One thing I love about living in England, as an Australian from the coast, is the seasonal change. Ok, I could do without the icy footpaths during winter, but I really love watching the seasons move from one to another. Having an apple tree in the garden highlights these changes, and every second year it has a fine crop of apples right in time for autumn. And I love apples.
There is something magical in the seasonal change, but also something ominous. The sense that while things are beautiful and seem like they will remain so, they are going to change, that leaves and petals will change colour fall away, and leave us with the bare, stark whiteness of winter.
Autumn is that season hanging between the brightness of summer and the winter dark. The memory of summer is still present, the leaves richly coloured, but seeing them that colours means winter is almost upon us. Beautiful, but slightly threatening.
I love it.
The Ravening Season, a short story, was written in a near trance-like state. Images and words played a stronger role than plot in the early stages. The thing that really hooked me in, and gave me the structure, was the idea of a creature who changed as the seasons did, beginning as all sweetness and light in spring, then shifting and changing to something else entirely as our infatuated hero is drawn closer to her. Sex and innocence, sex and darkness, and sex and death all come out to play in this story. This is a dark tale, about the ravenous appetites of creatures for whom we have no name.
Through the snow, he ran. But there is no speed in a fresh drift, unmarked, untracked by another. Had he some path to follow he may have gone quicker, but the snow came up to his knees, and all he had was the snow-slabbed land and the forest of white birch, skeletal hands clawing at the sky. As it was, he clawed at the fragile snow that offered not stability, but the illusion of solid form.
He was hunched over, chest heaving, his breath puffs of white lost in the landscape. Never had he been so aware of his black coat, his black boots. How little they protected him now. They warmed his body, yes, now hot from the running, scarpering trudge. But behind him, she came. And his black clothes were a spot on a map of shining light, and he had ploughed the way to reach him. As he passed through the sharp, bare birch, he came to an oak. The looming thickness overwhelmed him, and he sunk to his knees, hands in his face to shut out the colossus of the tree and the brightness all around, and thought;
I have paved the way for my own death.
It was not long before the whisper of her steps was behind him. He would not turn to see her, for perhaps if he did not look, she might vanish like a snowflake.
She was not so delicate, though. Her hand dropped to his shoulder. He was too afraid to be surprised, but still proud enough to wipe his face, and peer up at her, with her claws and her icicle teeth.
When he saw her in the glade, he went to her, believing her to be a creature he could tame and claim as his own. He was drawn to her youthful beauty, her sweetness. But as their relationship grew, so did her appetite, and before he knew it, he was in thrall to a creature whose claws and teeth would likely bring his downfall. (F/M)
Jacqueline Brocker lives and writes in Cambridge, England. Her short erotic fiction has appeared in anthologies such as More Smut for Chocoholics (House of Erotica), South Bank Seduction (Velvet Books) and Best Bondage Erotica 2014 (Cleis Press). Her novella Gods Among Men and short story The Ravening Season have been published by Forbidden Fiction. Originally from Australia, when not writing she is a Scottish Country Dancer, a recent convert to Lindy Hop, and dabbles in foreign language (current dabblings being German and Korean). Her website is: http://jacquelinebrocker.net/
Today I’m going to talk about the music for Body & Bow, a story about a classic music duo taking a most intriguing kind of sexual revenge on a music critic. I think it’s first important to explain how I reached that kernel of a plot idea.
Some point last year, I had the idea of a male violinist using his bow on a woman to excite her. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure what to do. The idea was strong, and stayed with me for months before the plot came together. For a long while, I had no idea of how such a situation would occur.
The thought later came to me that there was more to be said for shaping a woman’s body like a cello, which albeit sits at an angle when played, is at least upright enough that you can better imagine a woman sitting than you can think of her draped between a musician’s hand and chin. So I almost hung up the idea of the violinist and went for a solo cellist. By this point, though, I’d grown so attached to having the violin, to the point that I borrowed one from a friend to study it, that I didn’t want to toss it aside.
Why not, then, it occurred to me, to have both?
From that point, the story began to take shape. Soon I had the characters and personalities of the musicians (a louder, more expressive American, and a quieter Italian) and I had a female music critic to antagonise the men into action. I realised though that beyond the engineering of that first scenario, I needed some music that they would likely play as a duo.
And so I went where all good researchers go these days. The internet. Or in this case, YouTube.
The first piece I turned up had potential: Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, 2nd Movement:
It’s a great, distinctive piece, but it didn’t quite fit. It felt quirky and a little experimental, and didn’t have the flow I was really after. What I wanted was something traditional, something a bit stirring and exciting.
A little more searching, and then this appeared. It’s commonly called the Handel-Halvarsson Passacaglia. I urge you to listen to this one, with Julia Fischer on violin and Daniel Muller-Schott on cello – of all the ones on YouTube, I think it is the best (certainly the most passionate):
The piece was originally composed by Georg Handel, perhaps better known for his choral work, Messiah. This Passacaglia was the final movement in his Harpsicord Suite in G minor, and originally, sounded like this:
For the curious, the full Suite on Harpsicord is here:
Then, in 1894, Johan Halvarsson, a Norwegian composer, adapted the Passacaglia as a duet for violin and cello. It has subsequently been adapted for violin and viola, and an excellent example of that is Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman’s duet:
I’d found what I was after. There is a richness and variety in the duet, a range of techniques, sections where the instruments talked to each other, played off each other. It was, in a word, perfect for my purposes. What I realised, and I think you might agree (if you’ve listened to the piece often enough… 😉 ), that it follows the rhythms of sex. A certain kind of sex – a forceful, emphatic, grabs you and doesn’t let you go while it teases you, lulls you, and then brings you to the brink before pushing you off the edge kind of sex. Absolutely the kind of sex I wanted to write about. To the point that I’d embed a recording of the Passacaglia into the novella itself if I could so I could have the reader understand how the key scene was meant to sound, as well as feel, to entice the ears as well as the visions and arousal that would be passing through them as they read.
At the very least, I hope I’ve conveyed the experience of listening to an amazing recording of the Passacaglia.
If you want to hear more versions (as well as the above videos) of the Passacaglia, I have set up a playlist on YouTube:
And what of fastidious Lambrosini? He actually wasn’t a bad violinist, though she’d watched him play so robotically, so stiltedly.
Still, Sanderson… She wondered how he would react to her now? He must have imprinted her picture on his memory. Would he storm at her from across the room, taking it in three strides with his big long legs? Would he wrap his hands around her body, shake her with rage? Maybe then he’d make his point to her, make her damn well know he could play… And throw her across the inevitable baby grand, hike her skirts up, and ram his impressive cock into her.
Her fingers skirted the top button of her jeans. She was wondering whether to skip Waitrose and head home straight away to reacquaint herself with her vibrator when her phone rang again. Klarissa glared at it, but it wasn’t a number in her caller ID, nor one she recognised.
She picked it up. “Klarissa Archer.”
“Ah, Ms. Archer. This is Marco Lambrosini.”
What! She sat forward. “How did you get my number?”
“I have my, how do you put it in journalism, contacts. Do not worry, I am not calling to give you verbal abuse. Rather, I was hoping we might be able to meet for a drink.”
Klarissa was vaguely suspicious. It wouldn’t have been the first time a disgruntled musician whose performance she’d found sub-par had decided to try and make peace with her. It was rare though – rarer than the name-calling, the threats on her reputation, and other assorted hissy fits that highly-strung musicians were prone to.
“The kind of drink where you smile pleasantly at me and then slip arsenic into it when my back is turned?”
“Ah, no, of course. Hemlock is my preferred poison.”
Klarissa barked out a laugh, taken by surprise at the joke. “Oh I do like a good splash of hemlock in my wine.”
“Ah, you like wine? Then I know the perfect place.”
Like I don’t know London, Klarissa thought. That said, she had heard of the wine bar Lambrosini suggested, but had not been before. They arranged to meet later that night.
She didn’t quite know why she said yes. It wasn’t like a ranting call from Sanderson, calling her all sorts of vile names, ending with her inviting him for a conciliatory drink, and oh, why don’t we just share a taxi back to your hotel…
Oh stop it, she scolded herself.
Before she left the office, though, she flipped open to the page with her review. The picture accompanying it was of them playing, Sanderson’s head thrown back as if to show off that characteristic lion’s mane, and Lambrosini’s steady gaze on Sanderson. The lion caught up in the moment of the music, and his accomplice watching him.
That was their problem, really. If Klarissa had written what she really thought – really, truly thought, rather than trying to maximise the belly laughs and poke Leonard the Lion – it would be that the concert would have been better titled ‘The Leonard Sanderson Show’.
Particularly the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia, which should have been their piece de resistance of the evening. Lambrosini should have been focused on his violin, but instead had spent the duration trying to catch Sanderson’s eye, because Sanderson was so wrapped up in his playing that he’d barely registered Lambrosini’s existence.
God, it had been awful.
Blurb and where to buy
Upon reading Klarissa Archer’s scathing review of their latest performance, cellist Leonard Sanderson and violinist Marco Lambrosini have very different reactions. Leonard is filled with rage. Marco invites Klarissa for drinks. Pleased that she has so upset the arrogant Sanderson Klarissa accepts Marco’s offer, unaware that he has something in mind for her, Leonard, velvet ropes and the bows of cello and violin. (M/F/M)
Jacqueline Brocker is an Australian writer living in the UK. She has published several short erotic stories with various publishers, and also self-published several works. Her first erotic novella, Body & Bow, is published by Forbidden Fiction, from whom she has two short stories forthcoming later this year. When not writing, or Scottish Country Dancing, she can be found reading by the banks of the River Cam.
Ever since Wednesday night’s readings at Sh! with D. L. King and friends, I’ve been thinking about the power of reading stories to each other. I was there to read a bit from one of my own stories, but more importantly I was there to sit back in a roomful of enthralled people and just listen to some of the wonderful authors who have stories in anthologies edited by D. L. King. I couldn’t have asked for more wonderful story-tellers:
The stories ranged from fem dom to vampire to steam punk. There was even a bit of mythology and voyeurism thrown in for good measure. It was a tremendous pleasure to see D.L. King again, and I felt very honoured to be included to read with some of my heroes in the world of erotica. I was literally transported by each story. The thing is, not only were the stories outrageously sexy and sensual, as you’d expect, but the stories were beautifully woven to pull in the listeners, to allow them to get lost in the tale. I was completely captivated.
Since Wednesday night, I’ve been thinking about how much I love being read to, thinking about why there’s so much more magic in a story read out loud. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on my mother’s lap while she read to me. I didn’t care what she read. It was the sound of her voice, the way she made the characters come alive, the way the story made me wonder and think and try to picture in my little-girl head a world so much bigger than the Wyoming lumber camp we were living in at the time, a place where the Swiss Family Robinson were surviving and thriving on their lost island, a place where kids, not much older than I, rode gorgeous black horses and solved scary crimes and chased spooky ghosts.
When my mother wasn’t reading to me, my grandfather, who lived with us, was telling stories of his youth, of near-misses with rattle snakes, of catching the biggest catfish ever and of the horse that no one but he could tame. And my dad had his own tales to tell, of practical jokes played on siblings, of dogs that bit, of destructive tornados.
My family knew the magic of story, and they shared that magic with me. The magic of a good story, the magic that compelled our ancestors to sit around a banked fire and listen to the histories of the tribe, listen to the tales of the family, listen to the myths and folk lore collected over generations is a living, breathing magic that still makes my heart race when I think about it.
Unlike our ancestors, we have it all written down now. We have access to a good story anytime. And yet the magic is never more powerful than when the story is read out loud. The power of story spoken goes bone deep and touches parts of us that are much older than our physical selves, parts of us that have roots around campfires sat beneath a sky full of stars.
Wednesday night, we all sat in the bright pink glow of Sh! basement, sipping fizz and listening to sexy tales, tales that offered yet another layer of magic, the magic and the mystery and the celebration of human sexuality told in a thousand creative ways in a thousand intricately woven tales. We listened to stories of what moves us, what makes us squirm, what transports us beyond ourselves while at the same time connects us most deeply to our own flesh.
Perhaps I’m just shamelessly navel-gazing this morning, waiting for my coffee to kick in, but the D.L. King/Sh! version of gathering around the ancestral hearth to listen to stories being shared made me think again about those things that connect us most deeply to our humanity, the sharing of story by word of mouth and the celebration of our sexuality. It seems to me that sex and story go hand in hand, and the community that celebrates both is a community I’m very proud to belong to.