Lockdown: Naughty NSFW

Here’s a little something I wrote last year. It might seem a rather different from the usual fiction that you get from the pen of Bryony Marsh, but I’ll say something more about that at the end. Enjoy…

A Note to a LoveR, Under Lockdown

Sex is a dull and pedestrian concept.

Others might spice things up by nibbling away at the edges of monogamy. We never have, but how are you supposed to make love to the same person for the rest of your life?

Even the words are wrong. To “make love” sounds clunky, as if some non-native English speaker were inviting you to make fuck.

I love you all day, every day. But when we screw, you and I are both very different people. Kaleidoscopic in our wants and needs – and in what we give. Respect; gentleness; kindness; friendship… of course. But I think we both agree that twenty-three hours a day is more than enough time for those things.

Then there’s something else. Not the self-conscious spluttering and moaning of a partner who is, if truth were told, a little ashamed at their orgasm. That other kind: the sex that annihilates. The sex of surrender: being well and thoroughly used, where no thanks or apologies are necessary.

But sex in lockdown is hard.

When every day is the same, every night is the same as well.

No sleepover with grandparents for the kids. No weekend trip to a country hotel. No more days spent “fucking from home” while the school system serves as babysitter: occasionally refreshing the screen, or sending a short message, giving our employers the impression that they exert mastery, somehow.

No more: the girls are in the next room.

Quiet sex, then?

Simple, basic, vanilla sex where we each keep a pyjama top on, so we can roll apart and feign innocence at the first sound of a child’s footstep.

The innuendos we whisper about “lockdown sex” hint at what we really want.

I want to feel the tightness of the locked collar around my throat, holding the hood in place. I want to be blind. I want to be helpless.

I want my arms to be fastened – uncomfortably – beneath me, each hand at the opposite elbow. Freed from the niceties of mere “lovemaking”, such that I don’t have to return each caress.

To be objectified is astonishingly self-indulgent. When you’ve surrendered yourself so completely that movement is impossible, there’s no remaining obligation to move. There’s only pleasure. When I give myself up I’m selfish and selfless, simultaneously.

This is confusing. Thank goodness I no longer have to think.

Please can’t I just cease to be a person? Just for a little while: I want to be an object. One of your sex toys.

Just one of your sex toys.

I want to wait, in my blindness, while perhaps you tease me by doing nothing at all. I’m just one toy. Perhaps you’ll pleasure yourself with another, or with none, or not at all.

It’s not for me to say. I’m a thing. I’m an object.

For a little while, I don’t want to be a person. I don’t want to read the news to discover the latest death toll. I certainly don’t want to spend my time coming up with new ways to entertain the girls, or to cajole them into doing a little more of their schooling-at-home.

I don’t even want you. Not really: I see too much of you now. Instead, I want to be apart from you, in my darkness. I want to sink into that headspace of acceptance, where time is nothing because I have no choice as to when it ends.

Or if.

Lockdown. I am locked down.

Perhaps you’ll startle me out of my blissful nothing with a tweak or a lick at one of my nipples. Perhaps you’ll ease a well-lubed plug into me, enjoying how I start at its first, cold touch.

But I can relax again, once I’m plugged. It’s just one more accessory, for one of your sex toys.

I am locked.

I am locked down.

The flick of a riding crop against my thigh would bring me back: the pain like a flash of summer lightning, searing my blindfold vision. The irregular pauses between these strokes: sweet torture. Is it the pain, or the anticipation?

I creak in my bonds, like a ship at moorings. I, too, am tied fast. I will not go with the current.

Or perhaps, at last, you’ll permit me to disintegrate.

I can’t beg. I’m not a person: just a thing. The rubber cock that you pushed into my mouth, right after that last kiss, made me into a mute thing. At best I can grunt like an animal.

I can’t speak. But I don’t have to speak. I don’t have to explain myself.

If the moment should come, I’d grunt my intense, muffled pleasure into that gag, strapped and locked into place.

But none of this is happening: I’m stifled in a different way.

This is lockdown.

The girls are two metres away: the flip-side of social distancing.

There will be no sex. Or if there is, then only sex of the dull, pedestrian kind that neither of us want.

So, yeah: a departure from my usual thing. I was inspired to write this when I was working through some exercises at Writers’ HQ – and then didn’t dare share it with them. Instead, I put it up on Literotica, which represents another departure from the usual modus operandi of Bryony Marsh.

Nothing I shared in the text above is gender-specific, though. Many readers will automatically assume that the person who wrote that letter and imagined the scenario is female – but they don’t have to be.

When I first shared My Constant Moon, I fretted that perhaps it didn’t feature enough sex for a piece of TG fiction but a reviewer (‘Salrissa’) assured me that it had enough: it “just wasn’t spelled out with every squelch narrated” – a wonderful phrase that I’ve never forgotten.

Exhibit ‘A’, the short fladge piece presented above, has a somewhat higher squelch ratio than I commonly aim for, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same.

In Armour Clad – readers react

I’ve been watching the sales figures: the release of ‘Ground Rush’ in August gave me my best month ever. That’s great… but another good thing that’s happened is that it seems a lot of people are picking up a copy of ‘In Armour Clad’ – a science fiction story that’s been available since late 2018.

I was always a little bit worried that my depiction of Europe going to hell in a civil war would attract a very negative response, coming not very long after the UK voted to leave the European Union. As I discovered with ‘Sissygeddon’, a contentious political issue can polarise the readership and upset just about half of them. It seems that it’s not a problem where the story is more clearly a work of fiction: nobody has criticised me for my depiction of a Europe fragmenting into smaller, hostile states that wreck everything and commit various atrocities on each other. (We have a very apt word for this, with its origins in history and geography: Balkanisation.)

‘In Armour Clad’ is ultimately about a boy and a girl. The boy is a soldier and the girl is the forty-five tonne vehicle that he rides… but that’s par for the course in the future that I created. When he’s wounded and she’s damaged, they’re brought together. You don’t have to be a fan of tranny fiction to enjoy the story, but if you are… I think you’ll like it.

A review by user Garuda said: “This is not a TG story. It’s possibly a story for those who fall in love with robots, or a war story, or even a generic sci-fi. If I found this in a book of short sci-fi war stories, I wouldn’t think it out of place.” That’s more-or-less exactly what I was pitching for. The same reviewer also identified “flavours of the settings for Ogre and Bolo” which I will cheerfully accept.

I have happy memories of playing ‘Ogre’ by Steve Jackson Games

User psi babe said: “Love that Noelle wasn’t just a sex thing but a smart and self-educating partner.” This was important to me. My major female characters are always strong and resourceful or at least brave. It’s something of a theme for authors at TransScripts: we don’t get off on shame, victimhood, helplessness… so I wanted Noelle to be able to help herself. Nice that this is recognised!

User rydz reported “I really want to play a video game based on this,” which made me smile. Unfortunately my skillset does not extend to video game development, but Nikki Whyte said I should put it on Kindle and Garuda said I should see about getting it published. Sure enough, the story was pulled from Fictionmania, expanded a little and generally given a makeover before I self-published it.

I kept a copy of all the reviews it had received during its Fictionmania phase – eighteen of them, all very positive – and I’m glad I did because it hasn’t attracted much in the way of feedback on Amazon. It’s so nice to see the story reaching a new audience now.

“Attitudes have changed!”

“No.” Noelle spoke forcefully. “Attitudes did change for a while, in some circles, but now we’re sliding back into lawlessness and look what’s happened: women have become possessions again.”

“The civil war can’t last forever,” I protested, although privately I had to admit that Europe had never worked the way the politicians had promised.

“It runs deeper than that,” Noelle insisted. “de Beauvoir says that women and men diverge from the outset. Not just because of biology, but culture as well. Girls in stories are weak: they’re victims. The damsel in distress, waiting in a tower for the knight to save her. It’s alright for the girl to cry, because she’s the victim. The boy who comes to rescue her must be brave.”

“What about warrior girls like you, or Sergeant Kieffer?” I interjected.

“We still need to become women. One isn’t born a woman: it’s a process of self-discovery and invention.”

“Like the first day you painted yourself pink?”

“I was young,” Noelle sighed. “I guess I looked kind of stupid.”

“At the time, I thought of it as kind of heraldic,” I replied. “You know, like how Captain Durand had his tank in yellow and blue, because he supported FC Chalon.”

“Ah, Durand,” Noelle said. “I saw him die, you know.”

“You did? You never said.”

‘In Armour Clad’

It’s Landed: Ground Rush

Ground Rush’ went live on Amazon today. I’m just getting greedy, really: so energised and excited by the feedback (and, to be honest, the sales) that ‘Egyptology’ generated that I wanted to keep on riding the crest of the wave. I pushed hard to get this finished in the hope that readers might still remember who I am!

This one was a little bit of a departure for me, since I so often include a sci-fi or magical element and you won’t find any such thing in my latest (blurb here). I was going for real-world plausible rather than desirable fantasy. I’ve never been tempted to write a series: each of my books is a stand-alone, take-it-or-leave-it proposition and this one was certainly a bit ‘off the wall’ in its origins. The Venn diagram of people who are interested in air sports and transgender literature is perhaps rather ‘niche’… though the parachuting is meant to provide the setting, not the whole of the story.

Is anybody going to read this? We shall see!

Ground Rush: now on Amazon. Please buy a copy in order to contribute to the efforts to launch Jeff Bezos far into space!

A New Look for an Old Story

Today, I’m trying something new. You can always visit this blog and access my free stories – and you’re very welcome – but I thought it might be nice to offer something a little more polished; more like you get with my published work.

With the help of Chrissy from TransScripts, I can now offer you an ebook version of one of my most popular stories, ‘If You’re Done’. You can still read it here in your web browser (or on Fictionmania, or BigCloset) but I’m interested to see if people prefer to have a downloadable copy.

New for the ebook: cover art for ‘If You’re Done’

Please do let me know if the new format is something that you find useful. If so, I’ll try to convert all the other freebies to ebooks in due course.

Coming soon: Ground Rush

This one surprised me: I thought my next story was going to be Budapest, but Ground Rush came up and caught me by surprise – which is apposite, at least. Can I interest you in some blurb?

Will is a misfit and a loner. With an absent, alcoholic father and nobody else to depend upon, things haven’t been easy for Will. He gets by, living in a camper van at the parachute centre where he works. His one consolation when life is hard:

“I’m tough: I jump out of aeroplanes.”

Upon this foundation, he’s rebuilt his self-esteem. He can take pride in his prowess as a skydiver. He’s good… but is he good enough? When the Firebirds ask him to substitute for an injured team member, it’s the chance of a lifetime.

There’s just one problem: the Firebirds is a women’s skydiving team. For Will Hollington, soon to be masquerading as Holly Williams, it’s going to be a crazy summer.

Egyptology’ is selling quite nicely and has attracted some kind feedback from readers – for which, thank you very much! It encourages me to keep on plugging away at T* Lit genre.

For a story of adventure-sport crossdressing at 120 miles per hour… watch this space.

Review: The Little Black Dress of Joy

“It went from a short tale about a lonely man whose dreams are realised by a magic dress into something much longer and more complicated.”

Tanya H

That’s what Tanya, fellow TransScripts author had to say about ‘The Little Black Dress of Joy’, her most recently completed story. If you don’t know about the LBDofJ, rejoice: you’ve got the chance to read one of the best pieces of T* fiction in recent years.

Everyone needs a Little Black Dress in their lives, don’t they?

The central character is Philip, estranged from his family since he was found wearing his sister’s clothes some time before. He gets on with life as best he can, feeling a sense of “wrongness” at having been more into a male body… but confining this to a crossdressing hobby. At other times he’s doing useful work as a nurse and it’s through his work that he meets Nina, an army medic who becomes the love interest of the tale. When Philip sees a little black dress on display in the window of a charity shop, he finds himself setting out on a path that will take them both on an astonishing journey.

The story’s yours, entirely for free… beginning here. Prepare to have your entrails hauled out and stamped on: it’s a wild ride. Characters so real you’ll feel that you know them: you’re going to share every hurt that they suffer.

I was fortunate enough to have an advance look at the final chapter, which goes live on August 1st. The series ran to eight parts and all I want to tell you is… you won’t be disappointed.

TransScripts authors have been kind enough to support me and review my stories in the past, so here’s my attempt to do something similar – despite the fact that the authoress isn’t going to charge you a cent. Just obtain it… read and you’ll see it’s actually far better than a lot of things that people in the T* lit scene are charging money for. A great example of the high-quality fiction coming out of TransScripts nowadays.

Tanya didn’t ask me to make a cover for her story, but let’s see if we can persuade her to convert the completed story into a downloadable eBook format, so you can put it on your Kindle…

Expect to cry. Yes – even you, tough guy.

Book covers, the less painful way

A cover for your novel can run to several hundred pounds. I’m not trying to be rude, but… you probably won’t recover that kind of money from book royalties any time soon. We’re talking niche fiction here so unless you get very lucky, commissioning a book cover from a professional is a risk. Fortunately, there are people prepared to work for less money or even for none – but under such circumstances the adage that “the customer is always right” takes a beating. I’m using the example of what I did for Kat (formerly Super Hell Kitten) here… who is a good kitty and was no trouble at all, although she does climb the curtains sometimes.

Sometimes the cover design process is quite time-consuming and it can be frustrating for all concerned. I thought it might help to set out ten rules for commissioning a book cover. No doubt there are other principles that I’ve overlooked and for those, the comments section is open… but for now, here’s some basic guidance, according to me.

1. Know what you want – and communicate it. Your illustrator won’t necessarily have read your novel, so they don’t know that Josie lost two fingers off her left hand in a childhood agricultural accident, or whatever. You need to tell them what you need. If you don’t supply a decent brief, the first one or two tries at your book cover are going to be wasted effort, which is unsatisfactory to both parties.

2. Choose suitable images. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so why not collect some pictures of stuff you like. Instead of telling the illustrator “I want a pair of newlyweds stood in front of an old boat,” supply a picture of the people – and a picture of the boat. If you’re really not bothered about the book cover to the point where you’ll let somebody else choose, that’s great (and Amazon’s cover creator tool may supply everything you need) but you can’t subsequently act all surprised and disappointed with what you got.

3. Be realistic about what can be done. Anything is possible with digital image manipulation but it’s best to get the inputs right. For example, don’t find a picture of a woman and say “I want this woman, but in a red sweater.” Actually find the right picture of a woman in a red sweater. ‘Fluffy’ edges are a nightmare when attempting to compose a picture from separate elements; missing reflections are another. Please don’t make my life harder than it needs to be.

For Finneas Awakes, Katerina Hellam wanted this young lady, in front of that building… under a different sky. Much ‘fun’ followed, trying to trace edges to separate hair from leaves. The ornate bobbles on the stonework were a challenge, too. Note, also, that these pictures are all landscape: novels are oriented as portrait.

4. Supply very large images. Even if the end result only needs to be 1,600 pixels high for an ebook cover, editing is much, much easier if we’re not dealing with a pixellated mess. Photos with dimensions of 3,500+ pixels on each side are much easier to work with, because it permits manipulation. If you give me an image that’s 900×900, it had better be a tiny feature of the end product, such as a postage stamp-sized logo.

5. Look closely at the source images. Really study them, because it’s surprising what you don’t notice at first. That girl with the cute, innocent face has tattoos on her arms. That reenactor who you thought would make a great Roman soldier? He’s wearing a wristwatch and there’s a hotdog stand behind him. That ‘generic airport background’ you wanted to use: you know it says ‘Schipol’, right?

6. Have permission to use all the images. Your illustrator will probably appreciate it if you mention that they created the book cover… but they’ll be less delighted if you stole some part(s) of the graphics off a website because it might reflect badly on them. Use only images that are licensed for commercial use. Get royalty-free images from sites such as Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash or Shutterstock. Don’t be afraid to spend a few pounds to get the right image – it’s a mistake to cheap out on this.

7. Sketch out the basic composition. This is another opportunity to eliminate tedious cycles of trial and error. Show what goes where. You can do this with a cheesy mockup in Powerpoint, or crudely draw it and send a photograph to your illustrator.

Doing it right: it might not look like much, but a mockup like this communicates your requirements very nicely.

8. Choose your font. Lettering can be added in a bewildering variety of styles and it can make or break a cover design. Choose wisely – and not from the crappy default ones on your Windows machine. Have a look at sites such as DaFont or FontSpace. Choose something nice but don’t use too many styles or it will look awful.

9. Get the blurb right in advance. It’s easy to edit text while it’s just words that can be sent back and forth by e-mail. Once those words have been placed on the back cover of your paperback, they’re harder to change and should ideally be left alone. Even a small change to punctuation can alter how the text flows and change how it looks. Writing a blurb is hard and it’s often left until last but it’s a good idea to ensure that it’s been past your proofreader. Keep your blurb short and expect to have to give up space for a barcode, too.

10. Respond promptly to each iteration. If working for free or almost-free, your illustrator is likely to lose interest in the project if it drags on for months. Keep on responding to each request for information – once you’ve had time to think about it, of course.

Don’t be afraid to have opinions – this was just the first try: it would change a lot.
We’re halfway there…

I think that about eight hours must have been spent in Photoshop, all told. (You can see why the professionals get to charge so much…) Ultimately we arrived at the following…

Yours for £3 on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited. A very fine piece of TG fiction!

Introducing Aisha Burnside

Over at Fictionmania there’s a story category called ‘Cultural Change’ and perhaps it’s an interesting one because it sees a character having to cope with more than just the changes that have been wrought upon their own body. (Since we’re talking Fictionmania, for ‘character’ you might often want to read ‘victim’…)

In Egyptology, I wanted to show a protagonist who didn’t admire her new, feminine body and declare “these are fun to play with,” happily settling into a new role where she has a vastly magnified sex life because (as the prevailing logic of transvestite fiction teaches us) she’s a woman and women are sexy.

As a reincarnation of Professor Grant Summers, Aisha Burnside acknowledges that she’s received quite possibly the most fantastic gift ever. Who wouldn’t want to live again? Even so, while she’s got his knowledge to call upon, she’s also got some new disadvantages: she encounters discrimination because she’s young, she’s female, she’s disabled and she isn’t white. While the action all happens in Egypt and she’s Egyptian-born, she doesn’t fit well within the structure and traditions of an American university department.

I wanted to explore what it was like for her to encounter the frustrations of having to “start again” while dealing with the (usually unconscious) biases of the people around her. That she is also newly certain that the gods of Egypt are real and still involved in the lives of people just adds an additional level of complexity.

As I wrote the story I grew to love that troubled, frustrated girl. You might find that hard to believe, given some of the trials that I visited upon her, but don’t worry: she’s resourceful!

I think, even from the freebie portion that you can view at Amazon, you’ll see that I managed a new mode of magical transformation. I hope you’ll choose to read on, after that, to see how she gets on.

Egyptology is available via Amazon from July 21st, 2021.

How Fake is False?

Recently, I’ve been toying with the analyses over at Uclassify.com – an online analysis system that uses machine learning to infer things about the text that it’s fed. For example, was Adam Smith’s tone a happy or upset one when he wrote his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations?

It turns out he was happy. Almost deliriously so. He had a serious pin fetish, of course, as we all know: perhaps one as great as young Stanley in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal. Adam Smith’s pin fetish is so famous that it was celebrated on the old twenty pound note – though he was recently replaced with J.M.W. Turner. I have yet to discover an artificial intelligence project that can tell me anything about the mood of a watercolourist.

Incidentally, was Sylvia Plath happy? According to the same analysis tool, ‘Mood’ she was. This when I fed the algorithm the text of her poem, Mirror. An 80/20 split between happy and upset… which is horrendously wrong but quite amusing. Perhaps the computer just likes poems.

But… and here’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question for those of you who read Sugar and Spiiice… was Adam Smith a bloke?

Gender Analyzer (Version 5) says he was. Well done, Gender Analyzer… for discovering something that we already knew. Computers are still catching up, thank goodness. Incidentally, Sylvia Plath was 95% female, by the same yardstick.

The thing is, though, Big Data works. If you give a machine enough training data, it’ll discover patterns that are more commonly used by one type of person than another. It will learn to distinguish – and it’s tireless. These tools are out there, trawling through everything we write.

The reason I mention this is because Bryony Marsh is reported to be happy (though not quite as happy as Slyvia Plath, which is a worry, given her suicide…) and 81% female. When I challenge Gender Analyzer (Version 5) to chew on some of my other writing such as the text of my non-TG fiction, I’m identified as a male.

Is gender, then, just a construct? Something that we can wrap about ourselves, once freed from the cues of voice and appearance? As we isolate and mask ourselves, telecommuting and distancing as we continue to fight COVID-19… who cares what you wear? Who knows or cares, ultimately, who and what you are?

Strange times.

Budapest

A little project that I’m working on at the moment (while awaiting proof-reader comments on a certain other thing…) Budapest is the tale of a present-day photographer who finds himself with something of a “time twin”. Growing dissatisfied with a contract to take photos for a political party, he seeks to go back to his roots by taking pictures with a vintage camera but when the film is developed, some of the pictures show scenes from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

Back in that time period, his own pictures of modern architecture are of no use at all to the revolutionaries who face the might of the Soviet army – and they cause nothing but trouble for Erzsébet Horváth, student, protestor and suspect under observation by the State Security Police.

The Hungarian Revolution was the first big challenge to Soviet rule after the late Joseph Stalin had grabbed off half a continent in the closing stages of the Second World War. While this first flowering of freedom was crushed in just two and a half weeks, it did a lot to clarify the situation: there would be no socialist utopia – and support for communism in the west just about evaporated. Ultimately, the trickle of East German refugees escaping via Hungary would bring the whole system crashing down in 1989. Meanwhile, I thought the events of 1956 would make a fantastic setting for a story.

Some 3,000 civilians were killed when the Soviet military crushed the Hungarian uprising in late 1956. I wonder what happened to this freedom fighter?
Protestors used the flag of Hungary – with the communist emblem in the centre cut out.