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A new book -- Cythera

A reader asks, "You said earlier that you were working on a book that's science fiction erotica? What's that? When will it be out?"

Its working title is Cythera, which is the name of the main character. I'm about 2/3 done, so I have no idea when it will be out. I'll finish it in the next month or so and then begin the submissions process. I'm having tremendous fun with it! Cythera is a priestess of the Dancer, a sacred prostitute, not a politician or a diplomat -- but when a fragile peace treaty between worlds unexpectedly rests on her shoulders, she must find a way to stop an interstellar war. Aided by Calpurnian naval captain Athain Kinslayer, Cythera undertakes a dangerous journey that will test everyone's mettle, especially that of the young Treaty Groom whose marriage is supposed to end the war. Melissa Scott said it reminded her of Kushiel's Dart in space. Which sounds dandy to me! :)

Here's a little sneak peek from the very beginning, in which Cythera and Athain meet. While this section is not particularly explicit, this is erotica. If you are offended by erotica, do not read this.

The weaker Twin was setting, the brighter already set, and Cythera paused in the door of the pavilion looking out toward the sea. White seabirds whirled and cried above the distant waves, while in the garden there was instead the chirp of landbirds bedding among the screening trees and bushes, the buzz of fairflies settling among the flowers. Less than an hour before full sunset, and across the gardens she could hear the bustle of preparations from the Theon. No doubt she would also be able to smell the Night Meal cooking, were it not for the positive pressure that kept kitchen odors from escaping, lest they taint the perfume of the gardens.

The Half-Blossom stood just within, her shorn head bent in courtesy, her dark blue clothing blending with the shadows. "Is all to your satisfaction, Adept?"

Cythera nodded, her eyes roving over the pristine chamber in all its opulent glory, mislit for the moment by the recessed lights from above on full, a stage lit by worklights. Between them the nine gauze scrims bunched at the corners, not yet drawn to their proper starting positions as the Half-Blossom would have needed to carry things back and forth. Likewise, the pool remained empty, to be filled and tended when the Night Meal began. Three green bottles sat on the rim with a shell dipper, labels properly removed, awaiting her hand.

"There are extra implements in the basket under the little table as you like, Adept," the Half-Blossom said. "One of each."

"Good." Cythera gave the Half-Blossom a smile. She must be quite young, newly admitted and not yet permitted to perform or even serve guests, just learning the vocation to which Cythera had given her life. She remembered being that young, seven years past when she was first admitted, mortally afraid of making a mistake and being turned away from the life that she had chosen. "Everything looks well." She cast about for something to compliment. "That strand of jewel-blossom in the vase by the window is well done."

The Half-Blossom smiled shyly. "Thank you, Adept."

Cythera took one last look around. "Draw the curtains when I am gone, all in the fully closed position, and do not make the water too hot. It will continue to heat as it waits. Better too cool than too hot, as I can turn it up to heat it but cannot cool it quickly without draining the pool." She smiled. "And that lacks grace."

"Yes, Adept."

These small instructions were not the thing one would think of on one's own, the avoidance of situations that would be graceless through the planning that made perfection seem inevitable. Another Adept might not take the time to teach as well as tell. "How long have you been with us, Blossom?"

"This is only my second Full Night, Adept," she said. Her eyes were dark and very pretty, a tilt to them which would in due time fascinate. Not yet a hundred and twenty eight days, then. Full Night, when both suns were simultaneously below the horizon for twelve hours at a time, came but once every sixty four days.

"Then you will learn much," Cythera said. "As you are already learning well." Truly there was nothing out of place in the pavilion, and this was not one of the easiest ones to tend. There were others whose decoration hid imperfections better. Which pavilion and which Adept were chosen for each guest was a matter of art, and one which as yet Cythera only grasped at. How could one choose from such a brief profile, the small information that a guest might provide in advance for one of the Full Nights? These were not the habitual guests, those who might be well known through attendance at the Theon for any number of Daily events, or those who made this their regular leisure, once every ten or twenty days for an hour or two in the pools or steam rooms. For the Full Night guests this was a rare thing, once or a dozen times in a lifetime, marker of great celebrations or great griefs. Many had never come before and never would again. Some were even offworlders, their customs and assumptions different in the beginning. How could one choose perfection for strangers? Of course they would be asked what they preferred when they booked -- male or female, sharp or sweet -- but the choosing of the right Adept made or unmade the experience. Such was the province of the Seniors.

This one, for example, was a Calpurnian. She had seen his picture, or else how should she recognize him when the parade came in? She had read the profile, short as it was. Thirty seven standard years, First Officer of the Calpurnian vessel Anbar, his naval blacks that making his radiation leached face seem even paler, his hair white as bone where it fell halfway down his back in a long tail. He did not smile. His portrait was solemn, rather than marred by the nervous grin some guests affected, as though they attempted to charm the Senior Adept in hopes of getting a good one. As though they didn't understand that we are all good ones, Cythera thought. There is no bad Adept, simply a poor match. But due to the art of the Seniors, that was rare.

Why had she been chosen for the Calpurnian? She thought she knew even as she wondered. Hers was the gift of mirth, and perhaps she could coax a smile even from one so serious. To do so would be grace.

Cythera stopped in front of the mirror, hearing as she did the three note chime that signaled that the guests were being allowed into the Theon. The weaker Twin hovered on the horizon. They would be passing through the Gates of Delight even now, each greeted by Senior Adepts and escorted by Half-Blossoms to the Theon. One final moment of examination before her entrance.

Not a hair was out of place, shadow dark coils pinned into place as though artlessly, one curling strand escaping to lie against her neck, which was bare save for the faint glimmer of paint at the hollow of her throat. Her eyes were painted silver blue, lengthened with dark lines, brows traced to darken them to greater contrast. Her gown was the same shade of silver blue, gathered at shoulder and elbow and wrist into softly whispering wings of fabric that swept to the floor behind and to just below the knee in front, entirely without ornament except for the opulence of the fabric. Beauty is what suits one best, not what fashion dictates, and the Adepts would not seem like Half-Blossoms dressed interchangeably, but instead a parade of varied delights, each entirely different from the next and yet contributing to the harmony.

The two tone chime sounded, and Cythera hurried across the garden. That meant each guest had gone to their proper couch and the musicians had begun. It was time.

The carved wooden doors swung open at her touch on carefully balanced hinges, and Idris nodded to her as she slipped into line behind him. His hair fell below his waist in waves of burnished bronze, glossy against the smooth skin of his back, his long wine colored skirts sewn with hundreds of golden stars so that they flashed when he moved. Simply watching him walk was grace. She reached for his hand and squeezed it in greeting as the music swelled. He squeezed in return, the backs of his hands covered in the fine gold mesh that held his finger bells.

Cythera looked beyond his shoulder to the curtains that screened the top of the stairs as on the music cue the Half-Blossom at the door drew them back. The Theon was a round building, and the center of it was the half-circle space of the pit. Sixteen couches, arranged eight and then five and three, made a semicircle facing the stage while behind it in the darkness the music swelled on key, high wailing electrics like light made sound, opening in a breathtaking and inhuman rise of music. Lights rose too, the intimate space transformed by the pale blue flickers like rising dawn underwater, indigo shifting toward turquoise and green.

One guest reclined on each couch, Half-Blossoms in dark blue going between with the bowls and pitchers, each going gracefully to one knee to pour. Their features were indistinct in the darkness, only the stage lit by the swelling light. The Adepts came in with the growing brightness, each moving toward their couch unerringly, feet silent on the thick carpeting. Hers was the fifth one on the second tier, all the way over to the left.

Cythera stepped around a kneeling Half-Blossom at the third couch, careful not to strike the tray in his outstretched hand, and turned once in time before she sat down on the end of the fifth couch, momentary display that required no answer. "May the blessings of the night be yours, guest," she said. "I am Cythera."

He looked thunderstruck, as guests often did, especially those who had not known what to expect, younger and less grim than his picture, though the lines about his eyes were deeply graven rather than paint. He wore no paint at all, and while his black clothes were not a naval uniform they looked as though he could not imagine what one might wear instead and had chosen the closest thing from all the shops of Menaechmi, loose black trousers and a loose black shirt that buttoned close to the throat. "I am…" he began.

"I know who you are," Cythera said with a warm smile. "Athain Kinslayer. I am delighted to share this Full Night with you." Such was the courtesy. She reached for the little bowl presented unerringly by the Half-Blossom, who put it into her hand without so much as her glance, and she held it while the boy tilted the sweating pitcher, sweet sparkling honey wine pouring forth. "Ambrosia to bring you sweetness."

She held the bowl to his lips, thin glass catching the swirling blue lights from the stage, and his eyes held hers as he drank from it, pale and curious. And not without sensuality. She saw his pupils expand minutely as the taste touched his lips, pleasure betrayed by involuntary muscles, and she smiled. She took the next sip, turning the bowl in her hands. "Let us taste this sweetness together."

On stage the lights grew again, backlighting the Blossoms who appeared behind thin scrims of gauze. Six girls this time, all of them entirely naked, dark forms against the swirling colors and rising storm of sound, moving slowly as seaweed swaying underwater. In silhouette, they were incredibly beautiful. Each movement was graceful and poised, each turn revealing all while revealing nothing. Their hair was all cropped to the same style, but there the uniformity ended, each form different and unique, one turning to show pert nipples, another full breasts that swayed as she danced, full hips or a back curved to a tiny waist, long legs or muscled calves holding a difficult pose. These were not new-accepted but near Adept, a demonstration of sensuality in all its shades. Behind them, the lights flowed, blazing like stars beneath the sea.

Her guest, Athain Kinslayer took a deep breath.

"Do you think they are beautiful?" Cythera asked. She sat beside him while he reclined, quite properly in the curve of his body, but did not quite touch. He was reserved, she thought, Calpurnian and unused to public display. On the couch below Idris leaned in to kiss the oligarch who reached up for him, her graying hair dyed emerald as she twined her ringed fingers in the shining curtain of his hair.

"Oh yes." His eyes held a frank hunger that was appealing. Athain glanced at her sideways. "I suppose they must practice a lot."

"Yes," Cythera said. "Every day. Do you care for art?"

"I don't know about art," he said, nodding toward the stage where one girl did a slow handstand, her legs opening in silhouette to expose the ridges of her shaved vulva. "But I know that's hard, that kind of control. Her whole weight on her arms that slowly."

"Yes," Cythera said. "It is." Of all the things for him to notice…. "I could never do that one myself."

"Did you?" He frowned, and she put the small dish in his hand.

"Of course I did. I was a Blossom four years before I became an Adept." She glanced back at the stage, where one girl now lay across another's back, turning slowly over her like one strange and beautiful creature with four graceful legs. "But Blossoms don't touch. Don't touch guests, I mean." The seventh dancer had entered, a male dancer equally nude, his phallus boldly erect from stroking himself backstage before his entrance. In pantomime the girls descended on him, lifting him into the air, carrying him back and forth in mock struggles as they attempted to hand mate him to one of their number.

"I see." His voice sounded a little strangled, and yes, when she shifted on the couch she could feel him rising against the small of her back.

The Blossoms swayed, one bending like a bow while another's profile stood out stark against the blue lights behind as she put her lips to the other's breast, the negative space between their flesh sharp and clear.

"This is precursor," Cythera said, and she reached for the small bowl, smiling at him over the rim. "It whets the appetite. But there is nothing here we need to do or not do. This is Full Night, twelve hours and more of it. It shall be whatever you desire."

His eyes were very serious, light touched by the skating lights. "What do you desire?"

"I am your guide," Cythera said. "Just as a hunter in the wilderness hires a skilled guide to lead them to their prize, so I am your guide. What I desire is that you find what you seek."

"In you?"

"In this world." She glanced around the Theon, the scrims illuminated lavender and blue. "In this enchantment."

He frowned. "It feels real."

"It is real. And it is art." Cythera leaned back against his body, warm and hard in contrast to the cushions. "Is that not the secret of the Lords themselves?"



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 25th, 2013 12:02 am (UTC)
It looks wonderful. Looking forward to seeing it finished someday.
May. 28th, 2013 12:06 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you like it so far! I think I'll be done in a few weeks, and then I start the submissions process. It will be interesting to find a market for science fiction erotica! (I think I'm going to start with Samhain and Carina.)
May. 29th, 2013 11:13 am (UTC)
I've heard good things about Samhain from a couple of acquaintances.

Circlet Press is another option, although they run more toward short fiction than novels.

Ravenous Romance has done done fantasy erotica, notably Ceclia Tan's Magic University series, so SF might work with them.

Torquere, which has published most of my work so far, is happy to take SF erotica, as long as it has alternative gender pairings (M/M, F/F, M/M/F, trans, etc.)

As for Carina, have you seen the news items about the authors filing suit against Harlequin over digital royalty issues? It's still in appeals (http://harlequinlawsuit.com/), and I have no first hand information, but given that Carina is part of Harlequin, I'd want to do some extra research before submitting to them if thought I had something suitable.
May. 30th, 2013 11:59 am (UTC)
Thank you for the tips! That's very helpful!
May. 25th, 2013 11:22 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm hooked, this looks wonderful. Can't wait to see more of it eventually. :)
May. 28th, 2013 12:07 pm (UTC)
Oh good! *beams* That's a good first reaction to get!
May. 27th, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
That is lovely. I wish if would be possible to explore there.
May. 28th, 2013 12:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow
Oh thank you! Your comment made my day! It's a wonderful world to explore.
Jun. 5th, 2013 11:57 am (UTC)
Oh, lovely! Cythera's appreciation of grace is a lovely note to sustain, and I'm looking forward to reading more of this.
Jun. 5th, 2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you like it! I've just sent it out today, and I hope it gets bought!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )