Steampunk Bundle Teasers #1: The Gunner’s Daughter

There’s less than a month left before the Steampunk Bundle disappears. In the lead-up to that heartbreaking moment, we’ll be running some hot excerpts from each of the volumes in the bundle. Today we start with Elizabeth Schechter’s House of Sable Locks, winner of the Passionate Plume award, and finalist for the Magnolia Award.

The Circlet Press Steampunk Erotica Bundle
Five full books! Circlet Press's steamiest steampunk works all in one bundle. A discreet brothel staffed by robots. A theatre that enacts your most secret fantasies. A mad scientist whose machines are powered by human arousal. And more. Each of the stylish, sexy, and surprising books here takes Victorian science fiction to delicious new places!

(also available at Amazon, iBooks/iTunes, Smashwords, Kobo and Barnes & Noble)

Chapter Four: Gunner’s Daughter

William stopped outside a door that was almost identical to all the other doors on this floor, and all the doors that he’d gone through on his other nights in the House. This one was made unique solely by the brass plaque that read “Brigantine.” Nothing in the name gave any hint of what to expect inside the room.
This was the last room. He’d tried all the others, on both floors. Some were interesting, others bored him. Most of them had bored him, to be honest. He had promised Gerald, though, and now this was the last. After this, he could return to the fourth floor. He pushed open the door and went in.
He was met inside by the attendant automaton, just as in all the other rooms, and once again, he allowed himself to be prepared for what lay ahead. His mask and gag were removed and laid aside, and clothing was laid out for him to put on. William dressed slowly, intrigued by the fact that he was putting on the uniform of a Captain in the Royal Navy, complete with epaulets, an empty sword belt, and boots. He adjusted the coat and turned to let the attendant add the finishing touches. Leg irons were fitted around his ankles, and then his wrists were bound before him with rough rope that smelled heavily of tar. The final touch was a gag, a simple length of cloth forced into William’s mouth and tied there tightly, almost painfully. The attendant took his arm and steered him to the inner door, and without ceremony shoved him through.
He stumbled, nearly falling as his bad leg went weak under him, and was caught by a multitude of rough, grasping hands. He looked up, startled, to see himself surrounded by men who laughed and jeered as they pulled him further into the room, away from the door. The room was made up to look like the main deck of a sailing ship, but none of the men who were manhandling him were dressed in uniform. Rather, they were dressed in ragged, mismatched clothing that was dark with dirt and sweat. William realized immediately just what this room was meant to represent: a pirate attack. No doubt he was supposed to be the captain of a ship taken by pirates, and somewhere in this crowd was the pirate captain to whom he would be presented as a hostage. Even as he struggled and fought to pull away, even as the pirates pulled him steadily forward, their harsh hands tugging and tearing at his clothes and groping at his arse and his crotch, William was examining the room, the automatons that made up the crew, weighing the possibilities. And growing aroused.
Continue reading Steampunk Bundle Teasers #1: The Gunner’s Daughter

Life is fragile and so are stories: Goodbye to A.R. Morlan aka Renee M. Charles

UPDATED 4/28/2016: I’ve contacted the folks at Catkins Animal Rescue in Park Falls, Wisconsin, a no-kill shelter that we feel Ana Rose Morlan would have approved of. All royalties from the sales of her Circlet Press titles will be donated annually to Catkins. I’ve set the prices to a sale price of $2.99 permanently. Thank you all for supporting A.R. Morlan’s work and her imaginative vision.

An enigma is gone from my life, a writer I published so many stories from that Circlet issued two separate collections of her work, but who communicated so infrequently that I knew hardly anything about her. A.R. Morlan, who published erotica under the name Renee M. Charles (and also gay erotica under the name Karl Rene Moore), sent me a cryptic package this week, her handwriting nearly illegible. Today I learned she is dead, likely a suicide.

“I don’t know what to think,” I wrote to another editor when I heard the news. I literally have no context for parsing this information, or for understanding the life or death of this writer. I caught the news via Twitter, a message from another longtime editor who forwarded a link to a news story about her death. I was at the American Library Association Midwinter convention at the time, surrounded by the massive bounty of books that this industry produces, and the thought that this reclusive writer I’ve known through glimpses of correspondence over 20 years is simply gone does not compute. My car radio seemed to be mocking me on the drive home, playing first The Police “So Lonely,” and then Jim Carroll “People Who Died.”

The radio mocking me while I was trying to make sense of hearing of her death.
The radio mocking me while I was trying to make sense of hearing of her death.

The way I understand things is by writing about them, so this essay (elegy?) is as much about my struggle to make sense of her life and her death as it is about her.

A.R. Morlan had a restless pen, and, I always assumed, a restless mind. She wrote relentlessly, short story after short story, in rambling sentences that often contained parentheticals (and multiple clauses inset with em dashes) long before David Foster Wallace made that cool. I would venture to say there was not a single editor of short fiction in the science fiction and fantasy markets of the 1990s who did not receive submissions from her. (A quick Google search turns up her old SciFi.com author bio and bibliography and it lists 93 short fiction credits before 2001.)

Although SciFi.com is defunct, remnants of the website zombie forward. I grabbed this screencap of a bio that had appeared there.
Although SciFi.com is defunct, remnants of the website zombie forward. I grabbed this screencap of a bio that had appeared there.
She wrote those maddeningly complex sentences on a manual typewriter, laboriously producing each manuscript while creating a realtime duplicate with carbon paper because, she said, there were only two copy machines in the small town where she lived—one which rarely worked and the other charged 25 cents a page. (I just looked it up: population 3400.) Her letters to me were usually about one of two things: her cats or her ongoing feud with the US postal service. A recent note implied she did not drive. My impression was that she was a recluse and that the US mail was her only lifeline to the outside world. The one time she tried to call me by phone the call was so static-laden and tinny it sounded like she was calling from a past era in time, not Wisconsin. (The call was to say her phone didn’t work really but had I received her story?)

I always edited her sentences ruthlessly—repunctuating them so that although when read aloud the flow was nearly identical, but on the page they could be parsed—but I never edited her fecund, expansive ideas. Perhaps that’s why she kept sending me stories, despite the low pay. At first lesbian erotica, then later adding a gay pseudonym as well. Her gay submissions were preceded by a note saying she was thinking of trying to write for our gay anthologies but she “needed to do some research first.” I never asked what her research was going to consist of. This was a woman with no computer, no Internet, and no cell phone.

All I really knew of her in the ’90s was that her main source of income was as an instructor for the Writers Digest correspondence courses and that she had 35 cats, half who lived upstairs and half who lived downstairs. I only know those things because she told me herself.

There was one other thing I knew. I heard she had published two fantasy novels through a mainstream publisher (Bantam) but that they had dropped her after her baffling insistence that the books never be distributed in the state of Wisconsin, lest her family figure out that she had written a book. I heard this story from other editors, because her name would often come up in conversation at gatherings like Worldcon or other places where sf/f small press editors would meet. She was such an enigma that when her name did come up any other editor in the room would always pipe up with, “Do you know her? What’s the deal with her, anyway?”

I don’t think she was so notable to editors merely because she was an enigma but because her stories made such an impression. She sold to just about everyone eventually. Her narratives were multilayered, original, often incorporating rich cultural or historical details–my presumption is she must have read every book in her town library, and every new thing she learned inspired her to fantasize about something other than the life she was living.

Her erotic stories were lush and unabashed, often exploring female empowerment through stories of hard-won erotic freedom. I’ve had many many writers in my 24 years of editing erotica whose erotic lives on the page were wildly imaginative and unrepressed, while their real lives were the opposite, and I assumed she was one of them. More than once I’ve had a female author disappear–phone disconnected, email bouncing–only to have them reappear later with a tale of how they fled an abusive husband with nothing but the clothes on their backs. (Sometimes with children in tow.) Other times they disappear and leave only a message that they’ve changed gender and cut off everything from their previous life. Sometimes there’s no message.

But this is the first time an author sent me her back catalog as a prelude to suicide.

Some of the erotic magazines and anthologies Renee M. Charles was published in.
Some of the erotic magazines and anthologies Renee M. Charles was published in.

From what I can tell, misfortunes began to visit A.R. often after 2001. As technology marched on, short fiction markets shifted gradually to online submissions only, some to online publishing only. Even the places to find out about markets moved online and many directories that used to be published ceased to exist. She was dropped from the Writers Digest job. I know a few people tried to get her to computerize. At least one editor tried to donate a used computer to her and teach her to use it, to no avail. So far as I know she never went to conventions or had any other contact with people in the business except by paper post. I imagine it must have seemed as if her lifeline were fraying down to a thread–as people abandoned paper correspondence, did it feel like they were abandoning her?

By the mid-2000s Circlet Press was mired in debt and not publishing much, so correspondence between me and A.R., which was never voluminous to begin with, dwindled to mostly Christmas cards. In one she mentioned severe health problems and wanted to know if I would be the executor of the “Renee Charles” literary estate. I said yes.

In another she wrote, “My VERY bible-belt relatives–they don’t even know who/’what’ Harry Potter is!!– have said to me that they wish they could make my erotica [and horror and sf too] just ‘go away’ which is why I’m planning to formally disinherit all of them in my will! I can’t stand them!”

Then things seemed to pick up for a little while. After ebooks took off in 2008, we contracted with her to do digital collections of her short stories with the intention that Borgo Press, who had done one of her “tame” collections and had reprinted her novels would do those also. However after I sent the electronic copies of the manuscripts off to the editor at Borgo, only silence returned. I eventually gathered that Robert Reginald was in poor health himself, and passed away in 2013. I did get a letter from A.R. in March 2011 thanking me for the royalty check, and telling me of her woes when becoming her mother’s caregiver had fallen to her:

“Getting that check meant the world to me; the past week+ has been hellish — my mother (who will be a very old, out of shape/in bad health 72 in May) has been sick with the flu, a cold, constipation (which is what a person gets when they 1) don’t eat right, 2) don’t walk anywhere besides the bathroom/kitchen all day long, and 3) just sit around either watching TV or reading virtually all day, and napping sporadically 24/7), and on top of that a bout of gout… and thanks to her problems with being violent, foul-mouthed, and a rageaholic, there’s no way any caregiver will take her on. (There are multiple care giver-places in town, all of whom can refuse unruly/aggressive clients, alas!) So it’s been me 24/7, not only for the past week+ but for months… needless to say, I’m physically/mentally worn down lately!”

That was typical of her punctuation and writing style. In this same 2011 letter she thanks me for agreeing to take on her erotica as executor and includes a few photocopies of manuscripts.

I heard from her very little after 2011, mostly holiday cards, but there was one from February 2014, accompanied by photos of her house and five new accidental kittens (when one of the not-yet-neutered males managed to sneak over to one of the unspayed females). It was one of the longer missives–which was still fairly short–typed with manual typewriter onto a card and then overflowing onto a slip of paper and covering both sides. In it she detailed the travails of the weather dipping to -25 degrees in the “polar vortex” preventing her from finding food for her cats in dumpsters (she would look for hamburgers and eggs to chop up, apparently) so she had to switch to kibble she couldn’t easily afford. Although I never knew what “A.R.” originally stood for (I assumed the “R” was for Renee, given her pseudonyms), she wrote this:

“I ended up paying $700 in total to change my name to Ana Rose but my father’s family STILL won’t use it or my initials (they preferred the hideous name he gave me!) so I keep getting letters addressed to ‘Hey girl’ or ‘daughter’ or ‘the lady with the cats’!!

A card I received in May 2014 complained of red tape regarding her name change, trying twice to get a new birth certificate — bureaucrats insisting she provide documentation of her name from BEFORE she turned 19, when of course the legal change of name was recent. “Numbskulls” she called them, and mailed the paperwork and court documents again.

That same card complained of arthritis so bad that she could “barely type.” Typing, which was her primary means of communicating with anyone.

It was the last letter I got from her until a few days ago. A large cardboard box arrived at my home office containing a heap of books and magazines. She sent it all to me via insured parcel post, along with a mostly illegible, handwritten note:

“These are the contrib copies of all the erotica I’ve published — a few odds and ends of unpublished stuff is (down) here, plus I can’t find all the UK erotica copies. Whole life destroyed, cats dead. Very sick emotionally and physically. You were a good friend & editor. Thanks.”

Another person she sent a similar package to contacted police, and when they went to her house discovered she had been dead “for several days,” according to the news reports. The police presumed suicide. The news stories say this past summer she had been charged with cashing her mother’s social security checks since 2011. She had apparently told police in the summer that her mother had run off with two women in their 30s in May 2011. Her mother is still missing: the only bodies they found upon searching the property were those of 200 dead cats–along with 30 live ones.

I can’t presume to know from these glimpses what her life was actually like. Nor can I truly know what it would be like to live a life where my only lifeline was writing erotica and fantasy–essentially in secret for most of my life and then after my family found out, withstanding their constant hatred–much less what I would do if that lifeline were to be choked off.

All I can do is follow my own restless path toward dealing with her death, pushed by cultural values regarding remembrance being the primary way of honoring the dead and my own deep discomfiture about her actions. I believe she wanted to be remembered and this was why she sent me these materials. I believe her legal name change was her final attempt at making herself into her own person and not a product of her parents. I believe she wanted to be remembered for her writing and not for suicide.

It’s now midnight as I’m writing this and the news about David Bowie’s death is rocketing through all my social media channels. As if I didn’t just spend this entire afternoon and evening pondering these questions of a creative legacy and the fragility of life and ideas and the impact of death. Anyway. As I’ve been writing and processing my thoughts I’ve decided the thing to do is make sure as many people read her stories as possible. Here at Circlet we published two collections, SHADES OF PLEASURE which is all erotic science fiction (mostly lesbian), and CINNAMON ROSES, which is all vampire stories, lesbian and bi/pansexual. I’ve set the ebook prices to zero on Circlet.com (links below) and on Smashwords and have dropped the price to 99 cents on Amazon–the lowest I can set the price myself. Amazon’s price-matching robots will soon catch up with the $0.00 price elsewhere, though and it will drop to 0.00.

If I had to pick one story for you all to read, it would be “Like a Reflection in a Mirror Without Glass” which is in SHADES OF PLEASURE. But each story was different, even though at their cores they were nearly always about lonely women who yearned for connection. “Diving Into Oceans of Air” features a telepathic shut-in and a paraplegic. Please use the links below to download the books in mobi (Kindle), epub, or PDF format. I feel that sharing these fragile dreams from a departed soul is all I can do.

(Add both books to your shopping cart. It’ll then ask you to fill in your contact info and hit submit. You’ll then be taken to a page with unique download links *and* you’ll also receive those links in email. You will not be added to any mailing lists. -ctan)

UPDATED 1/30/2016: I’ve since received a copy of her will in the mail from her attorney. I have hit upon an idea. Since I have no wish to profit monetarily from her death and she left none of it to her family (as she promised), my idea is to donate whatever royalties her books make annually to a cat rescue or animal shelter in her area. -ctan

UPDATED 4/28/2016: I’ve contacted the folks at Catkins Animal Rescue in Park Falls, Wisconsin, a no-kill shelter that we feel Ana Rose Morlan would have approved of. All royalties from the sales of her Circlet Press titles will be donated annually to Catkins. I’ve set the prices to a sale price of $2.99 permanently. Thank you all for supporting A.R. Morlan’s work and her imaginative vision.

Cinnamon Roses
by Renee M Charles
All royalties will be donated to Catkins Animal Rescue in Park Falls, Wisconsin, in memory of Renee M. Charles aka A.R. Morlan.
All of Renee M. Charles's erotic vampire stories collected into one volume! Lush and varied, the book contains the following stories: Cinnamon Roses, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, The Twelve Nights of Callicantzaros, Opening the Veins of Jade, Initiation Into Club Sanguis, Mist Kisses.
Price: $5.99
Price: $2.99
Format :

Shades of Pleasure
by Renée M Charles
**All royalties will be donated to Catkins Rescue in Park Falls, Wisconsin, in memory of author Renee M. Charles, aka A.R. Morlan.**
These eight sizzling tales from the ever-inventive Renée M. Charles look at sexuality through a futuristic lens, each with its own vision of the future--good or bad. In these stories, people--women, men, and everything in between--have erotic encounters in zero gravity, in repressive dystopian societies, and even in worlds not so far off from our own.
Price: $5.99
Price: $2.99
Format :

Circlet Press Arisia Event: Meet the Authors Tea Party!

circlet_tea_event_banner_facebook_photo

Boston’s big winter event for those into science fiction and fantasy is the Arisia Science Fiction Convention! Happening annually on the MLK weekend, Arisia draws together lovers of sf/f books, movies, costumes, games, and fandom itself. Circlet Press has been throwing an annual party at the con since 1993.

This year we decided to try something a little different! Join us at the Westin, room 461, for a Meet the Authors Tea party! When? Tea time of course! 4pm to 6pm on Saturday January 16th.

There will be both Chinese and English-style tea, snacks, and of course books to peruse and authors to chat with (or receive autographs from)! First 20 guests will also receive a free ebook and whatever other fun swag we may have…!

Among the authors and editors who will be on hand:

with more to be announced!

New Feature! – Circlet Backlist Read Along

With the holidays wrapping up and the new year just around the corner, some of us are already thinking about resolutions. “Read more” is always a popular habit we try to cultivate in the new year. So, why not read more geeky erotica, while you’re at it?

On January 1st 2016, I will begin my own personal resolution to ultimately read every title in publication by Circlet Press. But with a quest this ambitious, it might be dangerous to go alone. So, I’m taking you all with me on a massive cross-platform read along!

You can join in the fun by adding or following us on one or all of these social media platforms: Goodreads GroupTwitter: #CBRA – Tumblr: #CBRA

Towards the end of every month, we’ll collect the highlights from conversations across our feeds in a round up post here at Circlet.com. And as we progress with this new regular feature each month, we’ll try out different ways to reward participating readers: Discounts? Giveaways? Author interviews? Bonus content? Only time and feedback from /you/ will tell!

To see what title we’ll be tackling first, click on!

Continue reading New Feature! – Circlet Backlist Read Along

New book! Wishbone by Lauren P. Burka

Ebook Price: $3.99
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61390-145-8
Print Price: $12.95
Print ISBN: 978-1-61390-146-5
57,00 words; 192 pages

Formats :

The ebook edition of this title is also available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, AllRomanceEbooks, and the iBookstore and Google Play store.

The print edition of this title can be purchased directly from Createspace.

An m/m erotic fantasy/science fiction romance.

Sir is a shih-aan merchant living in Bronlyn Harbor to maintain trade with the humans his people fought to a standstill in a bloody war twenty years earlier. The humans consider him a demon to be feared and avoided. But he is exactly what Wishbone needs.

Wishbone has a risky life as a human male prostitute in a world where homosexual acts are criminal. But when one of the shih-aan buys him for a night, he learns of true danger for the first time.

Under Sir’s hand Wishbone will learn many other lessons—of love, loyalty, and power.

And he will learn Sir is a spy.

This is the author’s preferred edition of Wisbone. (Previously published by Torquere Press in 2010.)

Continue reading New book! Wishbone by Lauren P. Burka

New product: Gift Certificates!

Single-book gift certificate
Single-book gift certificate
Special holiday gift certificate deal! Give a friend (or yourself) the gift of smut. This certificate entitles you to any one Circlet e-book.

Four-book gift certificate
Four-book gift certificate
Special holiday gift certificate deal! Give a friend (or yourself) the gift of smut. This certificate entitles you to any four Circlet e-books.

A little behind on your holiday shopping? We might be able to help you out! We’re making it easier (and cheaper) than ever to give the gift of smut this holiday with two new gift certificates. For $2.99, you get a code good for any one Circlet e-book, most of which usually sell for $6-7. Or, for $9.99, you get any four Circlet e-books.

You can email your friend the certificate, print it out and stuff it in their stocking, or, if you’re a secret admirer, drop us a line and we’ll mail them the certificate ourselves.

If you’re introducing your friend to Circlet, you might want to include a recommendation for what books to get. Here are a few suggestions:

One Book

  • The limited-edition Steampunk Bundle is over 1300 pages of steamy Victorian goodness, and, with the gift certificate, is over 90% (!!) off the normal price.
  • Laura Antoniou’s BDSM classic The Marketplace remains one of our most popular books ever. And if you’re already a fan, the gigantic latest volume in the series, The Inheritor, is freshly out this year.
  • Fantastic Erotica celebrates the first decade of Circlet e-books. Nineteen stories by Circlet’s most popular writers!
  • Jingle Balls collects nine holiday-themed sexy stories in one fun little package.

Four Book Roll-Your-Own Bundles

Erotica for Geeks