, exploring the power of that fantasy – and learning the exotic penchents and desires of those who love and play lustfully w/in that hotel – becomes her raison d’etre, and the reader’s most erotic pleasure."

Secondly, I'm proud to say I've been Erotica Cover Watched - and Mr Suit passes muster! Thanks to Kristina and Mathilde, curators of this fabulous and ever-thought-provoking campaign site. Check it out!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Enthusiast

I'm absolutely delighted that Lucy Felthouse is stopping by tonight to give her take on the end of Black Lace. An avid reader and reviewer of their material, she was an invaluable asset to the marketing and promotion of the brand. And she is a terrific erotica writer in her own right! Check out the Xcite books website for some of the anthologies her stories are featured in - the latest one is Temptations Vol. 2. (Nice cover! nom!)

So without further ado - take it away, Lucy!

"Black Lace took my hand and led me into the world of erotica. I can’t even remember how I found out about the books, but I seem to remember the first one I read being Wicked Words 10, which I loved. I enjoyed the variety and smuttiness of the stories. From there, I started buying more, both anthologies and novels, but found that I much preferred the anthologies – the novels didn’t have enough sex in them for me! I found myself skipping through lots of text just to get to the dirty bits. However, I had this experience only with early novels and as my tastes and the label matured, I found myself loving the full-length tales just as much as the collections.

As I showed more of an interest in reading erotica – I also started writing it as the result of a dare, and my aim was to be published by Black Lace. My growing interest then stemmed out into my university dissertation, which was about erotic literature. Here I started corresponding with various authors from Black Lace and beyond, and realising just how nice they all were! Far from being stuck up and unwilling to talk, I found erotic writers to be the most friendly, open and helpful people, which helped greatly with my research.

It was around this time that I discovered authors which are to this day, amongst my favourites. Portia Da Costa, Kristina Lloyd, Janine Ashbless, Mathilde Madden and Saskia Walker – please take a bow. More recent discoveries include Deanna Ashford, Nikki Magennis, Charlotte Stein and of course Justine Elyot, you ladies also deserve a round of applause, for you have all achieved something that I cannot. You were published by Black Lace, and for that you should be very proud. It was a label which went through many changes, and had some variance in quality, but the one thing it always was – was a beacon of light for erotica, raising its profile and making people realise it wasn’t something just for dirty perverts, secreted in brown paper bags. It was sexy and fun and something that us ladies could talk about in the pub. It clearly did a good job as we’re still talking about it now.

Black Lace, you may be gone, but you’re certainly not forgotten. You’ve led many writers into the genre, and as a reader, I’m grateful for that. I’m sad that I’ll never have my name in or on one of your covers, but I was inspired enough to begin to write seriously and I hope that one day I’ll be as famous as Portia Da Costa!"

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Debutante

How fitting that, on the US release date of her superb collection The Things That Make Me Give In (available here), Charlotte Stein is here to reminisce about Black Lace and what it meant to her. Fitting, too, that she namechecks the marvellous Portia Da Costa, who also has a book, Shadowplay, out in the US today (available here). I call that synchronicity in action!

So, enough of my rambling - here's Charlotte:

"The first Black Lace book I ever bought was, I think, Conquered. It had a ridiculous cover and the person who wrote it - Fleur Reynolds - had a pretty ridiculous name and the name of the publisher was pretty ridiculous, too. A stupid novelty band from the eighties!

But it was about 16th Century Peru! It had pervy goings on, going on in weird outlandish settings! The girl on the cover had a bird on her head! It was marvellous.

And for a while Black Lace, for me, was a sort of silly, fun sort of thing. But I think it changed, somewhat, when I read Portia Da Costa's The Stranger.

They weren't just kind-of-daft books anymore. I could actually see some of this stuff happening. They became, more and more, about real women, who often did outlandish things but all the while remained recognisable.

This was when I began to love Black Lace. I loved Black Lace more for Menage, Dreamers In Time, The Houseshare, Crash Course, The Top Of Her Game and Sin.Net. Because all my favourite books have that in common- a heroine I recognise. A real heroine, who could just be going about her ordinary little life. Who could be no-one at all...

...until you peek beneath the covers.

The last Black Lace book I ever bought was and ever will be On Demand, by Justine Elyot. It is a book that continues this tradition. That although many outrageous things happen during the course of its fantastic contents, her female characters are real, they are real women, and I believe in them.

And although Black Lace is no more, I am forever grateful that its authors- Portia Da Costa, Janine Ashbless, Madelynne Ellis, Justine Elyot and many, many more of my faves, continue to write about those wonderful, wonderful heroines."

Amen! And I certainly hope people want to keep reading about them too. Thanks, Charlotte!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

This is the way the world ends...

I'm pretty sure that On Demand features a lot of both, so it can't be said that Black Lace ended without bangs or whimpers.

Banging and whimpering were in evidence from day one, of course, though in 1993, when the imprint launched, my awareness of it was pretty vague. I'd heard of it, because there was a fair bit of press hoopla at the time, but it washed over me. I think I might even have disapproved of the 'by women for women' tag line. There was no way, back then, that I was ever reaching for a book off the top shelf in a shop and taking it to the counter, especially in the WH Smiths concession at Bristol Temple Meads station, where I recall spending a bit of pre-journey time analysing the titles and covers and wondering - in a not very urgent way - what lay within. If I'd browsed them on the internet, I might have bought. But I'm not sure I'd even heard of the internet in 1993.

I got braver as time went by, and started buying erotica titles. I think it was because I was living in London then, and you had the feeling that nobody cared at all what you did in London, whether it was buying a copy of Delta of Venus or stabbing a passerby in the neck. Even then, I stuck with the 'classics' of the genre and didn't think of Black Lace. I don't think I had a reason for that, beyond not knowing what the quality was like because nobody had recommended them to me.

It wasn't until I read a piece - I think it was in Cosmopolitan, though I could be mistaken - about Kristina Lloyd's Asking for Trouble that I sat up and thought 'Ooooh, interesting.' I bought the book and I was not disappointed! Here, I thought, was the kind of book I wanted more of - sexy, dark, fresh, brave, modern. The kind of book I had imagined probably didn't exist.

It was a wonderful find, and the gateway to a secret garden. I was so happy to find it, and even happier to become part of the vegetation. But now, unless a Mary Lennox happens along sometime, the secret garden is all locked up again.

Funny thing about gardens, though - they can grow in a lot of places.

(I feel I ought to make it clear that I never stabbed any passers by in the neck while I was living in London. Just for the record.)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Five Star Hotel

The first review of On Demand is up at and Lucy Felthouse gives the dodgy goings-on at the Hotel Luxe Noir a fab five stars. Here is what she had to say:

"Previous to reading On Demand, I'd read Justine's stories in anthologies and always enjoyed them. So I was pleased to get my hands on a whole book of her writing! Rather than being a novel, though, On Demand is an anthology of short stories, all written to a theme. And the theme in this steamy read is the setting - a hotel.

What makes the book so fabulous is the fact that it isn't just a book of stories based in a hotel; it's also centred around the same characters. This means, of course, that you get to know and care about the characters and what happens to them. You'll feel yourself getting thrilled when they get hot under the collar, and getting hot somewhere else when they're getting laid! And boy, do they get laid!

With a theme like the one chosen for this book, it would have been very easy to get stuck in a rut and for all of the stories to have been formulaic. However, Ms. Elyot has skilfully written the stories in different places and scenarios, so every tale is fresh and fun, as well as damn sexy. The tone is light, and there's definitely more physicality going on than emotional attachment, but that's what makes this book what it is. It's a fruity, frisky fun fest that has something for most tastes, and will get you horny in no time!

As well as being fabulous, On Demand is also the end of an era. For it's the last book to be published by now defunct erotica publisher Black Lace. R.I.P, you will be missed. So grab yourself a piece of history and get a bonking good read at the same time! "

I'm thrilled to have such a glowing first review - thanks a million to lovely Lucy! I hope anyone else who has bought it enjoys it just as much - especially my competition winners, Damiana and Anne-Elisabeth. Congrats, ladies, the book will be on its way to you.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Titillating Titbit Numero Tres - and a competition

Here is the third and final piece of On Demand, red in tooth and claw, for your delectation:

‘I have some lovely new toys to demonstrate today, and I hope my lucky winners will be able to help me with the show,’ she says, smiling. She lays a large case out on a low table between me and the audience and opens it up. ‘Take a good look at what is inside,’ she invites. ‘Choose your favourites and then, when we are ready, you can try them out on Sophie here. Please don’t be shy to do whatever you wish to her. I am paying Sophie to do as she is told, and she will get to choose and keep her own favourites after the show. For the next hour, no part of Sophie is off-limits – you may use her tits, her pussy, her arse, exactly as you please.’ They look sidelong at me, curious and ravenous at once. Furiously flushed, I stare down at the lacy tops of my stockings, drinking in the shame and transfiguring it to a strong gush of need between my thighs. ‘But of course,’ Lura finishes, wagging a bony finger, ‘you may only use the products. No flesh is to meet flesh, please. This is a high-class establishment, not a brothel, and Sophie is here to demonstrate, not to service you.’

‘Not yet,’ mutters Neil and I aim a killer glare at him. He winks back at me, then the group bow their heads over the suitcase, picking things up and inspecting them, sometimes looking over at me as if speculating on the effect they might have on me.

I see long columns of smooth metal, precious mineral rings, acres of discreetly hued silicone, pots and bottles and horsehair and silk.

‘Has everybody chosen?’ asks Lura. ‘Who would like to begin?’

The female model steps forward, holding up a glass vial. ‘I’d like to try some of this on her,’ she says. ‘I’ve heard good things about it.’

‘Be my guest.’ Lura nods and the model smiles widely at me, opens her vial and dabs the stopper on my temples, then she peels off the sparkling pastes and treats my nipples. There is a moment of sting and a dizzying aphrodisiac aroma once my skin absorbs the contents. I take a deep breath, noticing how my nipples are an even darker red now, throbbing lightly and begging to be touched.

‘How does that feel, Sophie?’ asks the model.

‘It’s…heightening my senses…and it smells gorgeous,’ I say, gasping as she grabs hold of a calf, hoiks it over the velvet arm of the chair and then glides the stopper along my labia majora, once, twice, three times, until the potency and intensity of it have caused my clit to expand and emerge from its hood. I see all eyes upon it, eyebrows raised, chins stroked. I think some sales may have been made, but I am too unfocused and needful of more touch to think of much else. I wriggle my bare bottom against the plushy pile and bring my hands up to my nipples, which seem to explode into spangles, oh, god, it’s almost enough to make me come already. How long have I been here? Five minutes? I signed up for an hour.

‘Sophie,’ says Lura sternly. ‘Hands off your nipples. I’m not paying you to touch yourself.’ I moan and grip the arms of the chair, gazing longingly at some of the dildoes and vibrators the men have chosen. One of those is just what I need now. But Lura is busy hyping up her new concoction. ‘Imagine the possibilities. A few dabs on your lover’s skin and he or she is helplessly aroused, beyond reason. You can use it during normal sex, as a stimulant, or those with wickeder imaginations can devise schemes for pleasurable torment. Leave them tied up and burning for you. Make them wear it in a public place, underneath their clothes. And I’m led to understand that it can add a whole new dimension to a spanking. I will leave your admirably filthy minds to come up with your own scenarios.’

If you would like to win a copy of the book, all you need to do is drop me a comment. I'll put all the names into a hat, and on Friday I will draw two winners! Good luck!