This is my day on the blog tour for Kristina Wright’s XOXO: Sweet and Sexy Romance (Cleis Press), an anthology of thirty-eight extra-short stories that pack more erotic punch for their length than you’d think was possible. If you make it all the way to the end of this post you’ll see how to enter a giveaway for a copy, and, I hope, see why you really want to win.
First I get to pontificate on short-short stories in general. Every now and then I see reviewers of anthologies complaining that the stories should have been longer. When that happens with books I’ve edited myself, like Girl Fever: 69 Tales of Sudden Sex for Lesbians, my kneejerk reaction is, “No, these stories are just the length they need to be. You might well want to spend more time with these characters, but this particular chapter of their lives (or even mini-chapter) is so skillfully drawn that you don’t even notice how much intensity is gained with just enough of the just-right words.” Rather like maple sap cooked down into syrup. Or wine distilled into brandy. Or pan-juices reduced into a demiglace. Or…never mind. I’m using too many words here, too many metaphors. Not good in writing short-short stories.
Let’s stick with just one metaphor: dissolved sugar boiled until it makes candy. Candy, specifically those tiny candy hearts with Valentine messages written on them, the ones that inspired Kristina with the theme for this book.
XOXO: Sweet and Sexy Romance offers thirty-eight stories of searing sex and passionate love in just over two hundred pages. This means each story has only about fifteen hundred words, calling for writers who can make every word count. Fortunately Kristina has assembled writers who are more than up to the challenge.
I don’t want to tell too much about individual stories, because they’re worth discovering at just the right pace to savor them, but one factor I look for as an editor myself is a beginning that grabs the reader’s interest right way. I want to share just a few that do that particularly well, even though very good short stories can start out slowly instead and draw the reader in bit by bit, and many of those in this book do that to good effect.
“Midnight” by Emerald hooks you right away with sex and a hint of mystery.
Sometimes he’s inside me. Sometimes my mouth is on his cock. Sometimes his tongue is against my clit or my nipple or whatever square inch of skin he’s found that lights up that fire that’s somehow inside me and outside me and everywhere else all at once.
It’s different each time. But whatever form it’s taking, sex is what we’re doing. The timing is the important thing.
The scene then switches to a fondue restaurant, the tone becomes playful for a while, and you’re along for an irresistible ride.
“Ouch” by Lily K. Cho starts out with a bang, or rather a playful “Thwap!”
“Ouch!” Josh roared. “Dammit, Susie, that hurt!”
He heard Susie giggle, but he didn’t see her anywhere, so he turned back to the mirror and resumed his shaving.
“Susie, stop that!” he yelled, rubbing his rear and twisting to inspect the two pink spots blooming on his ass.”
Another ride you probably can’t resist.
“Night Moves” by Christine d’Abo begins with a nightmare.
No, no, no, no, no!
I couldn’t tell you what the nightmare had been about specifically. Images of too-tall walls and frantic running through black hallways were all that lingered as I blinked madly into the dark of our bedroom. The soft whooshing of the ceiling fan and the gentle rubbing of my husband’s hand against my back did little to slow my pounding heart. My stupid brain wouldn’t shut off.
“You ‘kay, babe?”
We know just what she needs, and by this point we need it too.
And another sleep-related excerpt with a distinctive flavor, from “The War at Home” by Giselle Renarde.
Flipping onto her stomach, Brenda buries her face in the bunched-up pillow. Too soft. How can she possibly get to sleep with her head sinking into the oblivion of a dark-blue pillowcase? Her mouth and nose are buried in feathers. She turns her head to the side, but that hurts her neck, so she flips again, landing with a bounce on her backside.
The sheets that match the pillowcase have wrapped themselves around her calves, and she kicks at them, but they don’t let go. Growling, she kicks harder, but the sheets have her bound like a mermaid—just what Kaz always wanted. Thank god he’s asleep.
Want to bet somebody gets lucky?
“I’m siingin’ in the rain…” But that song was from the wrong Gene Kelly movie, and it wasn’t quite raining, and I was only whistling. My speaking voice gets me by, but singing blows the whole presentation.
Hall glanced down, her face stern in that exaggerated way that makes me tingle in just the right places. I shoved my hands into my pockets, skipped a step or two, and knew she felt as good as I did. Hal’s hardly the type to dance through the Paris streets like Gene Kelly, especially across square cobblestones, but there was a certain lilt to her gait.
Or maybe a swagger.
Of course for the really good parts of all the stories, the buildups, the peaks, the emotional resolutions, you need to read each piece all the way through. Bet you can’t read just one! But, like candy, you’re best off savoring them one by one, every single word.
Onward to the book giveaway part!
Just comment here, or on the Facebook status I posted about this (https://www.facebook.com/sacchi.green), or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll be entered in my drawing for a copy of XOXO. I’ll choose a winner at random on February 28th, and announce a winner by March 2. Be sure to check back here or on Facebook to make sure I can contact you if you win.